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Why Money in Politics is a Sin

2013-10-30

The recent (2010) Supreme Court decision that declared a law restricting anonymous contributions to be unconstitutional has opened the floodgates to organized crime to take over our government.  The problem is that money is not, by its very nature, necessarily legally obtained.  Drug barons of South America have billions of dollars at their disposal.    Large contributions from anonymous donors can potentially influence elections of all kinds, although spending a lot of money is not a guarantee to winning office.  Organizations that are criminal in nature can potentially  make very large money contributions to influence elections, and if they are allowed to be anonymous there is little check on their proliferation.  It is not just legally wealthy people who might want to get into office or have a law changed by referendum.

The movies shown on TMC naturally provide an entertaining example of how this problem can work.  The movie in question stars Lee J. Cobb as a lieutenant in the homicide bureau of the Miami Police Department.  He receives a phone call that a woman in a hotel has just seen a man in the hotel across the street from her stabbing another man to death.  The captain of homicide responds to the call since the lieutenant is going off duty.   Next thing he knows, he is getting a call that the captain has been knifed to death too, in the same hotel room.  These murders lead to a hired killer who is working for an extremely powerful illegal organization that wants to legalize gambling in Florida so as to create competition for the already legal places in Nevada and Cuba (this is in 1955.)  This illegal organization has a key man in Florida who is buying the support of all the wealthiest and most powerful men in the state.  Those who won’t be bought, are quietly eliminated by this hired hit man.  All this is in preparation for a referendum by which the people of Florida are supposed to agree to legalize gambling.  Finally, the lieutenant (Cobb) wields a Thompson submachine gun in a shootout with the bad guys who are attacking his girlfriend and their son (who are shooting back from inside a cabin deep in the Everglades.)  The exposure of the illegal money behind the referendum causes the people to reject it.  This point is driven home by commentary from a narrator at the beginning and end of the film.

The whole point of the movie is that an illegal organization could, theoretically, buy an election or a referendum and thereby influence political policy to their advantage.  The fact that gambling was legal in Cuba (where part of the movie takes place) was considered irrelevant by everyone in the movie.

To avoid this possibility, it is Constitutionally necessary (in order to prevent organized crime from influencing politics) to supervise elections by banning anonymous donations, and, as far as possible, remove the influence of money from elections (perhaps by giving free TV airtime to candidates who meet minimal popularity standards.)

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