Read

Search form

Post-Election, Beware the Revolving Door

Post-Election, Beware the Revolving Door
Wed, 11/14/2012 - by David Sirota
This article originally appeared on Salon

There are two types of money that corrupt our politics. After a national election that cost more than $2 billion, most of us know about the blatant kind that floods into politicians' campaigns, typically with quid pro quo strings attached. This is the most obvious form of legalized bribery — cash goes in, policy positions and legislative favors eventually come out.

As powerful as that money is, though, there's also a second, equally corrosive form of payoff — the kind that awaits campaign staff and outgoing government officials if and when they enter the world of influence peddling. This more secret form of corruption tends to generate far less outrage than ho-hum rationalizations. For this reason, you almost never hear about it — that is, until the last few weeks, when a series of coincidental revelations provided a rare look at how this dark money really works.

It started with a Government Accountability Office report on how regulatory agencies are facing "challenges" enforcing oil and gas drilling rules. Part of the problem, the GAO noted, is the fact that retaining regulators "is difficult because qualified staff are frequently offered more money for private sector positions within the oil and gas industry." Translation: regulators are flying through the revolving door, meaning it's difficult to retain good ones and even harder to convince the ones who do stay to vigorously do their jobs.

Underscoring the bipartisan nature of this graft, the New York Times followed up with a look at Democrat Anita Dunn — a top Obama aide who "straddle(s) the line between campaign adviser and corporate strategist." According to the Times, many "clients and lobbyists who have teamed up with (Dunn) say they benefit from (her) firm's ability to provide information about the Obama administration's views."

The implications of all this should be self-evident.

If, as a regulator, you know you can be paid better by working for companies you are regulating, you are more likely to go easier on those companies in hopes of landing that more lucrative job. Likewise, if you see managing campaigns as a gateway to a higher-paid post-election job in corporate PR, you are more likely to urge your political clients to pursue strategies that go easy on businesses you hope will soon be paying you a retainer. And if you are splitting time between advising candidates and shilling for special interests, your counsel will inevitably tilt towards those interests.

This dynamic is often a force even among politicians themselves. Case in point is Bill Clinton, who as president was an architect of financial deregulation and as an ex-president has been paid millions by the financial services industry. Noting this not-so-coincidental chronology, the Roosevelt Institute's Matt Stoller points out that, "The dirty secret of American politics is that, for most politicians, getting elected is just not that important — what matters is post-election employment."

How can this be rectified? Amid the euphoria that comes with the conclusion of another election, there's no easy answer - but getting a glimpse of the situation, labeling it outright corruption and admitting it is a huge problem certainly is a decent start.

David Sirota is a best-selling author of the new book "Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now."

Add new comment

Sign Up

Article Tabs

climate chaos, carbon emissions, climate movement, Break Free from Fossil Fuels, worldwide climate protests, disrupting dirty power, Climate Mobilization, 350.org, keep it in the ground, renewable energy transition

Starting next week, a global wave of mass actions will target the world’s most dangerous fossil fuel projects.

protest movements, social mobilizations, movement of the squares, Occupy Wall Street, Podemos Party, Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders, protest demands, horizontal democracy, Arab Spring, Nuit Debout

The movements of the squares were a watershed moment that profoundly changed grassroots and institutional politics – they have enthused in equal measure as they have disappointed, both under-delivering and over-delivering on their promises.

Bay Bucks, alternative currencies, barter economy, alternative economic systems, Chong Kee Tan, community resilience, sharing economy, Swiss WIR

The Bay Area currency operates a commercial barter system – where businesses with unused inventory or excess capacity "deposit" their excess into an exchange, and “withdraw” other businesses’ excess goods and services instead of money.

climate crisis, climate information, Climate Feedback, accurate climate coverage

Climate Feedback brings together a global network of scientists who use a new web-annotation platform to provide feedback on climate change reporting.

Black Lives Matter, ACLU of Oregon, state surveillance, surveillance programs

Monitoring the social media use of BLM activists is an example of "how the level of trust between law enforcement and communities of color has been so damaged," the civil rights group says.

migrant crisis, East African migrants, migrant smugglers, organ trafficking

A week ago, on April 17, 400 East Africans drowned in the Mediterranean Sea after their boat capsized on the way to Italy – and when the numbers get this big, we forget that they are individual lives being lost, like this, every day.

Posted 4 days 15 hours ago
Panama Papers, tax avoidance, tax shelters, corporate tax evasion, Oxfam

The names on the list of "Broken At the Top" are like a who’s who of big business – and some of the headline figures are simply staggering.

Posted 2 days 8 hours ago
British academies, privatized education, lower teaching standards, low teacher pay, National Union of Teachers, Anti-Academies Alliance

“It is a complete bonfire of pay and conditions," said David Gilchrist of the Anti-Academies Alliance, who claims the government has "no evidence to back up the claim that academies improve educational standards – in fact the opposite is true."

Posted 3 days 10 hours ago

In recent weeks, thousands of people marched and were arrested on the steps of the Capitol demanding that the people’s voice be heard: that we the people, not money, be the driving force of our government.

Posted 4 days 15 hours ago
Bay Bucks, alternative currencies, barter economy, alternative economic systems, Chong Kee Tan, community resilience, sharing economy, Swiss WIR

The Bay Area currency operates a commercial barter system – where businesses with unused inventory or excess capacity "deposit" their excess into an exchange, and “withdraw” other businesses’ excess goods and services instead of money.

Posted 1 day 9 hours ago
act out, occupy, spoken word, poetry, Harriet Tubman, 20 dollar bill, money in politics, regulation, cost benefit analysis, human life, cost of life, value of life, Public Citizen, Amit Narang, corporate accountability, corporate malfeasance, May Day, Int

This week, regulation is the name of the game if you want to hold corporations accountable and keep them in line with the interests of people and planet. Sadly, there's one serious hurdle standing between us and regulation.

Bay Bucks, alternative currencies, barter economy, alternative economic systems, Chong Kee Tan, community resilience, sharing economy, Swiss WIR

The Bay Area currency operates a commercial barter system – where businesses with unused inventory or excess capacity "deposit" their excess into an exchange, and “withdraw” other businesses’ excess goods and services instead of money.

Civil Rights movement, environmental movement, green-black alliance, Black Lives Matter, Moral Mondays, Martin Luther King Jr, movement of movements

A beautiful thing is happening: Advocates for racial justice and for environmental protection are coming together in a new way.

British academies, privatized education, lower teaching standards, low teacher pay, National Union of Teachers, Anti-Academies Alliance

“It is a complete bonfire of pay and conditions," said David Gilchrist of the Anti-Academies Alliance, who claims the government has "no evidence to back up the claim that academies improve educational standards – in fact the opposite is true."

Black Lives Matter, ACLU of Oregon, state surveillance, surveillance programs

Monitoring the social media use of BLM activists is an example of "how the level of trust between law enforcement and communities of color has been so damaged," the civil rights group says.