The outcome of the 2004 Presidential election is not certain. However, one thing is for sure; no matter who wins the election, Bush or Kerry, Corporate America will be in control.

The corporations and big donors have spent millions on both campaigns to ensure that the interests of the super rich will be represented fully in the White House. Corporate donors from all major sectors of the economy are spending unprecedented millions on both campaigns.

While everyone knows Bush’s corporate credentials, Kerry’s big cash connections come as a surprise to some.

Kerry has received $6.75 million from finance and investment firms, ensuring Wall Street will continue to rake in millions without being taxed. Kerry has received $1.3 million from drug companies and insurance agencies to make sure the government doesn’t provide decent healthcare or make generic drugs readily available.

Kerry’s campaign has raked in $14.3 million from lobbyists and corporate lawyers. Kerry’s even gotten $1.6 million from industries directly related to military production. Add to this the fact that Kerry himself is a millionaire bordering on billionaire, and would be the third-richest President in history if he won the election.

The rich elite’s connection to politics is nothing new; big money has always “invested” in politicians. For decades, lobbyists have roamed Washington, giving favors and handouts to politicians that promise to pass laws benefiting the super rich.

Lobbying has grown to the extent that certain industries hire more lobbyists than there are politicians to lobby. Over $700 million is spent every year on lobbying.

In one closed session of Congress, a legislator admitted, “lobbyists provide members [of Congress] with free trips, typically involving stays in luxurious hotels in beautiful places, along with various forms of entertainment, whether it is playing tennis, golf, skiing, you name it.” “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” is a way of life on Capitol Hill.

In the Democratic primaries, both Kerry and Edwards posed as enemies of “special interests” and lobbyists, but their records show the opposite. In his years as a Senator, nobody on Capitol Hill has taken more money from lobbyists than John Kerry. Edwards is also on record taking free trips and money from lobbyists.

How are politicians, corporate executives, and lobbyists so well connected with each other? Partly because many lobbyists are former politicians, many politicians are former corporate executives, and many executives are former lobbyists; and vice-versa for all of those. In short, a swindler is a swindler, no matter what the title.

Over 19% of the most influential lobbyists are former politicians. Some of them even sat on congressional committees designed to regulate the industries that these same ex-politicians now lobby for. The drug company lobby is just one example (see box).

Ralph Nader noted, “Middle-level and top-level corporate executives become mid-level and top-level government regulators and then return to their corporations. The superficially regulated become the regulators and then become the regulated again.” For instance, Dick Cheney is the current Vice President and former CEO of Halliburton, but he is not alone. Many politicians, before and after leaving office, become CEOs; former VPs Al Gore and Dan Quale are two other high-profile examples.

Nader goes on to say, “Through their revolving door officials, donations from executives, day-to-day lobbying by trade associations, company lobbies, and corporate law firms – corporations dominate the actions of government.”

While Nader correctly exposes corporate rule, socialists believe we need to go further and challenge the underlying system of capitalism.

The capitalist system (and many systems before it) is based on the domination of a few and the oppression of many. The political system is designed to ensure the influence of the elite. It is in the interests of the corporations to maximize profits and drive down wages, regulations, and workers’ rights; they can’t be convinced by “citizen checks” to be nicer. Wall Street and their moneybag politicians won’t give up anything without a fight. The rich will defend their interests by controlling the political process; we need to defend our interests, too.

We can fight back by organizing demonstrations and strikes for better pay, conditions, and social services. Working people also need a political party to represent us; this party should stop at nothing to break the grip that Corporate America currently has on politics and the economy. We need a fundamental transformation of society that takes control, once and for all, out of the hands of the rich elite so working people can democratically run society.

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