Pay to Play: Cronyism is what happens when corporations love big government too much

American Legislative Exchange Council

Radical environmental activists made news last week for complaining that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) opposes taxes and regulations those activists view as necessary to combat global warming. ALEC CEO Lisa B. Nelson appeared on NPR’s “The Diane Rehm Show” on Thursday to address those accusations, opposite Common Cause CEO Miles Rapoport and Washington Post reporter Tom Hamburger.

The program was replete with absurd, perfidious accusations that ALEC supported “corporate” interests. Ironic, considering it is progressive organizations like Common Cause – not ALEC – that support a powerful government capable of doling out favors to entrenched interests.

Hamburger even pointed out at the beginning of the program that “dysfunction” in Washington has been responsible for preventing elected officials from doling out favors to their friends in the business world. “Corporate lobbying has increasingly moved to the states, in part because of the dysfunction, which is – in Washington,” Hamburger said.

“Dysfunctional,” as NPR has explained in the past, is a term applied to Republicans when they oppose measures increasing the size of government.

As a result of the growing tendency of conservative Republicans to oppose big government, corporate favors and the redistribution of wealth, top corporate donors have increasingly favored Democrats. In 2014, political spending from 18 of the nation’s top 20 donors favored Democrats.

Did anyone on the program complain about the corporate or union money those top organizations flush into the political system? As a matter of fact, they did not mention any of them. Host Diane Rehm did specifically ask about the 34th largest political donor, though – a rather peculiar choice.

“There’s been a lot of talk about the Koch brothers… and the extent to which the Koch brothers who… are involved in conservative approaches to legislation and to governance,” Rehm pointed out. The implication being that ALEC is beholden to a corporate agenda because it receives money from individuals involved in the corporate world.

Never mind the fact that Democrats receive a majority of corporate money.

Last year, in the midst of the federal shutdown, the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein published an interview with the Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney about the changing nature of political contributions, in which Carney pointed out that progressives were receiving a majority of the “transactional” contributions – contributions expecting to see a return – that entered Washington, D.C.

“The business community says we need to end this government shutdown and stop flirting with the debt ceiling and a lot of Republicans can say they don’t care,” Carney said, because Republicans were being increasingly driven by ideological money rather than by transactional, corporate money. “I think ideological money is better than money coming in to support the corporate bottom line.”

The government shutdown, championed by proponents of limited government, alarmed the business community – and, ironically, Common Cause, which wrote at the time that Republicans from “hard-core partisan districts” were harming “functional democracy.”

Did Diane Rehm or anyone else on the program recall this or any other occasion on which Common Cause acted as a subsidiary of corporate interests? Coincidentally, they forgot to bring it up.

When an organization is beholden to corporate interests, they do not advocate for lower taxes or less regulation – as ALEC generally does. They support more federal revenue and more federal programs. For instance, larger businesses will often support increases in the minimum wage because they can absorb the cost while it drives their smaller competitors out of business.

On that note, Common Cause earlier this year made moves to support an increase in the minimum wage. It was another example of the group supporting Democrats’ corporate interests over those of small business or of ordinary Americans. It was another example of their hypocrisy that never came up on Rehm’s program.

The most incestuous relationships in government are formed between those who want government to increase in scope and size and those who want to wield that power to favor their own private interests. It is the height of irony and deceit when progressive organizations like Common Cause try to foist guilt for their own crimes on to others.

You can follow Rudy Takala on Twitter: @rudytakala


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