Friday, August 27, 2010

Campaign spending gone wild will get wilder

As Jimmy Durante once warned his audiences, "You ain't seen nuttin' yet."

Political campaign spending has gone wild and surely will become more crazed.

This election cycle is the first since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations can donate to candidates directly. With their bulging coffers, and their single-issue obsession with ending environmental regulation and loosening tax codes, corporations from now on will be seeking candidates willing to sell their principles, if necessary, to sign on and become mouthpieces for big money.

However, not all the money madness involves corporations. Coming into view are corporate executives and billionaires who have never had as much as a toe in the political waters in the past, but now want to buy a position in the U.S. Senate to set an agenda fit for their personal or corporate tastes.

They will find rough going, however. The business of Congress largely has little to do with towering policy changes or historic legislation. Most of Congress' day-in, day-out work involves caring for voters' needs back home (a souvenir flag that's flown over the Capitol, a missing Social Security check, a Scout Troop's visit to Washington).

And as for dismantling government agencies and abolishing health care, not all members of Congress—despite some current shrill campaign promises to bow to the demands of the Tea Party—are inclined to quickly undo programs that benefit millions of Americans,

The Environmental Protection Agency is safe. So is Social Security. Health care is fixed in place. The Muslim religion won't be abolished. Stem cell research will be restored. President Obama will not be ousted because Rush Limbaugh suspects he's foreign-born.

Governing is far more sophisticated and complex than demagogues of the Tea Party and followers of Sarah Palin understand. A campaign promise is here today and gone tomorrow when tedious work in the U.S. House and Senate begin.

Once the newbies take office, the only really delighted people in Washington will be gossip columnists, Capitol Hill reporters who thrive on political gaffes and scandals and campaign advisers who'll charge handsomely for tips on how to wriggle out of some embarrassment.

One agenda item that should be uppermost for the average congressman: Finding ways to control and restrict the ridiculous flow of tens of millions of dollars into politics from now legally anonymous corporations and interest groups who want the people's business to rank second behind their private interests.

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