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October 12, 1988 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1988-10-12

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Page 8 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, October 12, 1988

The Best Congress
Money Can Buy
By Philip Stern
Philip Stern's lurid tale of
corruption in the halls of power reads
like a modern-day revision of Capra's
movie Mr. Smith Goes to
Washington. Though he meticu-
lously documents just how un-
democratic the U.S. electoral system
has become, Stern's genuine outrage
over the financial abuses which
thwart that system seems rather
naive. Money has always played an
excessive role in the American polit-
ical system, from the scandals sur-
rounding Presidents Grant and
McKinley through Watergate, Ab-
scam, and Wedtcch. But while he ac-
knowledges this sordid history, Stern
chooses to see the Political Action
Committees (PACS) which are the
focus of his book as a freak aberra-
tion rather than as part of a bigger
Nonetheless, Stern's account is
enough to turn the stomach of even
the most cynical political observer.
In chapter after unrelenting chapter,
he documents how the enormous
sums of money that PACs can bring
to bear on the political process have
changed votes, narrowed the
ideological spectrum, and made it
nearly impossible for the average
citizen to have any influence over her
or his elected representatives.
PACS began to proliferate, ironi-
cally enough, as a response to the
electoral corruption of the Nixon
years. In the post-Watergate electoral
reforms of 1974, rigid limits were
placed on the amount of money that
an individual contributor could donate
to a federal campaign. Ostensibly
these measures created a framework
in which the members of Congress
would be responsible to all of their
constituents, rich and poor. Instead,
they created PACS - lobbying
combinations that pooled the money
of individual contributors to allow
for even bigger influence buyers than
had existed before.
Just how big? How powerful in
swaying congressional votes? In June
of 1984, Senator Dole did a 180 de-
gree flip-flop, voting for legislation
that gave 333 commodity traders
special privileges amounting to $300
million dollars. He had blocked a
similar plan three years earlier,
accusing the Democrats who voted

for it then of being influenced by
PAC money. Why the switch?
Might it not have had something to
do with the $85,000 the commodity
industry PACS contributed to Dole's
campaign, up to just three weeks be-
fore the vote?
Even more damning than his
numerous individual portraits of
representatives such as Dole and
Adams are Stern's analyses of the
connections between PAC money
and how Congress as a whole voted
on a particular issue. In 1985,
Congress voted to increase a sugar
subsidy and import quotas on sugar,
even though there are only twelve
thousand sugar growers in the United
States. The result was chaos for the
Caribbean and a real bite out of the
average U.S. citizen's pocketbook
($41 extra dollars a year in a country
that already pays more than twice as
much for sugar as a resident of
Canada). 100% of congressional reps
who received more than $5,000 sugar
PAC dollars voted with the sugar
industry; 97% receiving $2,500-
$5,000 voted with sugar.
Nor does this astounding break-
down represent an ideological,
"Republican-Democrat" split. PACS
are much more impartial than that,
giving an astounding 88% of their
monies to incumbents (which may
help explain how a whopping 98%
of congressional incumbents were
returned in the 1986 elections). Once
a PAC has "invested" in a candidate,
why throw the money away? It is a
lot easier to continue building that
special kind of relationship whose
dubious results are sketched above.
Never mind the average voter.
It is with the average voter in
mind that Stern devotes the final
section of his book to possible
institutional reforms, including an
elimination of PACS and federally
funded congressional elections. Both
are worthwhile suggestions, but as is
the case throughout his book, Stern
attacks a symptom of the problem
under the illusion that he is
eliminating the cause.
The connections between money'
and government go beyond election
money; they are reflected in the
avowedly capitalist ideology of both
the Democratic and Republican par-
ties. If Stern is truly interested in
expanding the ideological parameters
within which American political de-
bate can take place - as he claims to
be - his proposal for federally
funded elections needs to take account

