THE BLOG
11/18/2010 02:32 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Think Again: When Money Talks, Who Listens (Besides Politicians)?

Everybody knows money talks in politics, but people--and particularly the press--rarely pay attention to exactly how. It can define potential alternatives, invent arguments, inundate with propaganda, and threaten with merely hypothetical opposition.

Politicians do not need to "switch" their votes to meet its demands. They can bury bills, rewrite the language of bills that are presented, convince certain congressmen to schedule a golf tournament back home on a day of a key committee vote, confuse debate, and bankroll primary opposition.

The manner and means through which money can operate is almost as infinite as its uses in any bordello, casino, or Wall Street brokerage. Just about the only thing money can't buy in politics is love. But that's OK because, as Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) or ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer can tell you, politics provides plenty of substitutes.

Frank Baumgartner, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and co-author of the book, Lobbying and Policy Change: Who Wins, Who Loses, and Why, explains that the real outcome of most lobbying--in fact, its greatest success--is the achievement of nothing, the maintenance of the status quo: "Sixty percent of the time, nothing happens... What we see is gridlock and successful stalemating of proposals, with occasional breakthroughs." And that's just the way the corporate lobbies want it.

Health insurers, including United Health Group Inc. and Cigna, last year gave the U.S. Chamber of Commerce $86.2 million that was used to oppose the health care overhaul law, according to a November 17, 2010 report by Bloomberg News. The report notes that this amount "exceeded the insurer group's entire budget from a year earlier and accounted for 40 percent of the Chamber's $214.6 million in 2009 spending."

It might have been nice to know this during the fight over the bill--when so many members of the mainstream media were pretending that all the opposition to it was based on genuine voter outrage, but it only became public when annual tax records required under U.S. law were finally made public.

The insurers' funneling of money through the chamber is an example of some of the new business opportunities that recent Supreme Court rulings have opened up for all wealthy and corporate funders who wish to remain anonymous.

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