Indeed, in my years as a compliance consultant, I have had corporate clients where 98-99 percent of their contributions went to incumbents. That miniscule remainder more often than not flowed to say Representatives who were running for an open Senate seat (but not challengers to an incumbent). Why would this be?
Simple, those who are in power are in a position to do something to help the corporation.
Lots of people think that such action is tanamount to buying votes. But I am here to tell you that if a Member of Congress or a state legislator can be bought with a few thousand or a few hundred dollars, then there is a bigger problem than simple campaign finance reform can fix--that is a problem that can only be addressed by calling a prosecutor and then throwing the bums out of office.
Rather, the reason campaign contributions flow to incumbents is simple. Access. A campaign contribution is not a chance to buy a vote, it is a chance to have some relatively private time with a legislator that is not always available otherwise. After all, a corporation can't vote like a human can.
Access is the ability to influence thinking, influence language and possible insert favored langauge into legislation. Campaign contributions are not about buying votes, or even about politics necessarily. It is about self-interest and a corporation's self-interest is in advancing the bottom line and legislation can mean millions to a business.
So how to fix the problem--simple--don't allow candidates to raise money while the legislature is in session. That may work for state legislatures that only meet for a few months a year. But when the legislature is full time--like Congress, then other steps have to be taken. My personal suggestion--don't allow Members of Congress to raise money until such time as a candidate files papers for the same seat and/or until 90 days before the primary election. That way, most candidates will spend more time legislating and less time raising money. If they are not raising money, they are not offering more access to corporations.
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