- -- - - -------- --


And So Are
You takes off
E VERY bard has some type of ideal, some goal to strive for.
Lansing's And So Are You claim that one of their goals is to play for
our somewhat distant neighbors in the Great White North.
"You might not realize it," explained Mike Pale, one of the band's
two guitarists, "but those Northern Canadians can really boogie."
Formed a little over a year ago, And So Are You quickly became
Lansing-area favorites. Their early success culminated when the band
won a battle of the bands sponsored by a Lansing concert venue.
Their prize: 10 hours of free recording time in a studio. Guitarist
Ray Sign maintains that the band did indeed use up all that time in
recording their first, four-song tape.
And So Are You find their inspiration in playing a style of rock
that uses rhythm and blues as a springboard in the development of
their sound, but they are not stylistically confined. Their tape in-
cludes the funky "Talk About It" as well as the more pensive "Look
Where We Are Today." "I think we lay down a heavy groove. We
start with a rhythm and blues base and take off from there," Pale told.
Although striving for some kind of definitive sound, Sign said that
the band doesn't actually know what that sound is. "Anything that
puts on a heavy rhythm is enjoyable for us," said Sign. Currently,
the band is experimenting with reggae songs, although that style, too,
serves merely as a stepping stone in And So Are You's quest for their
own sound.
Perhaps jumping backwards a couple of stones, Sign stated, "We
do play Spinal Tap." Pale revealed that the band's favorite Spinal Tap
album is their twenty-third, and that the band would probably like all
of their other albums if only they could find them.
Since their tape was released last November, the band has written
several more originals. Sign told that the band plans to have a new
tape available by the end of the year. "This tape will have about six
songs," he said, adding that this tape will be better suited for demo
purposes than their previous tape. Sign feels that this new tape
should not only represent the band for its audience, but should be able
to represent the band to record companies as well, although so far And
So Are You has not made an effort, at least consciously, in trying to
get signed to a label.
As for playing in Ann Arbor, the band enjoys the atmosphere.
Although only a quarter of their set consists of originals (the rest be-
ing covers ranging from JamesrBrown's "I Feel Good" to David
Bowie's "Golden Years"), they find that audiences in Ann Arbor are
especially receptive to those originals. "Last time we played Ann Ar-
bi. were was 2 huge crowd," exclaimed Sign.
AND SO ARE YOU play tonight at Rick's American Cafe, 611




J. 1 117 IB Y T-*T


of third parties, which it largely fails
to do. And he needs to grapple with
the possibility of a parliamentary
system, where the absence of a
"winner take all" approach to elec-
tions allows a space for ideologically.
marginalized parties.
In the interim, The Best Congress
Money Can Buy provides an ade-
quate and entertaining introduction to
the sorts of problems spawned by
"democracy" U.S. style. Though
Stern fails to take his revelations to
their logical conclusion, he provides
ample ammunition for those who
are not only nauseated by the current
state of electoral politics, but also
willing to recognize how many
things in addition to election laws
must change in U.S. politics before

we can expect real reform.
- Mike Fischer
Continued from Page 7
Officer Wood. His statements, jux-
taposed with those of a man who
turned state's evidence against him,
point to the serious abuses carried
out by the cops and the prosecution.
Morris' portrayal of the events in the
case makes it clear that the idea was
not to find the person who killed
Robert Wood, but rather to lock up
someone as soon as possible. If cop
killers aren't found, the cops appear


vulnerable and the blue line becomes
thinner. This would frighten believ-
ers in law and order, and, after all,
the life of an innocent person is a
small price to pay forthe survival of
civilized and ordered society.
Though the film is primarily a
documentary, the juxtaposition of
statements and repetition of key el-
ements creates suspense and
manipulates the audience. The Carol
Burnett Show becomes an integral
part of Adams' analysis; the location
of a milkshake undermines the tes-

timony of Officer Wood's partner.
Scenes are re-created and repeated and
reorganized, and the pieces of the
puzzle start to come together.
Randall Adams was originally
sentenced to death, though his sen-
tence was later commuted to life
imprisonment. This fact becomes
more and more horrifying as Morris
provides a clear idea of why Randall
Adams was convicted as a cop killer.
At any cost, the thin blue line will
be maintained.




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