POLITICAL INFLUENCE

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Corporate money now controls every stage of politics — legislative, executive, and ultimately judicial.

Abraham Lincoln’s mostly forgotten warning about “corporations enthroned” and Dwight Eisenhower’s famous caution about the “unwarranted influence by the military/industrial complex” have both been fully realized in our time. Reported lobbying expenditures have risen annually, to $3.5 billion in 2010. Half of the Senators and 42 percent of House members who left Congress between 1998 and 2004 became lobbyists, as did 310 former appointees of George W. Bush and 283 of Bill Clinton.

History has yet to sort out whether the second Iraq War served any national objectives beyond military and industrial ones, but the suspicion that oil interests played a critical role in the rush to battle is enhanced by Vice President Cheney’s refusal to reveal the names of the participants in his energy transition committee. Simultaneously, the inability to force public disclosure of those participants offers a window into how thoroughly the energy industry controls its own agenda, destiny, and information flow. Not only has the industry succeeded in achieving and maintaining special regulatory and tax treatment; in multiple other ways, it functions virtually as an independent state.