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Taibbi writes: "It's hard to overstate the absurdity of the divide between corporate offenders and everyone else, when it comes to the limits on democratic influence."

Voting booths. (photo: AP)
Voting booths. (photo: AP)


Six Million Adults Who Won't Influence This Presidential Race

By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

07 October 16

 

One in 40 Americans can't vote because of a criminal conviction. But the rules aren't exactly fair

n July 7th in Staten Island a few months back, Ramsey Orta, the man who filmed the death of Eric Garner, sat in court conferring with his family. He was about to agree to plea deal on drug and weapons charges that would send him to prison for a while.

The term – four years – had already been settled. But some specifics were left up to him. In particular, he was given a choice as to which of his many drug charges he could swallow.

"They're telling me I've got to cop to weed, crack or heroin," he said. "But since weed isn't a felony, it's got to be crack or heroin."

Ramsey looked around, paused to consider the randomness of the moment, then nodded finally.

"I'll take heroin," he said, shrugging.

He walked back to the front of the courtroom, and soon after formally pleaded guilty. The judge ordered him to be sentenced in the fall. That date came around this week.

This past Monday, Orta was formally sentenced in Staten Island Supreme Court. A convicted felon, he now becomes part of a community of about 6.1 million Americans who are not eligible to vote.

Some people might want to compare Orta's situation to that of Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer who killed Eric Garner. Pantaleo is not only still eligible to vote, he recently got a $20,000 pay raise while on desk duty in the NYPD. Some $13,000 of Pantaleo's $120,000 income last year was from "unspecified pay," which can include bonuses.

But to me the more damning comparison is with the executives of global banking giant HSBC. The bank four years ago entered into a $1.92 billion deferred prosecution agreement with our federal government.

Among its offenses was laundering $881 million for the Sinaloa and Norte del Valle drug cartels.

No executives were charged individually in that affair. So nobody lost voting rights for laundering hundreds of millions of dollars for the world's worst drug gangs.

Meanwhile, for selling a few bags of this or that, Ramsey Orta will not vote.

It's hard to overstate the absurdity of the divide between corporate offenders and everyone else, when it comes to the limits on democratic influence.

It isn't just that the executives from companies that are caught for serious offenses are almost never charged criminally, meaning that they seldom lose their voting rights.

What really rounds out the picture is that these same companies almost all become major campaign contributors.

Companies like Wells Fargo (which paid $175 million to settle charges of discriminatory lending practices), Citigroup ($7 billion to settle mortgage fraud allegations), JP Morgan Chase ($13 billion to settle similar mortgage charges) and Bank of America (which paid the largest civil settlement in history to make its mortgage fraud issues go away) have all been nailed committing offenses far more serious than selling a few bags of dope.

But their executives all get to retain full voting rights. The companies will also keep their professional licenses. And election cycle after election cycle, they get to keep exerting enormous influence by donating millions of dollars to candidates.

Many of these companies are longstanding repeat offenders who've been censured by the government over and over again. Citigroup, for instance, which broke its own promise not to violate the same antifraud statute at least four times between 2000 and 2011, has donated over $37 million to candidates since 1990, and spent over $108 million on lobbying since 1998.

Pariah bank HSBC this year was also one of the top lobbying banks in Washington, spending over $1.8 million on such efforts. The bank's employees have donated more to Republicans than Democrats this year, but it should be noted that HSBC is also one of many banks to have hired Bill Clinton for a six-figure speech in the past.

Hell, Quicken Loans was being sued by the Justice Department for defrauding the Federal Housing Administration even as the Republican National Convention was being hosted in the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

Most of us can understand the rationale for not allowing murderers, rapists and pedophiles to vote, although not every country subscribes to that practice.

But the United States takes the practice political disenfranchisement to incredible levels. We are one of just four countries in the world (Croatia, Belgium and Armenia are the others) that enforces post-release restrictions on voting. Over three million Americans who've already served their time and are out of prison remain ineligible to vote.

The rules vary state by state, but the impact overall is breathtaking. One in 40 American adults is ineligible to vote this year. Nationwide, one in 13 African-American adults cannot vote. In Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee and Virginia, more than 20 percent of African-Americans are ineligible.

