Despite what we tell ourselves, we live in a plutocracy. All aspects of government are on auction, and the ultra-wealthy buy the legislative and judicial environment they want.

The best solution would be to reverse the Citizens United decision, to dramatically scale back the influence of lobbyists, and to severely limit what could be spent both by and on for politicians on the campaign trail.

The question is, how do we accomplish that? It’s certainly an uphill battle, but being aware of what’s actually going on is a crucial part of the process.

To that end:

Tom Ferguson on Money in Politics: “Everything is for sale.”

Megan Robertson is a digital producer for

Tom Ferguson is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts Boston, Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, and member of the Advisory Board of the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

“Look, everything is for sale, that’s the logic of the new Congress there. Since the ‘90s, everything’s auctioned, and that’s what the bulk of the population doesn’t understand this. The insiders know it but everybody else is still in the dark,” says Tom Ferguson, Professor of Political Science at UMass-Boston, in a recent interview on Radio Free Dylan.

“There was some columnist [in The New York Times] who interviewed an ex-Congressman about what was going wrong in Congress. And finally the guy mentions towards the end, ‘Oh, yes, there’s this terrible money problem.’ You know, look, that’s the problem. You’re selling everything,” says Ferguson.

It’s obvious that the piles of seemingly unlimited cash flowing into Washington on a daily basis have made money the central factor in lawmaking. Not so obvious, though, are the damaging effects money has had on the structure of leadership and balance of power within our Congress.

Massive amounts of money, says Ferguson, has shifted power disproportionately to the national party campaign committees and to top congressional leadership, damaging the autonomy of individual representatives. This, he says, has been a key factor in how Washington has “structurally transformed Congress, sweeping away the old seniority system that governed leadership selection and committee assignments.”

In place of the old system, says Ferguson, Congress now uses a system of “posted prices” for selecting who serves on committees and assumes leadership positions — and members who want money from top leadership and support from their national party have to do one thing: play by the rules. This leads to almost a “big box retail”-type mentality within the political system, with decisions being made at the home office and dictated from the top down.

As he explains in a recent piece in the Financial Times:

Uniquely among legislatures in the developed world, US congressional parties now post prices for key slots in the lawmaking process. As Marian Currinder revealed in her book Money in the House, the Democratic congressional campaign following the 2008 cycle asked members “to contribute $125,000 in dues and to raise an additional $75,000 for the party”. Senior politicians with committee places were expected to raise more – in some cases $500,000. Roughly the same expectation of money raising occurs on the other side too – but unlike most retailers, though, there are never any sales. Prices only drift up over time.

The practice makes cash flow the basic determinant of the very structure of lawmaking. Instead of possibly buffering Congress from at least some outside forces, committees and leadership posts reflect the shape of political money. Outside investors and interest groups become decisive in resolving leadership struggles within the parties.”

With centralized money, he explains, comes centralized power and decision making, and pressure to toe the party line. ”The leaders’ control of these committees, along with the vast fixed investments in research, polling, and media capabilities these committees maintain, gives them more leverage over individual Congressmen and women. It makes crossing party lines far more costly than, for example, in the 1950′s,” explains Ferguson. When it comes to how members of Congress have to behave to game the system, ”You can imagine them all just sort of bringing tribute to the idols, and the idols are the leadership. And so they heap up this stuff in order to get ahead in the institution,” says Ferguson.

He says the media needs to do a better job covering money in politics. ”When you have a kind of political language here that’s utterly contrived and utterly devoid of reality, but that’s the stuff in which people have to try to think through their theories of politics. And the biggest failure in the American media right now is the inability to lead money in politics together into a narrative that makes sense or has any contact with reality,” explains Ferguson.

“You probably can’t fix much in the United States if you’re going to allow the policy to just continue to be sold in every dimension. The Congress of our new gilded age is far from the best Congress money can buy; it may well be the worst,” says Ferguson.

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35 Responses to “How Much Is That Politician In The Window?”

