Elections, incumbents, and democracy

Looks like Congress is the opposite of “democratically elected” when you take this into account.

How is 97 percent of Congress able to get re-elected each year even though only 17 percent of the American people believe our representatives are doing a good job?

It’s called an incumbent protection system. Taxpayers have a right to know how it works.

Recently, our auditors at OpenTheBooks.com mashed up the federal checkbook with the congressional campaign donor database (source: OpenSecrets.org). We found powerful members of Congress soliciting campaign donations from federal contractors based in their districts.

We followed the money and found a culture of conflict-of-interest. The confluence of federal money, campaign cash, private employment, investments, prestigious committee appointments, political power, nepotism, and other conflicts are a fact pattern.

Furthermore, members of Congress own investment stock in, are employed by, and receive retirement pensions from federal contractors to whom they direct billions of taxpayer dollars.

Moreover, members sponsor legislation that affects these contractors. The contractor’s lobbyists then advocate for the legislation that helps the member and the contractor. Oftentimes, the contractor’s lobbyist also donates campaign cash to the member.

Here are five case examples detailing the conflict-of-interest among five powerful members of Congress…

There’s more at the link.

It’s easy to talk about term limits and similar steps to help fix our broken system of government;  but I daresay the entrenched interests that have corrupted it, and the systems they’ve put in place, would find a way to corrupt newly-elected representatives almost as soon as they set foot in the door of the Capitol.  We have to find a way to break the stranglehold of special interests before we can fix our democracy . . . and short of creating new offenses for which a heavy prison term can be levied, I don’t see how.  Any practical suggestions, readers?



  1. I would venture to say there are already conflict of interest laws on the books that if they were only enforced would stop this nonsense.

  2. When it comes to Congress, one issue never brought up is the questionable legality of a 'law' as opposed to a Constitutional Amendment limiting legislatures to only 435 members. This was a travesty along with the direct election of senators.


    Of course, the powers like the idea of only have to buy off a few hundred scumbags instead of trying to pay off a few thousand which would be a more honest way in line with the Constitution. There is also nothing that says Congresscum are entitled to a lavish salary other than reimbursement for travel, so with the internet it's not like these guys need to live in DC. I would like to have the representatives office up the street preferably someone with a real bleeping job.

  3. The reality is that any system will end up corrupted by moneyed interests. It doesn't matter whether we enforce existing anti-corruption laws, pass new laws to prevent corruption, or implement term limits. Those with a lot to gain from government actions will always find a way to influence politicians and bureaucrats.

    Given this we need to ensure that any anti-corruption measures don't cause more harm than good. Term limits are nice but also eliminate the most experienced politicians. Do this and you could have out of control bureaucrats who run rings around inexperienced legislators. Limit government employment tenure and you lose anybody wanting a career. Limiting gifts to politicians moves the money to reelection campaigns. Limiting that will move money to non-campaign organizations. Limiting outside spending will result in some other way to provide payments and influence.

  4. I really have no solid solution, I venture that nobody has such in his/her possession. Tool guy (above), Lab Mngr. (above), and Thomas (above) are all correct.

    If we are truthful to ourselves, human nature is to gather money, then gather power, and the easiest way to do both is to indulge corruption. It is the easiness that is applicable to indulging corruption. By that I mean it is too difficult to gather money and power utilizing only honesty — thus human nature will always prevail and corruption will always remain part and parcel.

    In a government with literally thousands of bureaus, agencies, departments and subparts thereof, transparency is impossible — not difficult, but impossible. Not only government contractors (arms suppliers, munitions suppliers, toilet paper suppliers, food suppliers and even alcohol suppliers) contribute to this sad affair, but even the non-transparent professional government employees weigh in heavily. Then, there is: the incredibly ignorant voter; the corrupt voter (those who vote for freebies, to hell with all else); and the could be but non-voting public (the cynical "my one vote doesn't count).

    I would say we start with educating our population. But alas, our education system is totally corrupt.

  5. Honestly, you need a full reset. The checks and balances of the US labor under the assumption that the majority of the people in positions of power are honorable.

