Why All the Political Money Might Not Mean Much

by - July 29, 2014

The jury is still out on whether most Super PAC donors expect implicit quid pro quos in exchange for their political largesse. I tend to agree with Politico reporter Kenneth Vogel, the author of the recently published "Big Money", who likens Super PAC high rollers to meddlesome sports team owners. The primary motivations for their giving appear to be arrogance, ego and a passion to be part of the game. But it is naive to deny that some Super PAC donors look at politics like they look at life – through the selfish prism of "What's in it for me?" Since the Robber Baron era, money has talked the loudest on Capitol Hill. Always thinking about the next election and panicked about phantom primary challengers even if they have safe seats, senators and congressmen are particularly susceptible to the blandishments of mega-donors. Following this theory, political gifts to Super PAC barons should be embedded in the fine print of major congressional legislation. But despite all the earnest rhetoric about "Congress for sale," it has not been happening, for the most part. It is not that senators and congressmen are secretly paragons of ethics. Or that major political donors refuse any recompense beyond good government. The reason for the lack of Super PAC scandal on Capitol Hill is simple: It is hard to put lucrative payoffs into legislation when there isn't any legislation.

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