Some of the world’s most famous people became such by challenging conventional wisdom. Who does not know the name Galileo? He was scorned as a heretic in his day. Or what American does not know of Jonas Salk, who developed a nonconventional process and saved the world from the dreaded polio disease. Now comes along a man challenging conventional wisdom. The subject is not as lofty as curing polio or defining the center of the universe, but it challenges an accepted orthodoxy that has been beaten into our brains for decades.
Though campaign finance reform dates back to 1867 when Andrew Johnson was President, the real push started in the 1970’s and has been drummed into the political psyche since then. What Americans have been sold is that big money interests have twisted the political system -- taking advantage of the poor, downtrodden elected officials. Americans may hold Congress in low esteem, but most think their personal Congressman is the reincarnation of Jefferson Smith (Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington). The poor befuddled representative has to claw and fight their way through a thicket of special interests trying to buy his/her vote.
Peter Schweizer dismantles the idea of the innocent Washington politicians in his book Extortion. In chapter after chapter he explains how the current system extracts millions from corporations and other interest groups by manipulating legislation to feed the elected officials various different funds. Schweizer told me “Politics is destroying money; not the reverse.”
The entire system is organized to not fix problems. Schweizer details how our elected representatives are running basically a protection racket. As Schweizer stated, “The goal is to create more problems or let problems fester.” Members of Congress go to special interest groups and tell them if they don’t hand over big bucks then a bill which may have a small chance of passing or has been presented annually will be brought up at great detriment to the target’s business interests. One of the favorite techniques of raising money is called a “double-milker.” That is when a Congressman raises money from interest groups on both sides of an issue by telling one-side that they are working on passing the bill and the other side that they better cough up the dough or the dreaded bill will pass.
As Schweizer writes in the book, bills are brought up and then die after the fundraising is completed. He writes, “The bill might go away; the executioner might take away the guillotine for a time. But it will return. The bill will reemerge, and the money will be extorted again by both sides. Sometimes bills only finally pass after the donors have been wrung dry.”