We really need publicly financed elections

If there’s ever been a clearer demonstration of the need for the complete public financing of all federal, state and municipal elections, I don’t know what it is. Matt Taibbi:

A hilarious report has come out courtesy of the National Institute of Money in State Politics, showing that Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller – who is coordinating the investigation into the banks’ improper mortgage dealings – increased his campaign contributions from the finance sector this year by a factor of 88! He has raised $261,445 from finance, insurance and real estate contributors since he announced that he was going to be coordinating the investigation into improper foreclosure practices. That is 88 times as much as they gave him not over last year, but over the previous decade.

This is about as perfect an example of how American politics works as you’ll ever see. This foreclosure issue is a monstrous story that is somehow escaping national headlines; essentially, all of the largest banks in the country have been engaged in an ongoing fraud and tax evasion scheme that among other things has resulted in many hundreds of billions in investor losses, and hundreds of thousands of improper foreclosures. Last week, the 14 largest mortgage lenders a group that includes bailout all-stars like Citigroup, Bank of America and Wells Fargo, managed to negotiate a settlement with the federal government that will mandate some financial relief to homeowners who have been victims of improper foreclosure practices. It’s unclear yet exactly what damages and fines will be involved in the federal settlement, or how many homeowners will be affected. But certainly there are some who believe the federal settlement was a political end-run around the states’ efforts to extract their own deal from the banks.

Put it this way. If the banks had to pay what they actually owed – from the registration taxes/fees they avoided by using the electronic registry system MERS to the money taken from investors in toxic mortgage-backed securities to the fees and payments stolen from homeowners via predatory loan practices and illegal foreclosures – they would probably all go out of business. That’s how much money is at stake here: the very future of financial giants like Bank of America and Citi and JP Morgan Chase is hanging to a very significant degree on the decisions of politicians like Miller.

This isn’t to presume that Miller has backed off his strong stance of fall 2010 because he’s received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations. But a system which allows the banking industry to contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Attorney General who is leading a national investigation into foreclosure fraud is a system which is ripe for the corrupting influence of money.

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