OPINION: Jesse Jackson, Jr. and Blago— Politics As Usual

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For the record, Jesse Jackson, Jr. did not offer a million dollars for Obama’s Senate seat. If the Blagojevich phone calls are indicative of Jackson’s position, he (or an emissary) offered to help raise a million dollars for Blagojevich’s campaign. How is this worse than any of the rich donors who give and raise money for a Presidential candidate and are rewarded with cabinet or ambassador positions?

Do we really think Hillary Clinton was Barack Obama’s first choice for Secretary of State? There was obviously a deal between them in which she would campaign for him and urge her donors to give money to him in return for the position. Did she do so out of the kindness of her own heart? I doubt it. My guess would be that Hillary and Barack had a meeting after the primaries, either directly or through surrogates

The practice of rewarding people who raise cash for campaigns with high-level positions is as American as apple pie. Of the 661 people who raised more than $100,000 for George Bush in 2004, two became cabinet secretaries, 27 became ambassadors and 48 became transition team members. That means 23 percent of all big donors were given government positions. 104 companies that employed 127 elite donors for Bush ($100K or more) in 2000 were given $88 billion in funds in 2002.

Campaign donations in return for political favors are a part of the American political system. Bill Clinton pardoned Mark Rich after his wife donated large amounts to his campaign. The whole way campaigns are run in the U.S. is based on people being rewarded for fundraising in one way or another.

If politicians can trade pardons, cabinet positions, government contracts, and political access for campaign fundraising, why not temporary Senate seats? What happened between Jackson and Blagojevich is indicative of backroom dealings that go on between politicians all the time. Blagojevich just happened to get caught on tape. How many politicians are rewarded with lobbyist positions after their political careers are over?  Aren’t they in fact getting paid retroactively for their services?

The Blagojevich scandal is representative of the American political system in which money is more important than qualifications or merit. If we are going to crucify Jesse Jackson, Jr., we should also crucify the outdated campaign finance system and the way business is done in politics.

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