The Thing Keeps Devouring Our Democracy

Did you ever see the old science-fiction horror movie, "The Thing?" That fictional Thing came from outer space and threatened to destroy our country -- but today we've got a real-life Thing that comes from within, grows bigger and bigger every year, and is steadily devouring our democracy: Corporate Money.

We've seen the White House, congress, and both major parties be consumed by this big-money, special-interest Thing, but now corporate contributors are even planning to swallow the presidential nominating conventions of the Republicans and Democrats. The Thing never sleeeps.

After the Watergate scandal of 1972, these quadrennial conventions have been financed with public funds -- a move intended to keep the corrupting power of corporate money out of the process. By 1980, however, a little loophole appeared allowing the sponsoring cities of the conventions to offset expenses by raising a limited amount of money from local corporations. Having gotten its finger in that little loophole, The Thing began to wriggle, enlarging the hole until its whole hand was inside.

By 2000, there were more corporate executives and lobbyists at the two conventions than delegates, with the likes of Microsoft and AT&T paying $2 million each to worm their way inside where they could schmooze with the top office holders of both parties and win favor for their special governmental needs. And now, at next year's two presidential conventions, corporations are expected to put up more than $100 million to pay about three-fifths of the total cost of the conventions.

But both parties seem willing to sell it all to The Thing. As a Republican election commissioner says: "I look forward to the day... when Americans can turn on their TVs and watch the Nokia Democratic Convention or the AT&T Republican National Convention."

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