Back to the 'Bagman'

By Alter, Jonathan | Newsweek, November 8, 2010 | Go to article overview

Back to the 'Bagman'


Alter, Jonathan, Newsweek


Byline: Jonathan Alter

With all the secret cash flowing into politics, we're returning to the days when powerful interests could buy influence without any way to trace it.

Let's be honest: all the talk about money in politics is tiresome. DNC, RNC, DCCC, RSCC--it's inside stuff. Democrats are spinning their losses by pointing to a last-minute influx of corporate money; Republicans retort that Democrats should stop whining because they spent more money overall, and look where it got them. Everyone's pointing out that the richest candidates (e.g., Meg Whitman) don't always win. Liberals say they're disappointed in President Obama for failing to transform the system. But even the most Feingoldian of them couldn't be bothered to make the biggest systemic issue, campaign finance, into something voters cared about.

So now we're returning to the bad old days when powerful interests could buy politicians without any way to trace it. If the lame-duck Democratic Congress doesn't enact the DISCLOSE Act, which requires outside groups to reveal the names of their biggest donors in TV ads, the 2012 campaign will be about as transparent as a Chinese sovereign-wealth fund.

Almost no one under 60 remembers what fundraising was like before Watergate. Until the 1970s, campaign money was collected by "bagmen," familiar characters from the world of organized crime. As fans of Boardwalk Empire know, a bagman is a political fixer who walked around with stacks of $100 and $1,000 bills. At lower levels, he used brown paper bags. In presidential campaigns, the cash was more likely to be in briefcases. Classier that way.

Today, it's Back to the Bagman. With the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United, outside groups can pump as much money as they want into campaigns. Republicans always point fingers at unions, but their donations--and those of any large donors to the parties and their authorized committees--are disclosed. It's the corporate and individual giving to outside groups that's undisclosed and, therefore, the functional equivalent of cash. "The U.S. is due for a huge scandal involving big money, bribery and politicians," Al Hunt of Bloomberg News wrote recently.

This year corporations used latter-day bagmen like the Chamber of Commerce, Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, and other outside groups to secretly spread nearly $300 million in key races. Rove got huffy after Obama warned that foreign money was seeping into American politics, but it's hard to believe it isn't. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Back to the 'Bagman'
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.