Tahoe Pine Nuts: Congress and the king makers
Special to the Sun-Bonanza
Welcome to the House of Medici, having decamped from 13th century Florence to 21st century America. Cosimo the Elder has been supplanted by the Koch brothers, and though both are regarded as effective king makers, Cosimo was more active in promoting arts and culture.
When it comes to politics, I’m like a Chicago Cubs fan — more concerned about beer prices at Wrigley Field than winning the World Series. But when the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw, and the House of Koch is no House of Medici.
America’s bowing to mammon began with Jay Gould. As Mark Twain characterized it, “People desired money before his day, but he taught them to fall down and worship it.”
Then came Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision of 2010 that gave a bully pulpit to money in our political system by redefining money as free speech. Suddenly money could legally buy influence, which had been highly illegal in this country since its inception and forbidden in the Magna Carta of 800 years ago.
Senator John McCain called the Citizens United decision, “…the most misguided, naive, uninformed, egregious decision of the United States Supreme Court I think in the 21st century.”
But just here, let’s hear a word for a junior member of the King Maker Club, Sheldon Adelson. How did Sheldon make the billions he likes to share with his political minions?
Adleson invented a vacuum cleaner, a vacuum cleaner strong enough to suck money right out of people’s pockets who were too dumb or too drunk to do math, and he called that vacuum cleaner the Venetian.
Also in the “money talks and _____ walks” department, Dennis Hastert acquired $17 million in his 20 years at the trough — I mean, in Congress.
How? Well, for example, he bought land designated for an Illinois highway, secured federal funding for the project, then sold his portion of that land to a developer for about $3 million.
Nice work if you can get it. The title of Hastert’s memoir might just well be, “Three Hots & a Cot.”
In California, lobbying was once considered a felony. A Supreme Court justice in 1854 proclaimed, “The use of lobbying will have the effect to subject state governments to the combined capital of wealthy corporations, and produce universal corruption.
Speculators in legislation, vending their secret influences, will infest the capital of the Union and of every state, till corruption shall become the normal condition of the body politic, and it will be said of us as of Rome — omne Romae venale.”
California of 1854 knew what we have failed to remember, that politicians are more prone to reflect the positions of their donors than the positions of their constituents. And so we are forced to learn this lesson over again, proving the old adage to be true. We really should study history if we don’t want to relive it.
Fact is, in Nevada you work in a brothel before you become a madam. In Washington you work in congress before you become a lobbyist. But I repeat myself. Mark Twain’s observation is more relevant today than ever before, “We have the best government money can buy.”
To learn more about McAvoy Layne visit http://www.ghostoftwain.com.
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