    Sadly that may have been the case when the constitution was written, but I am not so sure that it was still the case when the civil war came around, and it certainly wasn't the case for long after 1900. And thus the checks and balances are broken, making the whole system broken.

    What you need is a system where the population can torpedo any law via plebiscite.
    Recall every politician via recall vote, and exclude them from ever running again.
    Make any regulation of any public body unenforceable as long as it is not written in law by congress.
    Make campaign funding fixed and paid by the government. Everybody gets the same amount of money. What they don't use goes back to the government. Campaign donations are strictly verboten.
    Make fake information via PACs treason punishable with minimum 20 years maximum security.

  6. Stop electing legislators. Assign them by lot, using Selective Service registries. Second and subsequent terms may be assigned but only in response to Initiative votes. Soliciting an initiative for one's own retention would be a felony. Executive-branch positions would still be filled by election, but electors would be limited to those who receive no employment or other funding from the part of government (municipal, State, federal) involved.

  7. Repeal all 'campaign finance' legislation. While the people who passed it, every time, mouthed platitudes about 'taking the money out of elections' the actual effect, EVERY TIME, has been to ratchet up the level of incumbency. So, all Campaign Finance Reform has managed to do is make contributing to a campaign so complicated that only professional fixers, working for people with millions in public funds at stake, will take the risk of donating anything significant.

  8. The best hope for peaceful systemic correction is the ConCon, with non-ratifying States resuming their independence.I
    Thing are not looking good here, in a different way than in Mexico.

  9. there needs to be a law forbidding donations to any politician that is on any committee that the donor will have a financial stake in it's rulings (or something along these lines)

    This goes down to preventing unions from donating to politicians they will be negotiating with all the way up through congress.

    David Lang

  10. "there needs to be a law forbidding donations to any politician that is on any committee that the donor will have a financial stake in it's rulings (or something along these lines)"

    This presumes that the government administering the law is honest, which is where it all falls down. Any complicated system will be gamed by the politicians it is supposed to constrain.

    That's why I advocate repealing all 'campaign finance' regulations, or at least all those that affect contributions by American individuals and groups. THEN require that all donations, with their origin, be displayed openly on the internet. If Senator F is in the back pocket of MightyBig Drugs, Inc, the voters can decide if they care.

  11. Agree with Schofield – 1. Remove all campaign finance regulations. 2. Require all donations be reported within 3 days. 3. Any donations not reported in 3 days, the fine is 5x the donation.

    I read one other suggestion that looked good, to not allow politicians and government employees to enter any business that they had dealings with for a minimum of 4 years after leaving office. Right now, these folks can leave/retire and immediately get 'hired' by a business they set up sweetheart deals with. The Pentagon is famous for this, but it's endemic through the system.

  12. But alas, our education system is totally corrupt.
    This is a lot of the problem.

    Make fake information via PACs treason punishable with minimum 20 years maximum security.
    Works for me.

  13. When much of the electorate does not know shoe polish from humanure, we should be grateful that have, if not the best government that money can buy, then at least a very good government for the money!

  14. The founders understood corruption, that's why they limited the power of the federal gov. The powers of the fed gov were focused on foreign relations, interstate commerce, and preventing state laws that violate citizen's rights. But today you can't break wind without encountering a federal bureaucracy or three.

    The problem isn't corruption, which happens naturally as part of human nature. The problem is that the scope-creep of the fed gov has spread that corruption everywhere. The bigger an organization gets, the more it becomes about the organization itself and the less about the function it was created for.

  15. "The bigger an organization gets, the more it becomes about the organization itself and the less about the function it was created for."

    "The Iron Law of Bureaucracy" by J. Pournelle.

    It's not just size, but company/dept age is also a factor.

    I've seen a variation of this at work in Silicon Valley. Once a startup becomes stable and viable, a class of people I would term "carpetbaggers" are attracted to it. These management types do some real damage when they come aboard. The biggest effect is to chase out the innovators and thinkers that put it on the map. Ever wonder why some rising star in the tech world stumbles and lurches around, never reaching that level of success that seemed so obvious?

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