  1. I see the problem as two things, the world economy is running on debt , that is when you put $100 in your bank account , it does not mean you have an extra $100 in your account but the bank owes you $100 more. The whole economy is, I owe you and you owe me. No real value. My second point is countries like China and Japan are not letting the US dollar depreciate against their currencies hence making US products uncompetitive thus pushing US debt higher and causing the world debt crisis.

  2. gie fantie says:

    Laura Ingraham on F&F: Obama hiring Wall Street lobbyist for campaign team is like Occupiers putting their $500K in a bank.

  3. silliness & cruality r getting all over the place. These ppl know about politics as much as they know about civil rights

  4. Wonderin y he neva wantd to share d profits wit d movement. Jay-Z’s Occupy Wall Street No Longer For Sale

  5. I think you can give her armour.. It just has to be a higher rating than what they already have

  6. Ok so now the occupy wall street ppl r protesting 4 money 4 AIDS research… Clearly these muhfukahs are looking for any excuse not to work

  7. welly pachitt says:

    chinese presence in africa is all about the same reasons china invaded tibet, east turkestan, mongolia and occupied manchuria: resource plunder and colonization

  8. You continue to take scripture out of context to try and justify your sin. You have to read the whole bible which you have not, because you selectively pull out a few lines as your weak case to push your agenda. Try making a cake with only of the recipe. Don’t be a Godphobe and repent before it is too late. Hell is forever!

  9. graskeelys says:

    What?! How dare you doubt the CPI! How dare you doubt the government! Your government is fighting an economic war and as good Americans you better shut up!
    Are you a terrorist? Maybe I need to make a call to Homeland Security so the military can throw you into prison indefinitely, no judge, no jury. I can do this to you terrorist bastards thanks to the new NDAA that was passed.
    I will give you one last chance to show you are not a terrorist. Praise Obama now!

  10. American people has to put people above money.Look at the way we shop running over each other for profit to the rich.This is crazy.Greed only breeds greed.Occupiers is listening to each other now and seeing the pain of all Americans.I believe we will put people above money.When we do government can not control us neither can the rich.Caring for our people will set us free.Please think about it.Love and Peace to you

  11. Gone are the days where they could have been their own act with the Ringling Bros…now what was the sideshow is now the mainstream….cats and dogs skippin down the street holding hands ! Stop the world and let me off…..

  12. wow, this is america for you…..where is freedom and privacy now????

    not one european country has this law….europe still has the freedom and rights, americans claim they have, but really, they dont….its called the patriot act….

    pathetic….and actually sad….u can be searched, videotaped, phones tagged without warrant or order and have your privacy violated,legally wow…what a nice civilize free country lol

  13. I live in the South, and the Civil Rights Act was necessary in 1964. Now…not so much, maybe not at all.

  14. LOL, a bunch of Canadian protests bc collapsing while you said everything in Canada is fine. Stop giving out money to the banks you dumbass right-winger

  15. EU Agrees to Iran Sanctions (Wall Street Journal): Share With Friends: | | Top News – World News Stories, RSS …

  16. Hey swampgas33
     Fascism is right wing extremism FACTS HELP
    In fact, the Fascist dictator of Italy in WW2 was Mussolini.
    He defined fascism as the merger of corporate and state interests.
    Or state sponsored corporatism.
    For comparison, this is what Thoma Jefferson thought.
    “The end of democracy and the defeat of the American Revolution will occur when government falls into the hands of lending institutions and moneyed incorporations.”