In this country, whether or not you lose the right to vote for committing a crime mostly depends on who you are, not what you did, especially when it comes to nonviolent economic offenses.

If you got caught selling something bad in a plastic bag, you have a good chance of being forced to sit out this election.

If the bad thing you sold came with a prospectus, you're probably fine.

Just another reason to hate the political process as we head into this most disgusting of all presidential elections. The alien invasion can't come too soon.

e-max.it: your social media marketing partner
 

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+16 # indian weaver 2016-10-07 12:54
Make that 6.1 million + 1 - me. I have no hope for this country's "government" at all, no matter who might "win" the presidency (be installed by the 1%, in other words). Forget it. Best thing that can happen on voting day is that nobody vote. That would be the silence deafening the world, showing the world who we are: 300 million who've lost faith in their 'government'. That's me anyhow. I no longer have any hope, nor will I play the deceptive b.s. games anymore. I'm disenfranchised and madder than hell. When the imminent domestic insurgency is heavily armed and populated, then I'll have some hope again.
 
 
+41 # grandlakeguy 2016-10-07 13:24
The disenfranchisem ent is just a section of the theft of our freedom that is jokingly called "elections" in the USA.
Our "representative s" have been chosen by those who count the votes ever since the theft of the Presidency in 2000 and probably longer than that.
This year's transparent farce that was called the Democratic Party primaries should certainly be proof of the loss of our freedom to choose our leaders.
 
 
+31 # wrknight 2016-10-07 14:06
Quoting grandlakeguy:
The disenfranchisement is just a section of the theft of our freedom that is jokingly called "elections" in the USA.
Our "representatives" have been chosen by those who count the votes ever since the theft of the Presidency in 2000 and probably longer than that.
This year's transparent farce that was called the Democratic Party primaries should certainly be proof of the loss of our freedom to choose our leaders.

I'm not sure Americans were ever enfranchised. We may be able to vote, but vote for what? A couple of lousy candidates amounts to a free election?

And then, after the elections, Americans have no control or influence over those they elected who will do as they are told by their corporate paymasters.
 
 
+1 # Radscal 2016-10-08 13:57
Sheldon Wolin described exactly what you're noting in his brilliant "Democracy Incorporated."

Basically, the "Founding Fathers" had to rouse the rabble to fight their Revolution with promises of democratic self-rule, but most were economic elites who had no intention of ever allowing the masses to determine policies.

The Constitution was therefore created specifically to grant more power to the Central Government, while restricting the people's influence over it.

It's a GREAT read, which Chris Hedges cites frequently.

http://cryptome.org/2013/01/aaron-swartz/Democracy-Inc.pdf
 
 
0 # Hey There 2016-10-09 23:54
Reply to wrknight

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5Tl_nIueEc

Right you are!
 
 
+12 # Vardoz 2016-10-07 16:12
Economic sabotage is not freedom.
 
 
+25 # moreover 2016-10-07 13:16
There is no moral justification for disenfranchisem ent in a democracy. The US has the oldest western democracy and it shows; it grew historically which means it was built up by incumbents bent on perpetuating their lead.
 
 
+47 # Sunflower 2016-10-07 13:29
Quoting moreover:
There is no moral justification for disenfranchisement in a democracy. ...


I would say it is blatantly unconstitutional!
Where does it say in the constitution that
the right to vote may be taken away from a
citizen, in ANY circumstance?

It is, of course, racist as well, since a disproportionat e (to their part in the
the population) number of prisoners are
of African American descent.

I heard this morning which states had disenfranchised the most voters: Florida,
Mississippi, and Tennessee. No racism there, I'm sure...
 
 
+33 # wrknight 2016-10-07 14:10
And I would go so far as to say it's not a democracy or even close to one.
 
 
+16 # reiverpacific 2016-10-07 14:15
Quoting Sunflower:
Quoting moreover:
There is no moral justification for disenfranchisement in a democracy. ...


I would say it is blatantly unconstitutional!
Where does it say in the constitution that
the right to vote may be taken away from a
citizen, in ANY circumstance?

It is, of course, racist as well, since a disproportionate (to their part in the
the population) number of prisoners are
of African American descent.

