America's Best Politicians: The Impact of Money in Politics - Essay Sample

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1745 Words
Date:  2023-08-04


The practice of persuading elected leaders to represent private interests at the extent of public good has been in existence for an extended period in the United States politics. Since independence, the country has faced numerous challenges with controlling political lobbying both in the Congress and the Executive branches (Rosoff, Pontell, & Tillman, 2020). In this case, the nation produces “the best politician’s money can buy.” For over half a century after independence, the US Congresspersons dedicated their influence to private interests for financial gains and support. Notably, since no law existed to prevent lobbying, members of Congress would even ask for their payments in writing; for example, Senator Daniel Webster who requested his usual payment from the National Bank president in 1833 (Rosoff et al., 2020). The problem continued until the introduction of the first conflict of interest law was passed in Congress.

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Noticeably, in 1853, Congress enacted the first Conflict of Interest statute following increased public resentment. The act prevented legislators from being paid to represent private interests in Congress (Rosoff et al., 2020). Nevertheless, the law was not effective in controlling lobbying as it took a new form of campaign funding. Notably, before 1976, Congressional election expenditures were controlled by the Tillman Act of 1907 and the Federal Corrupt Practices Act of 1910. The laws required politicians to disclose their election finances and introduced campaign spending limits. However, after they were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1976, donors or special interest groups hijacked democracy since elected leaders would be indebted to them more than the public (Rosoff et al., 2020). In this case, members of Congress became crooks or guns for hire for special interest groups who not only controlled their voting patterns but also their influence on public policy.

The political action committees (PACs), which are the primary source of campaign funding has in recent years been the source of bad governance in the country. Noticeably, PACs also fund presidential elections beyond their constitutional limits by leveraging on the weak laws (Rosoff et al., 2020). The groups raise millions of dollars through soft money and issue them to political parties, which is legally unrestricted. In this case, they get the power to influence not only the Congress but also the Executive branch. For example, in 1992 the Republican party raised 70 million dollars, while in 2002, both the Republican and the Democrat parties received over 226 million dollars (Rosoff et al., 2020). In 2002, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 banned the use of soft money in presidential elections and increased individual donations limits. As a result, the law sealed one loophole and opened another.

The existing Federal Laws are not adequate in eliminating lobbying abuses. Throughout history, the laws have failed to control the "buying" of politicians through donations and party funding. Unluckily, lobbying is not considered as a crime since the Congress—which benefits from the practice—allow it to persist. For instance, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act abolished soft money but increased the limit for individual funding, creating a “rob Peter to pay Paul” scenario (Rosoff et al., 2020). Lobbying is a form of bribing public officials who become puppets of interest groups. In this case, politicians work in the interest of private organizations instead of promoting public service delivery. For instance, a political party can initiate a trade bill that benefits multinationals over small and medium enterprises only because the companies supported them during campaigns. The situation makes true democracy in the country to remain a mirage.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder Contempt of Congress Case

In the wake of the Operation Fast and Furious scandal in 2012, former Attorney General Eric Holder found himself in a clash with Republican legislators, leading to him being found in contempt of Congress. The failed Fast and Furious operation focused on alcohol, firearms, tobacco, and explosives investigations across the US-Mexico border between the period 2009-2011 (Beckhusen, 2012). The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives had set out investigations to track firearm purchases by Mexican drug cartels. Nevertheless, the program lost track of more than 1000 guns they were tracking, while two were used in a shooting in 2010, leading to the killing of a US Border Patrol officer (Beckhusen, 2012). Therefore, the operation came under criticism regarding how the investigations were being carried out prompting a subpoena by Congress.

Holder failed to provide the required documents by Congress since his office enjoyed executive privileges giving him immunity from subpoena. He failed to meet the October 1 deadline stipulated by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to submit the “non-deliberative” documents. Notably, he had filed a motion to stay on September 2, which was still pending. Nevertheless, the Republicans led by Darrell Issa voted along party lines to find the Attorney General in Contempt of Congress in June 2012 (Beckhusen, 2012). It became the first time in the US history that an attorney general was found in contempt.

The drama saw Democrat members move out of the Congress during the vote in protest. They expressed their dissatisfaction with the Republican’s move claiming that it was politically motivated. Eric Holder claimed the ordeal was an unfortunate witch hunt that prioritized political interests over public safety (Beckhusen, 2012). He claimed that after realizing the flaws within the project, he acted by stopping the unconstitutional tactics and ordering an investigation. Nevertheless, the republican congresspersons had refused to resolve the matter without a vote.

