Print Edition

  Email News Updates

Buying influence: What they won’t teach you about politics

By Tom Morgan


Hillary Clinton seems to get into trouble every time she talks about money. She’s a big girl and can find her own way out of the thicket that ensnares her. But she has opened a can of worms. The worms are not of her making.

The worms are the issues of money in politics. Why would a company like Goldman Sachs write humungous checks to her for speaking for an hour or two? Not because it supports her causes. It seeks to buy influence with her. Or access to her — in the event she is elected.

Why do you suppose companies, unions, and wealthy guys have kicked in nearly a billion dollars to the Clinton Foundation? Because they are touched by the work it does? Come on. They are trying to buy influence and access.

Why do they dollop out the money to have breakfast with John Boehner? Why do they write checks for $35,000 to eat within lobbing distance of the president? To buy influence and access.

They also kick in money because our leaders shake them down. They or their agents make it clear. Your organization needs to support the president. Or the senator. Or the Leader of the House. Or the guy who heads this committee, which regulates your industry.

Our leaders’ agents tell these companies, unions, and rich guys: “You need to support them in order to stop regulations that will harm you.” Or, “you need to support them to get regulations written that will help you.”

The same scenario plays out in the capitals of our largest states. Albany works like Washington on fewer steroids. You pay your money; you get your favors. Or, you dodge the bullets.

Albany and Sacramento and Washington are voracious machines. They have dual purposes. They perform extortion. They perform bribery. On a massive scale.
They are so voracious that our president appears to spend about 40 percent of his time raising money, judging from his travel schedule. His fundraising is squeezing out the time he has for golf.

Seriously, do you suppose we will ever teach this to our kids? Will their textbooks ever explain that the leaders of this state and country are ever on the trail for big bucks?

We won’t. Because it is unsavory. We pretend their duties have to do with something else. We pretend our legislators devote most of their time to hammering out laws. We pretend they negotiate endlessly. Because we don’t want to admit that if they aren’t good at grubbing for money they won’t make it as politicians.

We pretend that political leadership is about ideals. We pretend that people pony up tons of bucks for the pols because they share their beliefs for a better America.

Right. Goldman cares about a better America the way the education unions care about better education for our children and grandchildren. The directors of Goldman Sachs ask the managers to justify spending millions on politicians. The trustees of unions want to know what the donations to politicians have bought. How about ideals, education, students? Those subjects never come up.

No college will offer a degree in this work. But many thousands of people labor in this industry. Some bribe politicians. Some extort money for politicians. Money is the lifeblood of politics. You might earn a dozen degrees in political science, but I bet you won’t be taught much about the extortion and bribery of our system.

Maybe that is a good thing. After all, it is pretty sickening. In the musical “Camelot,” there is a song “I wonder what the King is doing tonight.” If you change the word to President, and you guess he’s fundraising, you have a good chance of being right.

From in Morgan.

Tom Morgan writes about political, financial, and other subjects from his home near Oneonta, in addition to his radio shows and TV show. For more information about him, visit his website at

Thank You For Visiting