I heard this morning which states had disenfranchised the most voters: Florida,
Mississippi, and Tennessee. No racism there, I'm sure...


Aye well: you don't live in a democracy anyhow.
(They) just expect you to get used to get used to it and shut up!
 
 
+25 # Vardoz 2016-10-07 16:11
As Jimmy Carter recently said " We are no longer a functioning Democracy."
 
 
0 # Surflar 2016-10-08 18:08
There are many white felons????
 
 
+25 # Kootenay Coyote 2016-10-07 14:25
'The US has the oldest western democracy....'

Huh? Ever heard of Greece?
 
 
0 # economagic 2016-10-07 20:58
# moreover 2016-10-07 13:16

It was built up by white men, including some closeted homosexuals who publicly inveighed against their own "crime," bent on perpetuating their lead.
 
 
-1 # Surflar 2016-10-08 18:06
They should never be able to take away your right to vote or have a gun. Once you pay you debt to society so to speak you should be done and have all right reinstated. Illegals have more right than a convicted felon no matter what crimes they have committed.
 
 
+32 # guomashi 2016-10-07 13:23
Good article, though the facts are depressing.
The issue needs to confronted head on.
We can no longer afford apathy or ignorance in this matter.
 
 
+16 # PeacefulGarden 2016-10-07 13:54
Those bankers don't get prison time because they wear expensive suits. And they don't look like Ramsey. Ramsey needs to put on an expensive suit. Or, perhaps he could wear a clown costume? The dreaded painted man, rising from the depth of our ritualistic past, showing up in court, one of the surviving rituals of our past, the punishment ritual.

This is all about Puritanism. Matt, you keep writing about our justice system without researching its past. Our justice system is all about purifying our society. Those bankers did bad things, but they are all members of the pure society. Ramsey is not a member of the pure society, he needs to be removed.
 
 
+9 # fletch1165 2016-10-07 19:35
Only Bernie Madoff because he scammed his own 1%. Even Ellie Weasel was one of his victims. A sure recipe for prison time. You cannot target one of the international cartel and get away with it. The rest of the 99% are fair game of course. No prison if you jilt any of them.
 
 
0 # Hey There 2016-10-10 00:04
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f52CWIukR_8
 
 
+35 # wrknight 2016-10-07 14:00
There may be 6 million Americans who won't influence the presidential race, but after the elections there will still be over 300 million Americans who have no influence over those elected officials.
 
 
+14 # kbro2 2016-10-07 14:13
but but--
what about "liberty and justice
for all" ???
Take a seat. Take a knee.
and then stand up and fight back !
 
 
+21 # wrknight 2016-10-07 14:14
"Some $13,000 of Pantaleo's $120,000 income last year was from "unspecified pay," which can include bonuses."

Does NYPD give bonuses for killing people?
 
 
0 # Radscal 2016-10-08 14:02
I read an article a few weeks back about the "go fund me" and other "crowd sourcing" sites that have funneled huge amounts of money to some of the high profile cops who killed black men.

Darren Wilson, the pig who murdered Michael Brown in Fergusson has gotten about $ One Million, mostly from small donations.
 
 
+17 # wrknight 2016-10-07 14:23
It's interesting (or depressing depending on your perspective) that the damage done (and profits reaped) by the banks is on the order hundreds of billions of dollars while the settlement suits are on the order of a couple of billion dollars and the campaign contributions are on the order of a few million dollars.

Obviously, the campaign contributions provide the greatest return on investment (like 10,000 to 1) while the settlement fees provide the second greatest return on investment (about 100 to 1). With ROI's like that combined with no risk and no penalties, any banker would be a fool not defraud everyone.
 
 
+14 # Kootenay Coyote 2016-10-07 14:26
It will be good when the USA rises from Barbarism to Civilization; I wonder how long.…
 
 
+11 # wrknight 2016-10-07 14:34
Quoting Kootenay Coyote:
It will be good when the USA rises from Barbarism to Civilization; I wonder how long.…

Long after you and I are gone, Kootenay. So long as American voters can only vote for the lesser of two evils, the U.S. will remain saddled with evil.
 
