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Bill Moyers: Thomas Frank and Mother Jones on the Vast, Corrupting Power of Money in Politics

When it comes to the vast, corrupting influence of money in politics, historian Thomas Frank has sounded the alarm loudly and often.
 
 
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The following is a transcript of an episode of Moyers & Company.

When it comes to the vast, corrupting influence of money in politics, historian Thomas Frank has sounded the alarm loudly and often. In " It's a Rich Man's World," one of his recent essays for Harper's Magazine, Frank writes, "Over the course of the past few decades, the power of concentrated money has subverted professions, destroyed small investors, wrecked the regulatory state, corrupted legislators en masse, and repeatedly put the economy through the wringer. Now it has come for our democracy itself."

Bill talks with Frank about the power of concentrated money to subvert democracy.

Frank's book, "What's the Matter with Kansas?" was a best seller and his latest, "Pity the Billionaire," asks how Tea Partiers and their allies can make heroes of the rich and mighty who ran us into a ditch.

Bill Moyers: This week on Moyers & Company...

Thomas Frank: We have just come through this sort of extraordinary real world demonstration of the folly of our financial system, of all the stuff that we've been doing, the deregulation of the last 30 years, the setup of the Federal Reserve system, however you want to put it, it has all failed us.

Bill Moyers: And...

Monika Bauerlein: You no longer really have one person, one vote. You have one person, one vote, one million dollars.

Clara Jeffery: So essentially you can create the regulatory landscape that you want if you can, essentially, buy elections.

Bill Moyers: Welcome. If you're visiting a candidate this summer and looking for a thoughtful house gift, might we suggest a nice super PAC? Thanks to the Supreme Court and Citizens United, they're all the rage among the mega-wealthy. All it takes is a little paperwork and a wad of cash and presto, you can have, as "The Washington Post" describes it, a "highly customized, highly personalized" political action committee.

It's easy –super PACs come in all amounts and affiliations. You don't have to spend millions, although a gift that size certainly won't be turned aside. Cable TV tycoon Marc Nathanson got a super PAC for his friend, longtime Democratic Congressman Howard Berman from California, and all it cost was $100,000. Down in North Carolina, Republican congressional candidate George Holding received a handsome super PAC that includes $100,000 each from an aunt and uncle and a quarter of a million from a bunch of his cousins. Yes, nothing says family like a great big, homemade batch of campaign contributions.

George Holding: 2012 is the most important election we're ever going to have.

Bill Moyers: You can start a super PAC on your own or contribute to one that already exists. Super PACs are available for every kind of race – presidential, congressional or statewide. But there are other ways you can help buy an election. Look at the Wisconsin recall campaign of Republican Governor Scott Walker. At least fourteen billionaires rushed to Walker's side. He outraised his Democratic opponent by nearly eight to one. Most of his money came from out of state. More than sixty million dollars were spent, and $45 million of it for Walker alone. Here are just a few of the satisfied buyers:

Wisconsin billionaire Diane Hendricks contributed more than half a million dollars on Scott Walker's behalf. Fearful the United States might become "a socialistic ideological nation," she's an ardent foe of unions – and against, in her words, "taxing job creators." True to her aversion to taxes, she paid none in 2010, despite being worth, according to "Forbes Magazine," about $2.8 billion dollars. Before he launched his crusade against the collective bargaining rights of working people, Governor Walker held this conversation with Diane Hendricks.

 
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