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Gibson writes: "In a real democracy, like the constitutional republic in which we supposedly live, the people choose representatives through the election process to vote for their interests in government."

Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., talks Tuesday with Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill. (photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., talks Tuesday with Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill. (photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

A $300 Billion Example of How Corporations Control Our Government

By Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News

27 June 14


n a real democracy, like the constitutional republic in which we supposedly live, the people choose representatives through the election process to vote for their interests in government. In an oligarchy, like the one in which we actually live, corporations buy representatives through the election process to secure benefits for themselves and rig the game further in their favor. Here’s one $300 billion example. This infographic by Luke Keohane of Move to Amend lays it all out in detail.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) sits on the Senate committees on foreign relations, armed services, and homeland security. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) sits on the Senate subcommittee for defense appropriations. Collectively, these four committees are responsible for funding arms sales and foreign aid, the continued maintenance and development of the military, oversight for government contracts, and the allocation of the budget for the defense department. Through these four committees, $300 billion in taxpayer dollars, which is roughly $2000 per taxpayer, went to private military contractors in 2013.

These defense contractors were able to secure lavish contracts only through their extensive lobbying efforts, like hiring expensive lawyers with existing connections in government. The Hogan Lovell law firm, where Chief Justice John Roberts previously worked before joining the Supreme Court, explicitly boasts on its website about its expertise in helping corporate clients worm their way through the regulatory system:

Our interdisciplinary practice brings together lawyers with the corporate, commercial and regulatory experience to assist our clients in capitalizing on opportunities and avoiding pitfalls.… we know how to guide you through procurement and regulatory minefields as well as how to protect your interests effectively in disputes and government investigations.… Our clients include some of the largest and most established aerospace, defense, and government services companies in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East.

Justice Antonin Scalia also came from a law firm that lobbies for some of the biggest military contractors. Jones Day law firm’s client list includes war profiteers like Bechtel, General Electric, and Verizon. Scalia worked in Jones Day’s Cleveland office before Ronald Reagan appointed him to the Supreme Court. So what happens when veterans of law firms specializing in corporate lobbying make it all the way to the Supreme Court?

In 2010, both Scalia and Roberts voted to establish money as speech in the Citizens United vs. FEC decision, which allowed for corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money influencing elections. And just recently, both justices voted that aggregate limits on individual campaign donations are unconstitutional in the McCutcheon vs. FEC decision. So not only can large military contractors use their influence in Congress to secure lucrative contracts, they also have influence in the courts to overturn laws that previously limited their ability to buy politicians outright.

Last Summer, when the Senate held a vote to authorize the use of military force in Syria, both John McCain and Dick Durbin voted YES. As Maplight shows, Senators McCain and Durbin received more than $300,000 in campaign contributions from defense contractors between the two of them. Moreover, members of the Senate who voted YES for military intervention in Syria received 83 percent more in campaign donations from military contractors than those who voted NO. It’s expected that through the continued support of military contractors in their re-election campaigns, McCain and Durbin will continue to use their positions in the senate to give those same military contractors more government contracts.

It isn’t hard to see that our current system of unlimited money in politics, made possible through corporate “personhood” and money as political speech, is the reason both parties in Congress are so nakedly corrupt. Until we get a constitutional amendment establishing that corporations aren’t people and money is not speech, we can expect more of the same quid-pro-quo bribery in our politics.

Carl Gibson, 26, is co-founder of US Uncut, a nationwide creative direct-action movement that mobilized tens of thousands of activists against corporate tax avoidance and budget cuts in the months leading up to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Carl and other US Uncut activists are featured in the documentary "We're Not Broke," which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. He currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin. You can contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , and follow him on twitter at @uncutCG.

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+70 # tswhiskers 2014-06-27 08:44
It's no secret that our govt. is badly corrupted. All 3 branches of the federal govt. are in cahoots with corporations. It concerns me that even the Supreme Court is now touched by this corporatization of govt. Until very recently we could trust that the Court was honest and would rule its cases as honestly as it could, given personal biases. But since the coming of Scalia, Thomas, Allito and Roberts, the Court now votes almost exclusively for corporate interests. I am puzzled to this day how the ACA got Roberts' vote. I guess the only answer to solving this problem is public financing of elections; a thing not likely to happen in my lifetime.
+58 # babalu 2014-06-27 10:38
And though Roberts, Scalia and Alito said they would follow precedent, they have been throwing it out left and right, like long standing laws limiting campaign finance. They should be impeached!
-4 # maddave 2014-06-27 11:24
First thing on the agenda, Mr (or Ms) tswiskers is that you, like 99+ % of Americans, seem not to realize that there are FOUR branches of gov't in the USA: the fourth being our giant Career Bureaucracy.

