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Once the sleepy backwater of electoral politics, judicial elections
have recently become a battleground where right wing and corporate
groups spend large sums to fill the courts with jurists who will
support their interests. This is perhaps the most troubling example of
money corrupting our politics, because instead of pay-to-play politics
it gives us pay-to-win justice. The independence of the judiciary
simply cannot be maintained in an environment where jurists are
competing for votes in high-priced, bare-knuckle political brawls.
of the corrupting power of money in politics abound, from the
Jack Abramoff scandal that put a congressman and several others in jail, to
Governor George Ryan's conviction on racketeering charges. Beyond the
overt corruption, the power of big money corporate interests thwarts efforts toward
the basic reforms that are desperately needed by the people of this country,
such as healthcare for all. And the money needed to compete in
elections, and therefore the opportunity for money to corrupt the system, is
growing rapidly. In the 2006 election cycle, state-level candidates
billion dollars. Of that, 869 million was raised by state legislative
candidates, a 32% increase from 2002.
lawmakers can lead the way on ending the corrupting influence of money over
politics and build a government that puts the needs of ordinary citizens first.The key is to change the way elections
are financed, enforce restrictions on corporate lobbyists, and reform the
process by which public contracts are awarded.