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How Does One Get To A Politician If You Can’t Write A Big Check?
Posted by DownWithTyranny on January 25th, 2011

From our partners at DownWithTyranny!

More than ever– thanks to an astonishingly partisan, corporate-oriented Supreme Court– the easiest way to influence public policy is through legalistic bribes to Members of Congress. The Republican Party, one of the two mainstream political parties, has been 100% captured by this business model and it’s only arguable by what percentage the other party– the one that’s supposed to represent ordinary Americans– is in the same bag. Some say it’s less than half but most observers say they’re far closer to the GOP when it comes to systemic corruption and that the Blue Dogs, New Dems, DLC, Third Way and all that faux-moderate crap is just window dressing for the same out-and-out corruption racjet that rules the roost over in top Republican circles.

Of course it isn’t only check book politics that determines the Republican agenda. Never forget the importance of Hate Talk Radio and Fox. Yesterday at Roll Call Christina Bellatoni wrote that the media has “an increasing sway on how Members shape their agenda.” And she wasn’t talking about rational information from Paul Krugman, Robert Reich, Thom Hartmann or Nicole Sandler. “To be fair”– it’s an Inside-the-Beltway outlet she’s writing for with an Inside-the-Beltway readership– she does do the false equivalency-boogie, if just half heartedly.

At a time when Rush Limbaugh reaches as many people as vote in Florida and California combined, and when Jon Stewart can draw several hundred thousand people to the nation’s capital, these outsized personalities based far outside the Beltway have become as much a part of Washington’s political ecosystem as the lawmakers themselves.

…A Republican strategist and former top Republican National Committee aide told Roll Call that Members have one of two reactions when constituents start a message with “I just heard on Rush today …”– “joy and panic.”

Limbaugh has more than 20 million listeners, and most Members couldn’t dream of their message being so widely spread back home, the GOP strategist said.

“You’ve got to break eggs to make an omelette, and if you’ve never been mentioned on these shows in either a favorable or less than favorable context, one has to wonder, are you actually making an impact?” the strategist said.

If Limbaugh or Beck pushes an issue, his audience picks up the phone and taps out e-mails, asking lawmakers to take action. “These Members understand that their constituents are listening to this, and the consequence will elicit action that will place pressure on them,” the strategist said.

Ron Bonjean, who was a top aide to then-Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) before the Democratic takeover in 2006, said outside influences have ballooned at almost warp speed over the past few years.

“It used to be that if Rush said something on the air and the Washington Times wrote an editorial, it was earth-shattering. But now there is so much competition and [Members] are hearing from a lot more voices,” Bonjean told Roll Call.

Bonjean said Republicans frequently assert their independence from conservative talkers, but he admitted, “The show hosts definitely have an influence over the decision-making of leaders.”

The liberal watchdog group Media Matters has compiled examples of Limbaugh and Fox themes that made it from the airwaves to the floors of the House and Senate.

After Fox replayed “sting” videos showing alleged fraud at the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, then-Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) introduced a measure to cut ACORN’s government funding. Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) wrote a resolution honoring James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles for producing the ACORN videos, and 31 of his GOP colleagues signed on. It never received a vote.

When Beck suggested on his show in June that an Obama administration drilling decision helped liberal billionaire George Soros, two Republican Members repeated the claim using similar language on the House floor. Limbaugh called the BP oil spill fund set up last year a “slush fund,” a term repeated by Members in television appearances and during floor debates.

With the addition of the tea party movement to the national conversation, the spin cycle has added a setting that could be labeled “outrage.” Ideas that hosts use to gin up their base go from television to the House floor to the cardboard signs displayed by tea partyers on the National Mall.

“The ecosystem of each ideological movement within the political parties is much bigger than just the elected officials,” said Simon Rosenberg, a veteran of Bill Clinton’s White House who now leads the progressive group New Democrat Network.

Rosenberg identified religious groups, community organizations, labor unions and activist outlets such as as holding more influence over the agenda. On the left, he sees MSNBC, progressive blogs and Stewart’s Comedy Central as dramatically changing the conversation in Washington, and he said their influence has increased in recent years.

