Of Stables and Manure: The influence of campaign contributions on political decisions


by Caren Besner

There is a story from ancient Greek mythology about a great ruler: Augeias, King of Elis, who owned innumerable herds of cattle and twelve white bulls which were viewed as sacred. There, animals all lived in a series of foul stables that apparently had never been cleaned, and were overflowing with piles of manure that had been amassing for many years. The legendary Hercules was given the impossible task of getting rid of this accumulation of dung in one day; a feat he accomplished by diverting the course of two rivers to run through the stables.

A marvelous tale, but what relevance does it have to modern times? The answer is that there is a “culture of corruption” in Washington D.C. and one can argue, in state and local governments, as well. This “culture” is fueled by money: by “donations” from political action committees, special interest group lobbyists, foreign “sources,” and from wealthy individuals, as well.

Since pure altruism is rarely a factor, when it comes to large scale campaign or other “donations,” all of these individuals or groups sooner or later will expect something in return.

Donald Trump, during the G.O.P. presidential debate of August 6, 2015 admitted as much when he stated that what he expected in return for his “contribution” was direct access to the recipient, who will then look favorably on anything that he wished them to do. Citing an anecdotal story of Hillary Clinton attending his wedding because of a large “donation,” he made to her campaign or foundation, Trump then related how he had made contributions to the campaigns of most of his adversaries sharing the stage with him.

Corruption in high places is nothing new. It is a story as old as history itself.

Ronald Reagan declared, “It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first.”

In times past, there used to be some degree of accountability and even limitations on campaign contributions, but all that changed with the Supreme Court’s January 21, 2012 Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates to unlimited contributions. Defenders of this new policy will point to the massive sums necessary to mount a major political campaign, but the fact remains that any politician who accepts monies from dubious sources must expect to have their integrity and judgement questioned; especially when a decision they make favors the donor. On occasion, some politician will propose changes to the campaign finance laws, but since both parties benefit enormously from the existing system, the impetus for any real change is virtually nil.

Since career politicians are unwilling or unable to seriously address this issue, the culture of corruption will continue. Each party pointing the finger of accusation at the other. Democrats routinely denounce the contributions of the Koch brothers, while their Republican adversaries do likewise with George Soros and Tom Steyer. The ones who lose are the American public. Since meaningful change is out of the question, what is then needed is a modern day Hercules: one who will divert the waters of the Potomac through the manure filled stable of corruption that is Capitol Hill.

Caren Besner  has written articles published by Sun-Sentinel, American Thinker, IsraPost, Jewish Journal, The Jewish Voice, The Times of Israel, San Diego Jewish World, Jewish Press, The Algemeiner, The Florida Veteran, The Front Page, Independent Sentinel, and the Moderate Voice
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Jai Rajagopal
Jai Rajagopal
7 years ago

Even though I’m a socialist authoritarian and I mostly come to this site for what I found to be humorous misinformation, this is something I wholeheartedly agree with. Even if you thoroughly hate socialism, Bernie Sanders is the only candidate this election who doesn’t rely on billionares and Super PACS. It’s nice to see that this is a unifying issue.

7 years ago

If the citizens are not outraged by the pay-for-play corruption (and it’s hardly a secret), and do not demand an end to it, it will continue and flourish. Civilizations die when virtue dies.