Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Political Bribery - Missouri's Legislature Has FBI's Attention

For two years on the Branson Agent website I ran  the FBI's Top 10 Stories of the week. The stories that the FBI comes out with every week are fascinating and often involve crackdown's on corruption at the state level.

Running a campaign is expensive, perhaps too expensive and must put politicians in a variety of uncomfortable circumstances. A million dollars in campaign donations is par for a congressional bid and far more for a Senate seat.

A successful career as a United States Congressman means running a non-stop political campaign. Insider's know making a campaign contribution to elected officials provides access drawing a blurry line between supporting a candidate and making a pay-to-play bid for a piece of action. What's the difference between a direct bribe and a simple donation of support for a sitting candidates future ambitions to run for another office?

The fact that financing is even a factor is a disturbing component of American politics. Traditional media costs money. Television, radio and direct communication with voters costs money and the separation between media corporations is becoming increasingly hard to distinguish.

Every quarter I glaze over the state totals with a close eye on districts I reside in. Over the years I've come to believe that what makes a Republican or Democrat in Missouri is more greatly defined by financial contributions than policy issues. My faith in political representatives isn't as tainted but the neccesity of large sums of money to operate a campaign gives room for foul play.

In Branson, our mayor has contributed money to both parties. After a large donation was made to the Republican party Mayor Raeanne Presley was given a vote at the Republican convention.

No one would argue that Presley is a fiscal conservative. In fact, her legacy in Branson is marked with an anti-development posture and record spending increases. Tax dollars are allocated heavily to private boards she's currently sitting on. The right hand feeds the left hand - and in Branson the money passes to the same body.

Public money flows to private institutions where the Mayor sits on and mirrors contributions to our sitting State congressman who is also making currently rallying support for US Congressional District 7. 

On first glance it would appear Branson overwhelmingly supports one specific candidate but a closer look reveals a large block of contributions from the Board at Skaggs private hospital (which has a horrible reputation among locals for providing medical care) and appointees on the Board of Alderman (two members of Branson's Board resigned early last year giving the Mayor the opportunity to place new councilpeople without a general election).

One donor, to the supposedly Republican cause gave the county's highest contribution in support of Barack Obama's presidential bid.

If contributing money gives an ear to congressional representatives then we have a pay-for-play system regardless if quid pro quo arrangements are actually made.

As for my Republican political representative to Missouri's Senate. I expect to see money flow to a private health care organization and funds to a political agenda of a private businessperson whose actions directly contradict the agenda of the Republican party.

Whatever conclusion the FBI comes to regarding the 2009 congressional session; campaign finance gives great insight to how politicians will act and who will get to dig into the public trough.

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