Monday, 16 July 2007

The role of money in politics

The form may be different - but the issue of the role of money in politics troubles participants and commentators in both Washington and Westminster.

There's a very interesting article in today's Washington Post by Shankar Vedantam, which I would recommend.


There are some valuable comments which have been posted in response - they can be found at


One of the 'friends of Washminster' Bob Carr, a former Congressman from Michigan, has posted his response:-

"Bravo. This is the first article I have seen in a long time that puts the relationship of money and politics in perspective. Please devote more time to delving into the subtleties of this relationship. And equally important make sure your journalism colleagues understand these subtleties and refrain from money-buys-votes stereotype writing - at least in the print media where we expect more.

As other comments have said the constituent relationship is paramount. Another subtly: money is often used to alter the officeholder's perceptions of which constituents represent the public interest. The effect of this is even more subtle depending on the competitiveness of the district.

But the real distortion does not come on a Daschle-type prioritization of dairy issues over international hunger issue (a priority I share). And keep in mind the prioritization was what Prof. Hall worked on, not what Tom Daschle cared about. Plus, there could have been non-money, non-constituent factors dictating that shift in Hall's work priority.

Rather the real distortion comes on the effect of money on Leader-type prioritization of what gets to the top of the collective agenda, whether subcommittee, committee or floor action. It impacts most heavily where the "constituency" is not the folks back home, but the members of the caucus. Time and time again, bills, motions, amendments are made the order of the day because the money on one side or the other says it should be there.

So, please stay with this topic. I'd like to see more like it. And thank you for this one."