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.
Then came an Ad Age magazine report on how “public relations agencies are licking their chops in anticipation of Election Day, when big-name presidential campaigners and ... political operatives decide they’re ready to move” into the corporate world. The magazine pointed out that many end up like Republican strategist Steve Schmidt - dividing time between advising campaigns, appearing as independent voices on cable TV and advocating for corporate clients. .....................(more)