 
+4 # economagic 2016-10-07 21:04
Thorstein Veblen, in "The Theory Of the Leisure Class" (1899), didn't think we had made it yet, referring to his era as "the quasi-peaceable stage." A great work of economics AND social satire, suggesting an ancestor of both Kurt Vonnegut and Dave Barry.
 
 
+4 # Tigre1 2016-10-07 14:27
It's going to take some serious people and a few clean-up runs with guillotines up and down 'K' Street in DC and Wall Street in NY...no recourse, just surprise, show up, grab a few, frog-march them, shove them into position, whack! pull that one out, shove another one in...won't take very many trips at all, I bet.

The firms will begin with an ad campaign about how much they've seen the error of their ways. Also they'll hire a lot more lawyers and protective armed guards.

And they will CHANGE. Especially if the right ones get the grab and whack.

It'll come.
 
 
-14 # Deboldt 2016-10-07 15:07
I have to beg to differ with Mr. Taibbi on this one. Criminals and even ex criminals who have served their time are predisposed to identify with and vote for fellow criminal candidates in elections. That means they are likely to vote for Clinton or Trump. That could make it quite likely a criminal could become president. Perish the thought!
 
 
+6 # fletch1165 2016-10-07 19:26
Meanwhile how many 2nd and 3rd chances does Hillary get again? Or the cops that killed people and are slapped with misdemeanors at best? Or that nut Zimmerman who hunted down the black kid in cold blood, after 911 told them it was illegal to approach and he ignored the instruction? They used the warped "Stand Your Ground" to justify his stalking and murder at his Uncle's apartment complex where the mentally deranged Zimmerman had no right to be at all. Have you ever heard the the Equal Protection Amendment?

Do you believe these convictions are valid? I don't. And with the government/cart el involved in endless crimes of their own they do not have reputable authority to charge anyone with anything any more since their own house is far from in order. Felons control Washington and all government sectors really, and vote willy nilly whenever the frack they want. If you don't like our Constitution just say so. I am for james Madison's Bill of Rights personally, and the government in power is against it clearly. They should be the ones not allowed to vote and sent to prison. The 14th Amendment gurantees this. We must enforce the true laws, and not just racist ones targeting people of poverty and color primarily. It illegal. It unethical. IT TOTAL ABUSE. Wake UP.
 
 
+3 # Deboldt 2016-10-07 20:56
You people do recognize satire when you read it don't you?
 
 
+3 # fletch1165 2016-10-07 22:07
Evidently not. lol. Satire or not, it makes a good talking point.
 
 
+2 # economagic 2016-10-07 21:04
Where the bleep do you get THAT nonsense?!?
 
 
+12 # lorenbliss 2016-10-07 15:46
Such is life -- and death -- here in the Fourth Reich, where African-America ns, Hispanics, First Nations peoples and progressives are the equivalents of the Third Reich's Jews, Roma, Slavs and Communists.
 
 
+14 # Vardoz 2016-10-07 16:08
Its all about rape and pillage. We have become a lawless corporate dictatorship that is destroying the fabric of our nation while committing monetary crimes. the 99% is being abused and assaulted. The New Deal is being shredded and we the people are worthless trash to these giant corporations. Few laws apply to them. Climate change who cares. The future seems very dark and frightening.
 
 
-14 # Robbee 2016-10-07 17:29
so what? there are 900,000 voters represented here on rsn - by folks who either refuse to vote - or plan to vote for someone who won't win - in protest! - that hill - tho distinctly progressive - is not as progressive as they are

# indian weaver 2016-10-07 12:54
Make that 6.1 million + 1 - me. I have no hope for this country's "government" at all

when more progressives run against lesser progressives - other than in dem primaries - that tactic results in conservatives winning seats

are greens really that stupid? - yes! - it's who they are! full of themselves!

THE BIG IDEA:
By David Weigel
A specter is haunting the Green Party – the specter of Ralph Nader.

This morning, as America’s fourth-largest party gathers in Houston to nominate a presidential ticket, it’s struggling to capture the progressive voters who supported Bernie Sanders. Jill Stein, the party’s likely nominee, was rebuffed when she asked Sanders to head the party, and rebuffed again when she asked popular Sanders surrogate Nina Turner to be her running mate.

