Money Talks: Corporate PACS and Political Influence

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Here is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at what PACs want from Congress and how they go about getting it. Everyone agrees that in politics "money talks" and that political action committees (PACs) have transformed our system of campaign finance. But what exactly do the PACs hope to get in return for the money they contribute to the campaign chests of politicians? Although much has been written about how such money corrupts Congress and shapes public policy, this remarkable book is the first to ask the men ...
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Overview

Here is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at what PACs want from Congress and how they go about getting it. Everyone agrees that in politics "money talks" and that political action committees (PACs) have transformed our system of campaign finance. But what exactly do the PACs hope to get in return for the money they contribute to the campaign chests of politicians? Although much has been written about how such money corrupts Congress and shapes public policy, this remarkable book is the first to ask the men and women who actually spend the money, the PAC managers themselves, exactly how they work - how they decide whom to support and with how much. Based on extensive and extremely candid interviews with key officials from every major kind of corporate PAC, the book shows that the impact of PACs is more subtle - and more insidious - than merely changing votes. Money Talks shows how PACs work - out of the public eye - to make minor changes in the wording of a bill, long before it reaches the floor of Congress. If a company can get the wording it wants, according to one PAC director, then "it doesn't much matter how people vote afterwards." PAC directors are not worried by reform proposals, the book shows. The PAC is only one of many ways they can influence Congress, "a tool and nothing more." If PACs were abolished, they are confident they could find ways to evade the rules. The authors argue that multiplying regulations won't work and that PACs will always stay one step ahead of any regulations. As one PAC director said, "by the time they change it, it's too late," and the book cites several PAC managers who explain how they would get around the system. Money Talks argues instead for an innovative system of public financing, one which would cost us far less than the tax loopholes and giveaways that are the products of our current system.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Believers in democracy should read this distressing account of political economics. The authors, university sociologists who conducted surprisingly candid (though anonymous) interviews with political action committee managers of major corporations, demonstrate how a politically unified American business community influences legislation through PAC contributions to congressional election campaigns. Further, the authors found that corporations, without paying directly for favors, commonly gain ``access'' to lawmakers through fund-raising events, lucrative lectures, golf foursomes, air travel and so on to create ``an atmosphere of dependency'' that can lead to unpublicized tax breaks or pollution exemptions. AT&T, for example, in 1983-1985 achieved tax-free status for $25 billion in profits while investing a mere $1.4 million in PAC campaign contributions, according to the authors. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Money Talks extensively explores a central topic in American politics: corporate political action committees (PACs) giving corporate money to politicians and political campaigns. Carefully examining the access corporations have and influence they exert through these contributions, the authors rely upon in-depth interviews with corporate PAC directors to provide excellent information on how these directors ``establish political action committees, raise money for them, choose candidates, given them contributions and gain access.'' Moreover, the authors discuss the goals these directors pursue and their attempts to influence congressmen and shape public policies. Saying that currently proposed campaign finance reforms would be ineffective because they ignore the contradictions between politics and economics, the authors propose a public financing system for all House candidates. This excellent and well-written analysis is highly recommended for all political collections. Previewed in ``On the Campaign Book Trail,'' LJ 3/15/92, p. 110-12.--Ed.-- Steven Puro, St. Louis Univ.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465047529
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 9/28/1993
  • Pages: 288

Table of Contents

List of Figures and Tables
Acknowledgments
1 Money Changes Everything
Why Does the Air Stink? 2
Our Research 13
Overview and Background 17
2 Raising Money and Running the PAC
Establishing the Rules 28
Raising Money 34
Running the PAC 44
3 Gifts: Networks of Obligation
Understanding Gifts 54
Deciding on Contributions 59
Creating a Sense of Indebtedness 75
Conclusion 86
4 Access: "I Can Get to Waxman for $250"
Myth One: Key Votes Are the Issue 88
Myth Two: Money Is Explicitly Exchanged for Votes 98
Myth Three: Political Party Matters 114
Myth Four: Business Wins Without Effort 119
5 Ideology: Defending Free Enterprise
Characteristics of an Ideological Orientation 130
The Rise and Fall of Ideological Behavior 137
Assessing Corporate Ideological Donations 152
6 Business Unity, Business Power
Building Business Unity 161
Control of the Economy 181
7 "They Might Start Running It Strictly for the Votes"
PAC Directors On PACs 191
Piecemeal Reform Won't Work 196
Public Financing 204
Be Realistic 213
Consequences 215
Appendix 221
Notes 227
Bibliography 251
Index 263
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