Holding Holder in contempt of Court was not warranted since he enjoyed immunity from the executive privilege. Noticeably, the vote was politically motivated as Republicans tried to have an edge in the upcoming presidential election later in the year. The Obama administration claimed that the Attorney General failed to submit the documents since they contained internal deliberations that were protected from other people outside the Department of Justice. Moreover, for whatever reasons the House committee or the Republican party had on voting out the AG was not based on public interest. They furthered the party's interest to gain mileage in the upcoming presidential elections (Beckhusen, 2012). Noticeably, the department of Justice failed to file a court case against Holder since there was no reasonable cause (Beckhusen, 2012). The June event also revealed that other forces may have influenced the Republican party to engineer the vote for their gains. Such scenarios are an infringement of democracy and a form of poor governance. Politicians should be able to think autonomously and vote for the benefit of their electorate as opposed to furthering the agenda of interest groups. Such trends in politics can lead to catastrophic leadership in Congress, where the representatives may vote to impeach anyone, including the president since they have the numbers.

Corrupt Cities in the US

Besides New York City, other cities such as Chicago, Houston, Miami, Baltimore, and Washington DC also have ongoing problems with corruption. A study conducted by the University of Illinois named Chicago as the most corrupt city in the US, while Illinois was the third corrupt state. According to the study, which used data from the Department of Justice (DOJ), Chicago led in the number of public corruption convictions with a total of 1750 cases, Los Angeles followed with 1547 cases, while New York City was third with 1360 cases (Alani & Cherone, 2020). Noticeably, corruption in the above states ranges from political lobbying to police abuse of power and bribery. The situation makes it common for people to witness regular arrests and convictions of ex-politicians, police chiefs, or congress representatives due to corruption cases (Alani & Cherone, 2020). New York politicians and public officials are known for abuse of office and bribery both at local and national politics. Noticeably, New York's politics have a significant influence of Washington's politics making, which often transfers the corruption to national levels. For example, in 2018, Eric Schneiderman, New York's attorney general resigned after claims of assault on women. He is among many politicians in America that have used their office as a shield to their unethical behavior. On the other hand, cities like Chicago are notorious with police and court corruption that foresee the proliferation of criminal networks (Alani & Cherone, 2020). Corrupt police officers turn a blind eye to illegal activities or shield their rogue partners denying justice to the public.

Additionally, Washington DC also tops in political corruption due to lobbying in the Congress and abuse of power in the president’s office. Although proof of corruption in the oval office may not be readily visible, most presidents have in the past accepted paybacks for political favors such as policy formulations. Other presidents have used the office to further the interests of their private businesses, which is a form of political corruption (Alani & Cherone, 2020). The Congresspersons also engage in many corrupt dealings and bribery, especially during voting to influence the outcomes.

It is more difficult to be ethical in a big city as opposed to a small city. For instance, a politician in a big city like New York might face a challenge upholding ethics during party primaries or elections. Big cities pose major issues for politicians such as cultural diversity, more interest groups, inaccessibility of voters, and increased competition. Therefore, politicians become more inclined to outside support, which often leads to paybacks. For instance, a person contesting for the Congress representative post in NYC will require more campaign funds and external support than someone in New Jersey. In this case, they will be forced to make alliances with specific persons or groups that can help them connect with different categories of voters. Therefore, they will offer promises or offers to ensure that they gain the required support to win the elections. On the other hand, a person contesting in a district with few people, there is less likely to be many candidates or interest groups; therefore, the individual requires to only connect with the electorate without brokers. In such a scenario, if elected, the person will only work for the benefit of his or her electorate. Noticeably, whether in a big or small city, a person's ability to work ethically is determined by their moral principles and values, especially integrity and honesty.


Alani, H. & Cherone, H. (2020). Chicago is the most corrupt city in the US, according to a new study. Block club. Retrieved from

Beckhusen, R. (2012). Holder held in contempt of Congress, which almost means nothing. Wired. Retrieved from

Rosoff, M. S., Pontell, N. H., & Tillman, R. (2020). Profit without honor: White-collar crime and the looting of America. Pearson, New York.

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America's Best Politicians: The Impact of Money in Politics - Essay Sample. (2023, Aug 04). Retrieved from

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