HIGHTOWER: Buying Good Government

Like a spaghetti western, this is another story about a fistfull of dollars.The setting is not some dried-up frontier town, with dust swirling down the street, but the Halls of Congress, with lobbyists swirling down the corridors, packing campaign contributions. A common claim by these hired guns is that their PAC donations are not meant to buy legislative favors, but simply to show their support for "good government."Like Clint Eastwood squinting at a gang of thieving scum, however, the Center for Responsive Politics took a look at where the PAC money of top donors went, by congressional committee. Check it out: the top donor to members of the Senate Agriculture Committee just happens to be agribusiness giant ConAgra Inc.; the big giver to the Senate armed services committee is the huge Pentagon contractor, Lockheed Martin; the leading PAC contributor to finance committee members is Citigroup, the global financial conglomerate. Sure, they all want "good government" -- especially from lawmakers who can do big favors for them.One fat favor that the powerhouses of finance have long wanted is to loosen the rules to allow cross-ownership between banks, stock brokerages, and insurance companies. Last year, these firms gave $15 million to members of the committees handling this legislation. The top recipient was Sen. Al D'Amato, chairman of the banking committee. He got $1.7 million from them ... yet he lost his re-election bid to Democrat Charles Schumer. Don't feel bad for the financial firms, though -- they also gave $1.4 million to Schumer. Guess which committee the new senator was assigned to? Bingo if you said Banking!This is Jim Hightower saying ... In the corrupt system of money politics, the corporate lobbyists never lose. To fight this system and to get corporate cash out of politics, call the Center for Responsive Politics, 202-857-0044.

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