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Buying Votes

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Buying Votes

The Legislative branch of the United States government was designed to represent citizens of this nation. Congressional members are representing the people in their district or state. Laws are supposed to be passed in the public's best interest. People attempt to influence the passing of laws through lobbyists. These people are paid to offer campaign donations and gifts to certain congressmen in return for a vote for or against specific issues. Lobbyist activity in Washington, D.C. breeds corruption and inhibits the democratic process.

Interest groups were created to gain support for certain issues. Farmers, laborers, gun control activists, abortion opponents, and teachers are just a few of the numerous interest groups in the United States. Any person is eligible to join these voluntary, private groups, which sometimes require a donation of money. Formed from these interest groups are Political Action Committees (PACs). A few top people run these groups. The main purpose of the PACs is to raise money. The money raised is passed on to Congressmen via a lobbyist. The term lobbyist 'was initially used several centuries ago in Great Britain in reference to journalists who waited in the lobbies of the House of Commons to interview legislators' (Volkomer 114). Today, the lobbyist's job is to pass the money to representatives for a vote in their favor of a bill. Up to $5000 may be given to any one congressman by a PAC.

The most obvious downfall of this setup is that representatives would be encouraged to vote for money. In other words, if a pro-life group paid a representative to vote against legalizing abortion, the money would sway him. Whether or not a bill is passed becomes an issue of who is willing and able to pay more for it. Congressmen would look to vote for bills that would get them the most money from the PACs. Figuring the maximum $5000 is given to half of the Senate and half of the House of Representatives for passage of one bill, the total donations comes to $1,335,000. 'Spending for the first half of last year'totaled $633 million, according to a computerized Associated Press analysis of lobbying disclosure reports' (Associated Press, 8A).

Another drawback of lobbyist intervention in Washington is that it takes away from democracy. The representative is supposed to represent those who elected him. Going back to the example of the pro-life lobbyist making a campaign contribution to a representative, the harms to democracy become evident. That representative is no longer voting in favor of the people who voted him into office. Rather he is voting for those holding a certain view, even if it is not the popular view in his district. The purpose of a democracy is for the people to have an influence in the government. They elected the representative to speak for them in the government. When their representative is voting for people who pay for him to vote the way they want, then it defeats the purpose of democracy.

More indirectly, lobbyists' actions harm the economy. The PACs raise money from the general public and use it to pay not only the representatives in Congress, but also to pay the lobbyist, for court fees in lawsuits, and distribution of informational material. This money is taken from the pockets of the general public and shifted to another sector of the economic system where it benefits them little. Money used to pay congressional members and lawyers could have been used in a more beneficial fashion ...

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