"How so" you ask?

Money and power are inseparable and synonymous; one feeds on the other. Of our trillion dollar annual budget, the three constitutional branches spend negligibly: the bulk is parceled out (delegated) to "immortal" Departments and agencies for final contracting. Consequently, while Corporate America influences the Legislative budget process with campaign contributions, major Corporate efforts are NOT directed at elected or politically-app ointed officials; rather they concentrate upon the career "We-bees" whose unspoken attitude toward elected officials is "We be here before you get here, and we be here after you're gone!" The common goal of the a-political We-bee dinosaurs is primarily THEIR survival and the preservation of their fiefdoms' and agendas. Their strengths are their generally-accep ted status as America's long term institutional memory . . . . and time.

"How do you know this", you ask? It's because, post military, I was a corporate point man for GSA contracting-whe re one quickly learns this rule: "Donate to elected officials but sell to the We-bees.
+6 # tabonsell 2014-06-27 12:41
But the people you call "We-bees" operate entirely under the aqcts passed by Congress and singed into law by a president.
+5 # maddave 2014-06-28 00:03
Sorry, tabnonsell, you simply do not know what-the-hell you are talking about! You and these idealistic lilly-dippers who believe that the "We-bees operate entirely under the acts passed by Congress and signed into law by a president" are the natural prey of every charlatan, con man and grifter that walk the street.

There are some 4,400,000 government employees layered to an estimated 80+ levels and divided into an absolutely unknown number of fiefdoms, each with its own agenda and survival to worry about. Do you REALLY believe that any one man (the President) or any Administration can ever begin to comprehend the problems and (figurative) land mines that exist in that gorgon's knot of an organization? Or how many and where (again figurative) the bodies are buried there? (And the the Wee-bees ain'gt gonna help them find out!)
Why, as just one example: The Defense Department loses a guess-timated $1 to $3 BILLION dollars per year, but nobody knows how much ... because the DOD has never been audited and never will be because the fiefdoms' finances are all on different systems. SecDef Donald Rumsfeld once bragged to SecState Colin Powell that his Department loses (as in "cannot account for") more money each year than the entire State Department's Budget Appropriation!
Wake up and smell the coffee!
-1 # enough_already 2014-07-18 07:40
Every government department is required to provide an annual audit to ensure that funds appropriated by Congress are spent according to the appropriation. The defense department has never been able to provide a balanced audit--there have always been huge gaps between the money appropriated and the money spent. So Congress let them off the hook--for a while. However, the DOD is now in process of auditing their books in order to complete a full audit in 2017. It will be interesting to learn what accounting tricks they implement to balance the books. I'm pretty sure the taxpayer will get screwed in the end.
+23 # Radscal 2014-06-27 12:21
Corporations were given "personhood" rights in the Supreme Court ruling in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific RR.

In 1886.

It's amazing how often the SC ruled in the interests of the people (the real ones) considering how severe have been our bouts of governmental corruption.

I know what you mean, though. The bribery systemic to our government has surely gotten worse, and has been installed as permanent features. We have got to stop electing these corporatist/mil itarist/Wall St. tools while our votes still have any influence.
+37 # reiverpacific 2014-06-27 10:02
Unfortunately, the "Justices" mentioned above and their many many wannabe's, obsequious shills and finks in the judiciary and power structures generally referred to almost ironically as "Lawmakers" scattered generously around the country but heavily concentrated in DC, are likely to more and more openly say "OK, so what you gonna do about it little people"? -We've got the power AND the law on our side".
Their arrogance is growing daily to the magnitude of the late, appalling Alexander Haig's dismissive, patronizing declamation "“Let them march all they want—as long as they continue to pay their taxes".
I don't know if there's any support for a tax strike (I'm all for taxation but not to feed the war-dependent military/corpor ate behemoth, which was the point of Haig's utterance), or if they'd even get the point but there are so many somnambulist, passive people out there, hypnotized by the owner media's vapid opiate disguised as programming between the real message contained in commercials to buy "Stuff" they don't need, stay out of public affairs and feed the same monster that only allows the heavily-finance d voices of the 1.5-party system who are beholden to them at election times.
Which brings us full-circle to the subject matter but no closer to a solution.
Sorry, I've no practical remedy other than personal resistance and practicing what free speech still exists.
+15 # tswhiskers 2014-06-27 13:16
I have so little money that I don't pay taxes; that fact is probably true for a great fraction of Americans. Those who have it pay more but only relatively. I can't imagine anything like the 90% tax rate imposed on the wealthy during Ike's Admin. but that isn't far from what we need today. As for a tax strike, it would have to be a massive strike, so big that the IRS couldn't go after all the offenders. Things will have to become grossly unfair, e.g. taxing Soc. Sec. maybe, before it would make the middle and lower classes angry enough to refuse to pay what they're told they owe. But let the politicians continue with their reverse Robin Hood tactics and we'll see how angry people will get.
+12 # maddave 2014-06-28 00:12
You really do not need to find a solution, reiverpacific.