  17. greusch tein says:

    With mitt Romney winning, the gop has effectively made bain and income equality the top campaign issues in the general election. Hahaha –

  18. Welcome to ThinkProgress Economy’s morning link roundup. This is what we’re reading. Have you seen any interesting news? Let us know in the comments section. You can also follow ThinkProgress Economy on Twitter. Rick Santorum won Republican presidential primaries in Colorado and Minnesota yesterday, as well as a non-binding vote in Missouri; Mitt Romney finished […]

  19. “> Private rights is a human right. Owning might be a right. But controlling who you can admit on to it is not. For example, try to refuse access to paramedics when someone dies on your doorstep. Why? Because rights are a lower priority than most other rights. > And the civil rights act is what inevitably led to racial quotas. It’s hard to argue with delusions like these. >I don’t recall voting against honoring MLK He did. Explain why he did. >, but Ron Paul offered to donate money to honor Rosa Parks with a medal, which is more genuine than using 1000 dollars of taxpayer money to do it. Yet the bill honoring Rosa Parks used zero taxpayer dollars. It says so right in the bill. Not only that, but when Ron Paul was given a chance to buy a replica (which paid the costs of the medal) he never did. How genuine is that — spewing his self-serving and false platitudes? >He is very principled, and has done nothing to politically promote racism, it’s simple as that….”

  20. Randyonwuakor,
    You said it all, some people even changed so you are hitting the hammer on the nail..thanks for speaking out.

  21. $10 itunes gift card
    1.goto the AppStore and download “app Trailers”
    2.use bonus code “giftcardsfree” will receive your code for your $10 itunes gift card!
    this is no scam!!

  22. parconlowl says:

    Civil Rights veteran Amb. Andrew Young celebrates 80: Living a life of many hats, many jokes, and many roles; ci…

  23. mon bohman says:

    Vale QLD ALP! You built QLD after Joh as the that cares about workers, education, the environment, social justice & equality

  24. mordo kilipp says:

    Barry Barry quite contrary, how does economy grow? with energy spills & Union shills, and occupy protesters all in a row –

  25. schevolke says:

    Hey boxing fans you should be this outraged about Wall Street and our political system. This decision surprises you? All of life is fixed.

  26. schlerathi says:

    “We often recommend stocks not on Wall Street institutional dance cards BUT likely to work out profitably over 5 years.”

  27. The chatter that passes for news, the gossip that is peddled by the windbags on the airwaves, the noise that drowns out rational discourse, and the timidity and cowardice of what is left of the newspaper industry reflect our flight into collective self-delusion. We stand on the cusp of one of the most seismic and disturbing dislocations in human… –

  28. yukikuyami says:

    For all the women fighting for equality out there, the Dallas Mavericks dancers’ new uniforms are making headlines. See you never.

  29. hatzington says:

    There will be a natural tendency to focus on the legal challenges and the political fights, but history will show the true story of how we achieved marriage equality and how it was in fact a quilt woven of thousands of personal tales, most of which existed entirely outside the

  30. stegtseyre says:

    get it right 1 “later backed civil rights measures and criticized the Iraq War. He was a member of the Ku Klux Klan advancing “

  31. gentsbere arnesah says:

    U.S. electricity regulators are expected to impose a $1.5 million fine as early as Tuesday on a Deutsche Bank AG subsidiary over alleged power market manipulation, the Wall Street Journal citing …

  32. dunledger says:

    Want to commit a crime? Become a politician or Wall Street investor, you can get away with everything with no conseque …

  33. viko eisse says:

    I was only doin’ it for the better of us all! Al wanted all that equality crap, that was s’pose to be /our/ rights only!

  34. kliebaski says:

    I’m still not quite ready to fellate a guy who thinks the Civil Rights Act and 14th Amendment are wrong even if he’s right on one issue.

  35. “This may be the most positive thing one could say of him. While it is refreshing to see a Republican Congressman not absorbed by the typical GOP corporatism, I see Amash as an idiosyncratic gadfly backbencher. He appears to have zero influence with the judging by his removal from the House Committee on the Budget and the fact that none of the bills he has introduced have ever made it out of the GOP controlled committees. He has also voted against his more than just about anyone in Congress and recent history has shown mainstream Republicans have little use for the Goldwater wing of the


  1. Who's Bidding on the Supercommittee? | Cogniphilia - [...] knows that politicians are for sale to the highest bidder. Get out your checkbooks because the Supercommittee too is…

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