We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to share with you a story of greed and absurdity.
A few months ago the fantastic folks over at Represent.Us — arguably the country’s most rightly-guided and most effective anti-corruption organization — began a video series dedicated to detailing the most ludicrous (and legal) stories of corruption and improper money-influence in federal politics. The series was dubbed Follow the Money, and it is just a small part of Represent.Us’ massive campaign to push for legislation to “get money out of politics.”
The most recent edition of the series — “Droughts, Lobbyists, & You” — features former California Congressman Dennis Cardoza, one of the bigger players on the U.S. House Committee of Agriculture. Cardoza, on August 15, 2012, abruptly resigned from his Representative position, citing “family concerns as a priority,” promptly bringing an end to his career in public service.
Now what was fishy (i.e. blatantly corrupt) about Cardoza’s resignation was that, on August 16 of that same year, literally one day after he resigned, he accepted a lobbying job for double his government salary with Western Growers, a massive agricultural trade association, to, among other things, “lobby on California water policy and drought legislation.”
Shocker, because, as you’d know if you’ve watched the national news at all lately, California has been struggling with a three-year drought, the worst in its recorded history. And since “farms consume about 80 percent of the state’s water supply,” Big Ag from the get-go has been fighting to make sure that its profits are as unaffected as possible, hence their snatching up of the Californian Agricultural Committee Representative to lobby for their cause.
But that’s only part of the story. As Represent.Us points out, Cardoza, just like most other Congresspeople who have established positions on regulatory committees, took massive amounts of campaign contributions throughout his entire career from the very industry that he regulated, in this case agribusiness.
According to OpenSecrets.org, during his 2011-2012 campaign, three of Cardoza’s top five contributors were agribusiness. Additionally, about $79,000 of his almost $195,000 in campaign contributions came from agribusiness contributors.
And herein lies the problem. When an elected official becomes so dependent on private business and so bribed as Cardoza was — with virtually unlimited campaign donations, the promise of lobbying jobs, etc. — he or she no longer represents voters. With big business and private money free to terrorize the democratic process, we the people are left to suffer, not only with the lack of representation, but also with dangerous legislation, like that which is bound to result from Big Ag’s control of California’s handling of its drought.
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