Why is progressive frustration with Hillary Clinton not boosting the Greens? It’s because sixteen years ago, Green Party nominee Ralph Nader won 2.9 million votes, and at least 2 million of those voters came to blame themselves for the victory of George W. Bush over Al Gore. (The combined vote for Nader and Green candidates since 2000 has never exceeded 900,000.)
 
 
-13 # Robbee 2016-10-07 17:33
big idea, part 2

The 2000 election was one of the founding traumas of the modern center-left. It’s no accident that Stein polls best with voters under 30; liberal voters who remember 2000 are likely to associate “voting your conscience” with giving away the presidency.

That’s most evident in the list of Nader supporters from 2000 who have never come back to the Green Party. Nader's running mate that year, Winona LaDuke, endorsed John Kerry in 2004 and then disengaged from politics. Michael Moore, who introduced Nader at some of his rallies, later apologized to Al Gore and has endorsed Democrats for president ever since. Many of the celebrities, academics and intellectuals who backed Nader went on to support Sanders; the only prominent one to support Stein this time is Cornel West.

“There were three claims made by Nader in 2000,” said Charles Lenchner, who voted for Nader that year but went on to found the grassroots group People for Bernie. “The first was that there was no substantial difference between Al Gore and George W. Bush. The second was that the campaign would be a boost to local organizing. The third was that the Green Party could emerge as a viable force in our politics. And none of that came to pass.”

so, you see - every reasonable rsn reader admits that inside america life with prez hill is better - so, except for our crowd that fears hill starting war but gives rump its free pass - how bad could he be? - going green is efdup!
 
 
-8 # Robbee 2016-10-07 17:34
big idea, part 3

# Ted 2016-10-02 20:40
quoting robbee - "if jill had wanted to test her positions against those of other progressives, she would have run in the dem primaries against o'malley, bernie and hill - then voters would have gotten to know her name and her positions"

(psst, Robbee, I don't mean to embarrass you but Dr. Stein is not a dem, she's a green, so she really couldn't have run in another party's primary. They probably would say something if she tried.)

- psst, ted, I don't mean to embarrass greens but their candidate invited a dem to head her ticket - and another to run as her mate - are you saying a member of one party really couldn't have run on another party's ticket? - or in another party's primary? - that jill is afraid what somebody may say? - if you're right, maybe jill is just disingenuous?
 
 
-11 # Robbee 2016-10-07 18:02
Quoting Robbee:
big idea, part 3

# Ted 2016-10-02 20:40
quoting robbee - "if jill had wanted to test her positions against those of other progressives, she would have run in the dem primaries against o'malley, bernie and hill - then voters would have gotten to know her name and her positions"

(psst, Robbee, I don't mean to embarrass you but Dr. Stein is not a dem, she's a green, so she really couldn't have run in another party's primary. They probably would say something if she tried.)

- psst, ted, I don't mean to embarrass greens but their candidate invited a dem to head her ticket - and another to run as her mate - are you saying a member of one party really couldn't have run on another party's ticket? - or in another party's primary? - that jill is afraid what somebody may say? - if you're right, maybe jill is just disingenuous?

- sorry greens! you suck! just as bad as disenfranchisin g citiz§ens who deserve!~ to vote!
 
 
+8 # fletch1165 2016-10-07 19:18
Tell it to your pals in Tel Aviv Robbee. We know this is about starting new wars with our tax payer dollars. Its all Hillary stands for. Period. The Goldman Sach's employee that serves the Royal Bank of London. Go ahead and vote for her Benedict Arnold. Or her bosom buddy Trump. They are the same. They serve the same. They prefer Trump to Bernie if they can't cheat in Hillary. It will be Hillary. Diebiold will decide it. It means war and death. And the blood is on your hands also for promoting this garbage, pre-selected Manchurian Candidate. Shame on ROBBEE and all Hill BOTS and TRUMP shills. Disgusting ignorance.
 
 
+6 # economagic 2016-10-07 21:06
Robbee, brevity is said to be the soul of wit. If that is true, you nave several lifetimes left before you become witless.
 
