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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Oust the Vampires

    New York Governor David Paterson was right on when he labeled some of our nations legislatures and lawmakers as vampyric ‘bloodsuckers’ last Monday. He made the characterization in reference to how grassroots activists are ignored on Capitol Hill in favor for the rich lobbyists and unions. The people and the public good are getting overlooked, he said, in favor of corporate interests. Paterson was referring to congressmen and women in particular, but the same can be said of presidents, governors, state and local legislators as well. When it comes to getting elected and re-elected (and re-re-elected) politicians know to follow the money. As long as they can get the corporate donations, they can run as many ads as they want, make as many empty campaign promises as they want, break those promises as many times as they want and be confident that their cushy offices will still be their every November. Even though oversight and accountability is improving, with web-based watch groups keeping track of what candidates are raising, how much and from whom, lobbying is so pervasive in politics that the public is only peripherally aware of it and the mainstream media largely ignores it. The voters have demonstrated, year after year, that they aren’t willing to think for themselves, and do their own research in seeing how badly their own politicians are serving them. Without overhauling campaign laws, we have no hope of removing these parasites from their beloved offices. The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act — or the McCain-Feingold Act as it’s known — which was passed in 2002, is legislation that assured that we would never be able to elect a decent political candidate ever again. For anyone who tried to donate to a political campaign this year, you’ll know that the most an individual can donate to any candidate is $2,300. For corporations, with plenty of bodies to go around, this pricetag isn’t an issue. For non-profit, grassroots organizations with a political agenda, this isn’t so easy. These organizations shilling for lesser known candidates are in trouble, because they can’t rely on a few big donors to kick off their campaigns. This gives a huge advantage to the personal wealthy and incumbents, who’s names are already known. Another, hopefully unintended, consequence which affects the grassroots as a result of McCain-Feingold, is that organizations aren’t allowed to run ads on the airwaves controlled by the Federal Communications Commission in support or against politicians who are running for office. The limit of this type of ‘electioneering’ which pretends to level the playing field, does exactly the opposite. The ability of the citizen and non-profit groups to express their political opinion is drastically reduced. In essence, only political opponents are allowed to attack each other through television and radio advertising. Unless an issue is brought up by the national media, it won’t be aired and voters won’t know about it. Luckily, these rules don’t yet apply to the Internet or print media. Republican Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas), who has since suspended his presidential bid, made use of the Internet during the election to great affect. His loyal donor base was able to raise an astounding amount funds through the Internet from millions of people in small increments. Libertarian Party Candidate Bob Barr is trying to copy this success. However, the Internet is still a relatively young medium and politicians still rely on television and radio ads to gather their voters. Unless there is a media revolution in the near future, campaign finance must be reformed or we’ll be stuck with the ‘bloodsuckers’ forever.

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