Gary Horton | It’s Time to Get Cash and Corruption Out of American Politics

Headlines are coming at us now so fast and furious it’s like we’re a batter facing nine pitchers at one time. There’s hardly time to read and absorb one disturbing Washington revelation before an even more mind-blowing revelation pops out.

This past week came a truly a sad, demoralizing and avoidable one. With zero notice, President Trump ordered American troops to bail out in Northern Syria, turning backs on our fighting Kurdish allies. These are the awfully brave and self-sacrificing folks who first backed us up in Iraq and, later, helped us round up the dreaded ISIS bad guys. 

Americans like to say, “These colors don’t run,” but we cut and ran on our Kurdish allies and have likely committed thousands of them to death – or worse. And for why? 

Well, there are two Trump towers in Istanbul that have long been subject of controversy and tussle with the Turkish government… But perhaps that’s just appearances. On the other hand, what looks like corruption might actually be corruption. “Quid pro quo” … as we’re hearing these days. Presidents in the past have either sold their businesses or placed them into blind, third-party managed trusts. Not this one, and now appearances – look bad.

America’s betrayal of the Kurds was sad, tragic, hang-your-head-down-as-an-American kind of news. We’re not quite sure how we’re going to live this one down as the whole world witnesses the unnecessary, systematic slaughter of Kurds essentially permitted by our president who has the singular power of office to direct military decisions. It’s not just the Kurds who are hurting as a result of this. America is going to pay hard, too. ISIS war, again?

And just why did this just have to happen? Ask yourself, “Why?”

Moving on, who would have ever thought such a minor country as Ukraine would end up as such a vortex of corruption and intrigue. No one was especially shocked last week when two Russian Rudy Giuliani associates were nabbed in an airport taking a one-way trip to Vienna. Turns out they run fake companies funneling dark Russian money into American political campaigns. Caught, red handed. Friends of Rudy doing dark deals through Ukraine for Russians. Who could have ever imagined?

But wait, there’s more! Today’s headlines pile on with, “Giuliani was paid $500,000 by company founded by arrested associate.” One-half million. Rudy called it, “legit.” Of course, it is.

This whole Ukraine thing is only going to get more alarming and more damning by the day. This could or could not lead to the ultimate impeachment (looking more likely by the day) and removal (also looking more likely by the day, especially with the Kurdish thing) of Donald Trump. But impeachment or not, there’s a lesson here for all of us of all stripes. And it’s a lesson never more starkly and shockingly taught than over these past weeks.

Warning: Non-partisan message ahead. Please lower your political shields and hear what I have to say:

We have GOT TO GET MONEY OUT OF AMERICAN POLITICS. If we want a functioning democracy, where the vote and voice of the people is heard and obeyed, we’ve got to stop the corrupting influence from all corners and all interests.

Last year, many locals were aghast and upset at the flood of outside-the-area cash that propelled Katie Hill to upset Steve Knight. Fair enough critique and understandable. Indeed, money influenced that election, and some feel unfairly so.

We know giant PACs, funded by folks like the Koch’s and Soros and such, have an outsized influence on races local, state, and national. But you and I just get one vote. And we’re also forced to suffer annual onslaughts of postcards, TV ads, phone calls – it all never stops.

Now – what a mess we’re witnessing. Ukrainians, Russians, Saudis, tons of money from all corners – flooding into our elections through internet wars, straight-up cash, and all kinds of corruption – including, these days, elaborate hotel stays at the president’s properties.

America’s democracy corrupted? Can we admit to ourselves that we’ve already lost control of elections free of corruption and interference? Look at it! America’s politics is on sale, both locally and all the world around us.

After this Ukraine affair I hope all sides see this is leading us to a third world situation where votes count far less than connections and cash. Where our own national government can get compromised to the point we actually turn on trusted battlefield allies. Where policies are for sale and Americans are short-sold in the process.

This thing has to change. Many countries allow only public funding of political contests. It’s time for America to wash itself clean from this sticky goo of cash corruption. This is the one lesson we all can take away from the current Washington warfare.

Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.

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