Column, 270 words

Another Corporate Path for Buying our Government

Governors associations give companies special access in exchange for a steep fee.

Jim Hightower

Like the five-man majority of Supreme Court justices, perhaps you’ve been worried sick over the possibility that corporations just don’t have enough power over our government.

If so, let me soothe your fevered brow by showing that election spending is just one path that corporations take to buy our government. Many other lanes are also open to them. There, feel better now?

One wide-open path is through both the Republican and Democratic governors’ associations. Both outfits offer corporate “membership” packages that literally let drug-makers, utilities, tobacco companies, and other industrial giants buy their way inside these two powerful groups. For annual dues of up to $250,000, a corporation’s executives and lobbyists not only get to hobnob with these top state officials, but can also sponsor, organize, and participate in periodic policy discussions with the governors.

Is this a sweet deal for the companies? Absolutely. These corporations have big money at stake on everything from state taxes to regulatory policies, and buying their way into the groups’ gatherings lets them bend the ears of America’s governors–and the governors’ policies too. Regular citizens and public interest groups never get this kind of special access, so it gives the corporate powers a big jump on everyone else.

Last year, for example, some 200 drug industry lobbyists organized a forum on biotechnology for Democratic governors. In this cozy setting, the biotech corporations had a one-sided chance to plead for state subsidies and regulatory favoritism–and practically every governor who attended followed up by pushing for what the industry wanted.

In so many different ways, corporate money doesn’t just talk, it shouts–and drowns out the rest of us.

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He's also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.