Big money is the root of our evils but Congress has the power to unmask wealthy donors | GUEST COMMENTARY

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Big money rules in Congress. Gun manufacturers can always prevent common-sense legislation like improved background checks, even though more than 90% of all voters and 83% of gun owners favor the measure.

Similarly, we pay more for prescription drugs because our government officials — beholden as they are to corporate campaign spenders — will not allow our government to negotiate prices via Medicare and Medicaid. The same makers sell the same drugs in other nations for a small fraction of the price they charge in the U.S.A.


Mad yet? We have the same story in our entire health care system where private health insurers gouge us through premiums and then deny payment for needed care.

We have the same story with the banks where bankers cycle from Wall Street to Washington “regulatory” agencies and back again to make sure that no real regulation takes place. The Department of Justice could not find a single major financial executive to prosecute after all the fraud, lying, and downright theft that occurred in the financial crash of 2007-2008.


Mad yet? Weapons-makers seem to own Congress. When we withdrew from Afghanistan, the “defense” budget rose when it should have fallen. Unbelievably expensive weapons that don’t work — like the F-35 — get more and more funding when they should get less. We taxpayers maintain 800 foreign U.S. military bases while Russia and China together have fewer than 25.

We paid for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for most of two decades. The Iraq War was based on a complete lie about weapons of mass destruction. We will pay for veterans’ care for decades into the future, and the veterans who survive will continue to pay with physical and mental suffering. Brown University now projects the total cost of those wars to be $8 trillion. That amounts to $24,000 for every person in our country!

Mad yet? This month, President Joe Biden asked Congress for $33 billion, most of which was for military aid for Ukraine. Congress appropriated $40 billion with almost no discussion or rationale for the increase.

There are more areas where Congress and the president have rewarded campaign donors and spenders instead of the 99% of working people of our nation. The 1% don’t pay as much in taxes on dividends or capital gains as we pay for wages and salaries. Fossil fuels and sugar get undeserved subsidies. These giveaways to the 1% amount to many thousands of dollars every year that every working American, child, and retiree is forced to give to the already-wealthy.

Mad yet? The Supreme Court issued another ridiculous (see Justice Elena Kagan’s comment here) decision last month in FEC v. Cruz. Politicians can lend their campaigns money. They can charge their campaigns any amount of interest they want. Incumbents win about 90% of races for Congress. Then they have a constitutional right to raise funds from wealthy donors to pay themselves back and even make a profit from the interest. The donors get enhanced access to manipulate legislation in their favor.

Mad yet? There is one possible bright spot on the horizon. The DISCLOSE Act will be coming to the floor of the Senate. It will not undo the bad decisions of the Supreme Court, but it will allow us to know before we vote who is paying to elect these politicians, and it will help us keep foreign money out of our elections. Right now, a veil of secrecy allows foreign money and big corporate money to go undetected by the voting public.

Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin and Sen. Chris Van Hollen (the original author of the bill in 2010) are both co-sponsors. It has always been blocked by the filibuster rule that requires 60 senators to proceed to a vote on a policy bill.

More than three-quarters of U.S. voters want groups to be required to disclose the sources of their funds. Let’s see whether the 1% and the foreign funders prevail again or whether We the People can get 60 senators to allow the DISCLOSE Act to finally receive a vote on the Senate floor.


Charlie Cooper is president of Get Money Out - Maryland, a volunteer force working to eliminate big money from politics and make elections fairer. He can be reached at