In its landmark 1976 decision Buckley v.Valeo, the Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of laws aimed at “the prevention of corruption and the appearance of corruption spawned by the real or imagined coercive influence of large financial contributions on candidates’ positions and on their actions if elected to office.” In that light, let’s take a look at the record of campaign contributions to Spencer Bachus, a Republican congressman from Alabama and a prime example of the interaction between special interest campaign contributions and the legislative process. For all intents and purposes, Bachus, who has announced that he plans to retire in January 2015, has spent his career as a wholly owned subsidiary of the finance industry. Bachus acknowledged as much in an interview with the Birmingham News on Dec. 9, 2010, shortly before he became chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services. “In Washington, the view is that the banks are to be regulated,” the Alabama congressman told the News. “My view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks.”
IT’S a political chicken-and-egg problem. Which came first, the elected official’s policy positions or the money given to his or her campaign? In Bachus’s case, it’s the chicken – his pro-bank views – that came first, followed by dozens of golden eggs. The relationship between the congressman and the industry has been a two-way street. This self-described servant of the banks has been amply rewarded for his loyal service.
Over the last three election cycles, 2007-8, 2009-10 and 2011-12, Bachus raised a total of $5.61 million, according to Open Secrets, a public interest group that tracks campaign contributions and lobbying. Of that $5.61 million, more than half, $3.08 million, came from the FIRE category — finance, insurance and real estate (the real estate industry is part of this group because it depends on mortgage financing). In addition, Bachus’s leadership PAC, the Growth and Prosperity Political Action Committee, received at least $455,000 in 2011-12 from PACs operated by companies in the FIRE category.
At the start of this year, Bachus was replaced as chairman of the Financial Services Committee by Jeb Hensarling, Republican of Texas. In terms of campaign finance, Hensarling is a Bachus clone. In 2011-12, Hensarling’s re-election committee raised $3.02 million, and his leadership committee – a committee he uses to contribute to fellow Republicans – raised $1.04 million, for a total of $4.06 million. Just under half of the cash Hensarling raised came from individuals and PACs in the FIRE category.
Full Article: The Political-Monetary Complex – NYTimes.com.