Late last year, Stewart used The Daily Show to advocate the passage of the 9/11 responders bill. It was going nowhere but somehow was resurrected in the eleventh hour of the lame-duck session after his show highlighted first responders in a highly rated segment.

Several Republicans privately admitted Members carefully monitor what’s being said on conservative airwaves to make sure they aren’t contradicting it or enraging talkers.

Democrats needled the GOP in early 2009 over whether Limbaugh was actually the leader of the Republican Party. When then-RNC Chairman Michael Steele said Limbaugh was an “entertainer” and not one of the party’s leaders, he was forced to apologize after days of negative headlines and backlash on Limbaugh’s show. Steele relented: “There was no attempt on my part to diminish his voice or his leadership.”

Allen West, on the other hand, seems to be taking on the role of right-wing entertainer– even even makes haters and sociopaths like Beck and Limbaugh look nearly sane.

UPDATE: Another Way To Exert Pressure

I don’t imagine this one will work– but I lent my name to it because I believe in the cause. David Swanson at War Is A Crime organized over 150 prominent activists, authors, and academics who are launching a petition drive. Here’s how it begins. Please read the whole thing– and sign it if you’d like– at the link above.

We the undersigned share with nearly two-thirds of our fellow Americans the conviction that our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq should be ended and that overall military spending should be dramatically reduced.  This has been our position for years and will continue to be, and we take it seriously.  We vow not to support President Barack Obama for renomination for another term in office, and to actively seek to impede his war policies unless and until he reverses them. 
Since he became president, Obama has had three opportunities to work with Congress to reduce military spending, but instead has championed increases in that spending each time, despite the fact that this spending represents a clear threat to the economic future of our country.  He has continued as well to try to hide the true costs of the wars by funding them with off-the-books supplemental spending bills, despite the fact that he campaigned against this very practice.

The President has escalated a war on Afghanistan in which rising civilian deaths and atrocities have become routine.  

Among the signers are:

Elliott Adams, president, Veterans For Peace
Nellie Hester Bailey, Harlem Tenants Council & Black Agenda Report
Medea Benjamin,  cofounder, Code Pink*
Frida Berrigan, War Resisters League*
William Blum, author of books on U.S. foreign policy
Patty Casazza, 9/11 widow, former 9/11 Commission Family Steering Committee Member
Jeff Cohen, author/media critic
Sibel Edmonds, founder & director, National Security Whistleblowers Coalition
Roy Eidelson, past president, Psychologists for Social Responsibility
Daniel Ellsberg, former State and Defense Dept. official, whistleblower of Pentagon Papers
Lisa Fithian, convenor, United for Peace and Justice
Chris Hedges, author, Death of the Liberal Class
Steve Hendricks, author, A Kidnapping in Milan: The CIA on Trial
Dahr Jamail, journalist/author
Kathy Kelly, Voices for Creative Nonviolence*
Howie Klein, publisher,
Rabbi Michael Lerner, Tikkun/Network of Spiritual Progressives
David MacMichael, Ph.D., former CIA analyst
Ethan McCord, IVAW, VFP, former army specialist from “collateral murder” video
Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst
Robert Naiman, Just Foreign Policy*
Bruce Nestor, past president, National Lawyers Guild
Gareth Porter, author and journalist
Bill Quigley, Center for Constitutional Rights and professor of law, Loyola University New Orleans*
Jesselyn Radack, former Department of Justice legal adviser
Garett Reppenhagen, chair of the board of directors, Iraq Veterans Against the War
Coleen Rowley, retired FBI agent, one of TIME’s 2002 Persons of the Year
Michael Steven Smith, Law and Disorder Radio; board member, Center for Constitutional Rights*
John Stockwell, former intelligence officer, author
Elizabeth De La Vega, former assistant U.S. attorney, author
Marcy Winograd, former Democratic congressional candidate
Ann Wright, US Army Reserve Colonel and former US diplomat

*for identification only

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