Big money in politics is really an exchange of rights for privilege

5 min readOct 8, 2018

The same men who claim to believe in God also believe that God loves them even if they have to lie, cheat and steal to nab a 5th seat on the Supreme Court. 92% of Congress is Christian. Most of Congress is made up of men. Not content to just secure a majority in Congress, which they will surely lose either this year or the next, they know that having a conservative Supreme Court will be their backstop in case their legislative agenda is challenged. It’s hard not to have the impression that Republicans don’t care about what we think.

It is at once astonishing that they picked someone so loaded, and I use the term in more ways than one, to submit to public scrutiny as a candidate for a seat on the highest court in the land. He still loves to drink beer. His confirmation testimony is so riddled with holes that it is not hard to see that impeachment efforts are already underway. And he is the most partisan judge who has ever been confirmed to the Supreme Court.

Brett Kavanaugh is the man my supposedly Mormon Senators from Utah confirmed. I tried to write them emails this morning, but their websites were “down for maintenance”. I guess empathy is not really their thing.

I have been reading article after article on the whole Kavanaugh affair, and as I ventured down the rabbit hole, I could not help but consider an overarching theme across all the news: big money in politics is merely an exchange of rights protected by the Constitution for privilege.

Kavanaugh is a privileged yet very vulnerable man. It is becoming evident that Kavanaugh can’t keep his story straight. His debts have disappeared in a very timely yet mysterious manner. And for a man aspiring to fill a seat on the highest court in the land, he’s very, very partisan. Oh, and he is the most unloved man now sitting on the Supreme Court bench. I don’t trust him and never will. He sullies the court.

With the confirmation of Kavanaugh, I am reminded at once of this article, “The 9.9 Percent Is the New American Aristocracy, The class divide is already toxic, and is fast becoming unbridgeable. You’re probably part of the problem.” That article blew me away with its breadth and scope. But the nugget comes here in the following paragraph:

The source of the trouble, considered more deeply, is that we have traded rights for privileges. We’re willing to strip everyone, including ourselves, of the universal right to a good education, adequate health care, adequate representation in the workplace, genuinely equal opportunities, because we think we can win the game. But who, really, in the end, is going to win this slippery game of escalating privileges.

And I think of Congress and their willingness to confirm a pious, yet red nosed alcoholic to the Supreme Court. And I think of Trump, a man who could be convicted of numerous high crimes and misdemeanors, yet like Teflon, nothing sticks to him. That is privilege.

I recall a story of Alice Walton being arrested for drunk driving. When she was pulled over, she asked the officer, “Do you know who I am?” No formal charges were ever filed, yet an officer believed there was enough probable cause to pull her over and arrest her. The record of her arrest was destroyed a mere two years later. That is privilege.

Wait. Who is Alice Walton? One of the richest women in the world as an heiress to the Wal-Mart family fortune. Just imagine what would have happened if she were someone else, you know, like black, young and male.

Money means access to power. Some people will drop to their knees for money. Ralph Nader explains this well:

The only difference between the Republican and Democratic parties is the velocities with which their knees hit the floor when corporations knock on their door. That’s the only difference.

Anyone ever heard of The Panama Papers? If Republicans love to cut taxes, they’re really quiet about The Panama Papers. So while you and I are paying taxes, the people in the lofty top 0.02% are doing this:

  • Files reveal the offshore holdings of 140 politicians and public officials from around the world
  • Current and former world leaders in the data include the prime minister of Iceland, the president of Ukraine, and the king of Saudi Arabia
  • More than 214,000 offshore entities appear in the leak, connected to people in more than 200 countries and territories
  • Major banks have driven the creation of hard-to-trace companies in offshore havens

(That last point is why I bank with a credit union.) It’s all about money and power. And that leads to privilege. What is a privilege?

Black’s Law Dictionary definesprivilege” as “a special legal right, exemption, or immunity granted to a person or class of persons; an exception to a duty.” Black’s Law Dictionary 1215 (7th ed. 1999).

Note that a privilege is granted to a person or class of persons. Most of us are probably not in a privileged class. In case anyone forgot, one of the points of the war fought for American independence was to eliminate aristocracy and prevent it from happening again. But, as we’re seeing again, even in capitalism I might add, some people are more equal than others, Orwell be damned.

It would seem then, that to Mitch McConnell, there are no rights, only privileges. Unless you know the right people, go to the right church, have friends and relatives who are wealthy benefactors at the best schools, and have the means to run for Congress, yet choose not to, you’re not privileged. Mitch and his friends don’t care about you.

Someone once said that money is not speech. Well, the majorities in both houses of Congress would beg to differ. People watch Jeopardy because they would like to win someday. People watch Wheel of Fortune because they want to win someday. What do they win? Money and prizes, something like privilege.

But to have that privilege one must give up something. That could be time and effort spent doing something for somebody else. If you’re working, creating value in exchange for money, hats off to you. But if you’re going to sell out your constituents so your friends will send you more money so that you can stay in office, well, that is a different matter. That is privilege.

I once said that, “corruption is an exchange of dignity for money”. This is what I see in Congress. But I think I need to refine that observation as follows:

Corruption is an exchange of dignity for privilege.

Write on.

Originally published at on October 8, 2018.