 
+9 # fletch1165 2016-10-07 19:13
So long as the elections are rigged and no paper trail to police obvious exit poll results, none of our votes count for jack shit. If this country wants to get serious it knows what do to. Otherwise its an ocholcracy, total mob/cartel rule. The internional banking cartel decides everything. Our right to vote has been forfeited. So go ahead and cast your fake vote with pride. You are no more a voice than the 6.1 mil. Hillary proved it here in California with that shill criminal Secretary of State Alex Padilla who purged 2.5 million voters in L.A. alone. Where are the charges against an open fascist criminal oh great GOLDEN STATE? No where. California embraces overt criminal malfeasance and corporate Nazi rule. That much is confirmed by this charade of an election. Not better than the most backwards third world country, who at least have the approval of the Carter election fraud committee. We have no such ratification. We have the opposite. A criminal gangster junta in charge of our government and wholly against the masses.
 
 
+8 # dusty 2016-10-07 19:28
In the movement in the 60s and 70s we used to give an analysis that is as correct now as it was then, "Our courts are America's only working railroad." or and of course, "In the Halls of Justice the only justice is in the halls." Course since the capitalist state and its armed presence protects capitalists and capital then ain't not justice in the halls either.
 
 
+7 # angelfish 2016-10-07 20:02
When your Congress is over-run with Thieves and "Know-Nothings" , what else can you expect? I hope America will wake up to the fact that we NEED intelligent, thoughtful people in our Congress as well as the White House, to prevent MORE of this outrageous "Get out of Jail Free" Bull-Puckey! WHERE is Accountability? WHERE is Justice? Beats me, I haven't seen any since BEFORE the Reagan Administration!
 
 
+8 # davehaze 2016-10-07 21:13
You think things have changed? Mark Twain said that if voting changed anything they would make it illegal.
 
 
+9 # fletch1165 2016-10-07 22:14
I think they have made it illegal dave. You really think they are counting your vote legally any more? Twain was right. We are all seen as felons now. Our crime: Wanting a better society for the future generations.
 
 
+7 # Clementine 2016-10-08 06:25
I marvel that Americans refer to the US as a democracy and have the gall to say that they bring democracy to the rest of the world. Americans are either fools or hypocrites - or both
 
 
+3 # newell 2016-10-08 11:25
If we had a democracy we could vote on it--or climate change and the environment, or war, or education, healthcare, or maximum wage.
 
 
+1 # LionMousePudding 2016-10-09 23:04
"Most of us can understand the rationale for not allowing murderers, rapists and pedophiles to vote.."

Uhhhh. . what is that rationale?

They are no longer citizens?

Seems to me theoretically you do the crime you do the time. Then you're a free person again.

What's with punishment for life?

So. If no one who was ever in jail can ever vote, then no voter will ever have been in prison.

Who does that leave to influence politicians to make prison conditions humane?

Or to fight for fair criminal laws?

Also we know that a very high proportion of people sent to prison are innocent of the crime they were put there for.

95% (says my lawyer) of cases do not go to trial. That means 95% of criminal cases are automatically on the defendant's record.

We know how plea bargains work. The defendants are told, truthfully or not, that they don't stand a chance at a trial. Then they are given two options: a serious crime they did not commit vs a more serious crime they did not commit. They are offered those two and told there are no options. No jury will find them innocent.

Of course if they are Black that may be the case.

Cont...
 
 
0 # LionMousePudding 2016-10-09 23:06
Women in prison are almost always there because either they drove the car their boyfriend had the drugs in (or partook in a minor way in the drug traffic) or because they killed their abusers.

We have seen that a man who kills a woman may get 2-5 years while a woman who kills an abuser will get life.

Another terrible injustice is the way kids of parents in prison are treated.

Who is going to make these injustices a part of a political agenda?

And then there are the miniscule crimes which are federal. Reading your partner's mail. Cheating on your taxes. My friend went to jail because he applied for unemployment during the month after he got his job but before he got paid. With his 30 year old student loans, 6 times as much as he had borrowed, being taken from his account, he could not pay rent and would have been on the street.

He pled guilty because no one told him not to.

Those things would not happen-- the loans, the interest, the garnishment, the unemployment gap, the threat of homelessness, the guilty plea being a universal no, and the time he served, along with the loss of voting rights, in any civilized Western country.

So who's going to fight to have all of those laws repealed?

Get off your high horse where you look down on felons. Your shit stinks as bad as theirs.
 

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