An even more opportunistic example is a quietly added amendment to the CARES Act granting $ 170 billion in tax relief to wealthy real estate investors, 80% of the profits going to those who earn over $ 1 million each year. It’s hard to see how lower taxes for billionaires and multimillionaires are helping normal families and small businesses. Still, the tax break should perhaps come as no surprise, as wealthy donors with money in real estate interests have donated at least $ 34 million. to the super PACs in the first months of 2020.
Of course, vested interests could not have predicted that a pandemic would occur this year – or the multibillion-dollar congressional response it would demand. But the influence game is a marathon, not a sprint. The lavish spending and lobbying of these interests for many years is done in anticipation of rainy days like this. Times when they’ll need to tap into the power, favors, and connections that their money can buy.
Small businesses and working people cannot afford either super PAC donations or expensive lobbyists. And they have been overlooked.
The money in politics that shaped the CARES Act is another damning illustration of how Washington works: for those with the richest pockets. And it underscores why we need structural reforms to limit private influence, like those included in the “For the People Act” passed by the House last year, which aims for big money domination in our politics.
For now, there is the more immediate concern about how the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve are handling the $ 500 billion in the CARES Act intended to support large loans to large corporations (potentially with some strings attached). Evidence so far indicates that the size of your campaign donations and lobby army correlates with positive treatment – which is why we need transparency and accountability over the distribution of the remaining funds.
During the 2008 financial crisis, a senior US senator voiced concerns about the economic relief plan: “Without proper oversight and safeguards,” he said, “a spending bill trillion dollars invites fraud and large-scale waste “and” other misappropriation of taxpayer funds. His name was Mitch McConnell.
No matter if we can count on Mr. McConnell to say what he said, his literal words were true. And in this crisis, the economic stakes are more important. The majority leader could show his commitment to these principles and the rule of law by finally appointing a chairman, with oversight experience, to the Congressional Oversight Commission created by the CARES Act.
Times like these are precisely why Americans should trust elected officials to act in the best interests of the entire nation, not just the rich and the well-connected.
Brendan Fischer is the Director of Federal Reform at the Campaign Legal Center, where Mr. Payne is the Senior Director of Ethics.
The Times commits to publish a variety of letters For the publisher. We would love to hear what you think of this article or any of our articles. Here is some advice. And here is our email: [email protected].