File:USCurrency Federal Reserve.jpg

Warning: this may be painfully obvious. Just in case you, for some reason I can’t fathom, had doubts that money buys influence in Washington our friends in the ivory tower decided to perform a scientific experiment to prove it.

Joshua Kalla at Yale University and David Broockman at the University of California, Berkeley wanted to demonstrate that campaign donors were more highly valued to members of Congress than regular constituents (I warned you). So in partnership with CREDO Action they performed a field experiment to show that the wheels of government turn faster for those that promise to lubricate the gears with cash.

The experiment was performed by CREDO fellows sending emails to congressional offices with one of two different letters advocating the member of Congress co-sponsor a bill:

The first e-mail had the subject line: “Meeting with local campaign donors about cosponsoring bill.” The body of the e-mail said that about a dozen CREDO members “who are active political donors” were interested in meeting with the member of Congress in his or her home district to discuss the legislation.

The second e-mail stripped out the donor references and instead said “local constituents” were looking to meet the member of Congress.In both cases, CREDO organizers noted that if a House member was not available, the group sought to meet with the most senior staffer available

The email went out to 191 members of Congress all of the “same party” (Democrats). And, wait for it, the people that sent the email that included the reference to “donors” got significantly more access than those who did not.

Why aren’t you surprised? Be surprised you cynical curmudgeons.

The results: Only 2.4 percent of the offices made the member of Congress or chief of staff available when they believed those attending were just constituents, but 12.5 percent did when they were told the attendees were political donors.

Also, nearly one in five of the donor groups got access to a senior staffer, while just 5.5 percent of the constituent groups did. That means the donors had more than three times the access to top staffers than the constituents.

Just remember that money is speech and corporations are people. Sigh.

When leaving the Constitutional Convention Benjamin Franklin was asked what the convention had wrought he answered “A republic, if you can keep it.” Sorry Ben, we couldn’t. The money was too damn good and power so seductive. Now we have an empire that spans the globe and a coin-operated Congress. Principles are ironically easier to afford when you have nothing.

Oh well, play me out Ruthie.

Image from Federal Reserve under public domain.