Bribing a Senator?

Apparently, some group vehemently opposed to the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh has raised over a million dollars in campaign contributions to go to a future opponent of Maine Senator Susan Collins if she fails to vote against Kavanaugh’s confirmation. That wasn’t exactly the smartest idea, either legally or politically. [corrected version of earlier post]

First, it’s a form of bribery, and that’s illegal, and since Collins is a straight-arrow from Maine, she said it was just that and reported it to federal authorities, who are now investigating the matter, and it’s very likely that those who came up with the idea will face heavy fines, if not much worse.

Second, doing something like that is more likely to make a senator do the opposite, just to prove he or she can’t be bought.

Third, a million dollars is a handful of chicken feed in terms of political contributions.

That’s not to say that forms of bribery don’t exist. They do, but they’re all so indirect that it’s virtually impossible to prove. The simplest and most legal way to influence a senator is to create an “independent” political action committee that supports your political point of view. You can then contribute far more money than to any senator or representative and so long as your ads and activities champion or oppose ideas or laws, you’re generally in the clear. You can, as I understand it, even ask why a senator supports or opposes a given idea, piece of legislation, or law.

Variations on this theme have been pursued most vigorously by – surprise – conservative Republicans over the past two decades. They’ve poured hundreds of millions of dollars into organizations that champion their ideas and oppose those who don’t hold the same ideas, and the Citizens United decision essentially affirmed the legality of the idea.

From what I can surmise, one of the reasons why Democrats haven’t been as successful is that they’ve never been able to agree on a unified agenda that has wide popular and financial support, but until they do, over time, the Republicans are likely to be dictating the agenda, based on their ideas. And even out and out bribery, even if it were legal, wouldn’t help.

2 thoughts on “Bribing a Senator?”

  1. Lourain Pennington says:

    The article I read about the “million dollar bribe” said that it would go to Collins’ opponent if Collins voted for Kavanaugh, not to Collins.

    1. I stand corrected. I’ve changed the blog to reflect more accurate information.

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