We The Obese, Ignorant & Uncaring People will simply sit on the asses while the demise of the Democracy that I and my generation knew is completed, at which time a "solution" (and not the one that we want) will find us all . . . it's called authoritarian fascism, and we won't be happy with it.
+47 # Buddha 2014-06-27 10:13
According to OpenSecrets, a total of $3.23B was spent on lobbying in the US last year. Nobody would spend that kind of money if it wasn't generating huge Returns on Investment.
+21 # me! 2014-06-27 10:54
Tax lobbying provides 22,000 percent return to firms, KU researchers find
University of Kansas, School of Business, Press Release, April 9, 2009
+13 # Buddha 2014-06-27 16:21
Yep. And why bother deploying capital to open businesses or expand jobs for higher profits, when all you need to do today is spend far less to buy enough politicians to reduce your tax burden, shift it to the working class, and you end up with an even higher ROI?
+30 # PCPrincess 2014-06-27 10:15
Not to add to the heap of issues this article raises, which is a very BIG heap, but, adding to this problem is the inaction of most of the people positioned to speak up, make noise, and/or say, "enough is enough". Most of those people are 'comfortable' where they are and don't want to rock the boat. Examples of this are the liberal Supreme Court justices whose complaints stop after writing a dissent. The justices are an example of people at the top of the chain who could be doing more to bring the corruption out and attempt to slow it or disrupt it, however there are tens of thousands of others employed by the 'corrupt' who will never do a damn thing because the oligarchy has the American people by the balls and are squeezing tight. NO ONE, save those of us who are already squeezed and have nothing to lose, will risk their comfy jobs with benefits. Note: I must give credit to the few (I could count them on one or two hands) representatives in Congress that have extremely high morals and ethics and have that most important of traits: empathy. Bernie Sanders, Alan Grayson and a couple others who are lesser well known are our only hope. Other than those few men and women with integrity, we have no hope of repair of this system unless and until there is a tear-down of the system, a revision of our Constitution and a recognition of the Declaration of Human Rights; a document that we were part of and signed. (Thank you Eleanor Roosevelt)
+16 # Radscal 2014-06-27 12:37
"Most of those people are 'comfortable' where they are and don't want to rock the boat."

Absolutely true. And not just for politicians. We citizens are also kept just comfortable enough that we don't rise up and force the establishment of a truly representative democracy.

The Power Elite have become very skilled at sucking every drop of our blood that they can, and leaving us just enough crumbs that we may be anemic and hungry, but we're just comfortable enough that we dare not risk losing what we have. And what energy we do have is spent bickering amongst ourselves over issues that the Power Elite don't really care about.
+28 # 2014-06-27 10:23
The population that might speak up is either afraid, uninformed, protective of what it has or just apathetic.

We in big trouble, Kemosabe!
+14 # Radscal 2014-06-27 12:45
In any given election, about 3/4 of eligible voters don't vote. Why?

Well, poll after poll for the past half century show that, when asked about specific policy issues, most eligible voters are far more progressive than any Presidential candidate and almost every CongressPerson.

I've volunteered for voter registration drives, and spent nights on the phone banks, in "Get Out The Vote" campaigns the week before elections (where we only called registered Democrats). And I found that almost every person I spoke with who wouldn't vote made that decision because the candidates were obvious shills for moneyed interests who would nor represent us.
+22 # babalu 2014-06-27 10:42
The Republican Party is like the drunk who gets paid and stops on the way home at a bar to get loaded. When he gets home to wife and multiple kids and has a much lighter wallet, he says "stretch it" and tells his friends she is a bad money manager. There's always money for the corporations but none for people suffering.
There is now a plan afoot for $351 billion in tax loopholes in the Congress. Buying themselves corporate contributions and reelection?
+9 # Radscal 2014-06-27 12:48
The Republican Party is Team A for the economic elite. That's the team the 0.1% prefer in power.

But, when the people get restless enough, the elite are happy to let us have their Team B for a few years.

No tax or spending bill gets passed without bipartisan votes.
-27 # 2014-06-27 11:10
I'd like to see the defense budget cut by about $600B but to claim that McCain or Durbin (or other hawks) are being "bought off" by money in politics is absurd.

