Special corporate interests spend millions of dollars daily to create access and influence that dominates and alters the course of political discourse. Unfortunately for the individual, it is probable that corporations’ power and influence in the political sphere will only expand in the wake of the Citizens United decision by the US Supreme Court earlier this year. In Citizens United v. the Federal Elections Commission, the Court held that corporations have a First Amendment right that includes the unmitigated right to political speech, including campaign advertising. But the story of the politician and the special interest money, also known as lobbying, is as old as time. With all due respect to those who believe in evolution or creation, lobbying can be traced back to the Garden of Eden.
The story went like this: Adam and Eve were doing fine in the Garden. There was one condition God gave Adam and Eve—they weren’t supposed to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. One day, a serpent slithered up to Eve and began making promises and offering temptations. According to the lobbyist, I mean serpent, everything would be better. All Adam and Eve had to do was to break one little rule, who would know? We know how the story ended, God found out, they were tried and convicted of accepting a bribe—a crime punishable by eviction from the Garden.
America is sharply divided into blindly partisan politics, which makes it difficult to do anything other than have endlessly unproductive debates and grandstanding. Shouldn’t reform debates be about real, meaningful reform? In health care, will Americans be healthier? Not really. In the financial sector, have we created reforms that will prevent another taxpayer bailout of Big Banks? No. Immigration, education and the environment are still waiting for Congress’ full attention, too.
Thousands of serpents are slithering around the halls of Capitol Hill trying to get Congress to take yet another bite out of the lobbying apple. Adam and Eve learned the hard way about the consequences of the temptation of the apple. We need to ensure everyone the same access and opportunity to participate in politics, regardless of the amount of money they have or can control. These restraints—campaign finance reform—seem to be the only way that Americans can create a contemporary solution to the political Original Sin.