These guys honestly believe in a so-called "strong defense" and they are voting their consciences. They are wrong in my view, but no one with an ounce of sense could doubt their sincerity.

Advocates for a more sensible foreign policy need to address facts rather than what they assume are the motives of the opposition.

Lee Nason
New Bedford, Massachusetts
+20 # kalpal 2014-06-27 11:25
McCain should have learned by now that more military expenditures do not constitute an effective, coherent foreign policy. Surely Vietnam taught him something besides the knowledge that his father's position saved his life.
+16 # neis 2014-06-27 13:06
What FACTS do you provide that Durbin and McCain "honestly believe in a so-called "strong defense" and they are voting their consciences"? or are NOT influenced by the $300K in campaign contributions?
While it's true that "correlation is not causation," the coincidence here seems very compelling.
+19 # kalpal 2014-06-27 11:22
Any country where money is speech, zillionaires can outshout a Boeing jet engine at full throtle while someone like me can at most whisper an incomprehensibl e, inaudible mumble.
+40 # Kathymoi 2014-06-27 11:38
Bernie Sanders has crafted an amendment to the constitution that states clearly that corporations are not the people protected by the rights and privileges given to human people under the United States Constitution. We need this amendment.
When the Constitution was originally written, "we the people" excluded women and black people. They were considered property, not people. It took huge battles and very public pressure to clearly change the definition of "we the people" to include women and black people. In both cases, these inclusions needed to be ratified into the Constitution via a Constitutional Amendment.
Corporations on the other hand, while not human and never having engaged in public protest and support gathering as women and blacks did, were given all the rights and protections of the Constitution by the Supreme Court. Courts consistently uphold the claim by corporate lawyers that their corporation is a "person' entitled to the rights of citizens. Additionally, corporations have a fistfull of rights and protections not afforded to humans, for example tax deduction of legal expenses when sued by humans for violating their rights, and all the protections given to corporations under the commerce clause.
People are being marginalized in our society. There is no equality between an individual human and a multinational corporation.
The next battle to secure rights of humans will be to exclude corporations from the definition of "we the people".
+11 # tabonsell 2014-06-27 12:33
There's a problem with Gibson's outlook.

Sometimes we should elect people to represent the interest of the nation, not interests of the people.

The people voted overwhelmingly for "Voodoo economics" that put us into the hole we are in. The people's interest was reflected in voting for the most-incompeten t person to ever hold the presidency; that being George W. Bush.

Corporations now control our nation because the peoples' interest was in electing politicians who turned the nation over to corporations. Don't blame the politicians or the corporations, blame yourself (figurative, of course, "yourself" being the masses).
+10 # Radscal 2014-06-27 18:35
"Corporations now control our nation because the peoples' interest was in electing politicians who turned the nation over to corporations."

That's absolutely true. But I don't think too many voters thought, Oh Boy, if I vote for X, then corporations will pillage our nation. I mean, how many Mitt Romneys or Hillary Clintons are there?

What we do is vote for candidates who claim to be on our side on one of the handful of mostly social issues that divide us. And the economic elite don't really care about those issues, which is why we get to vote on them.

No "viable" candidate (read neither the Dem nor Rep) campaigned against NAFTA or TPP, but we can pick one who claims to share our values on gay marriage or gun control. Not that gay rights and guns aren't important issues, but compared to eating, having a home or dying in a war?

I'd like to vote for all those issues.

In fact, I have been in most elections because I "waste" my vote choosing candidates who share my views on all of those issues.
+1 # geonomist 2014-07-02 15:57
The money that corporations spend on office holders is not to persuade anybody, since they all have the same values and worldview, but to keep flow of public money to each player flowing ever faster. There is no political solution. Reformers want electoral campaigns to be publicly funded, but the nations already doing that still wage war and waste public revenue.

But there is an economic solution. That is, let citizens spend public money by having government disburse a dividend. And don’t let government tax whatever it wants but only recover socially generated values (don’t tax earnings, purchases, or buildings but rather charge polluters, resource depleters, and land displacers).

Once politicians can’t grant favors, nobody will want to lobby them. Then we can abolish corporate welfare and deny rent-seeking. There won’t be anyone unduly rich to try to influence the power structure left. Such geonomic reform begins not by focusing on one’s opponents but on a vision of how to run things right. Share the common wealth! More at
0 # LAellie33 2014-07-27 00:27
In every situation, John McCain wants every American to go to war, and be a "squealer" like he. Stop him before he invades another country--ANY country, war monger.

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