May 19, 2006



Scratching the backs of corporate backer
by Jim Hightower

When corporations give money to the lawmakers who do legislative favors for them, some hotheads are quick to label such transactions as "bribery." But that's such an ugly term. Members of congress prefer to use a kinder and gentler phrase: "constituent services."

Take Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton, for example. She has recently been of tremendous service to the Corning Corporation, which is a bit odd, since Corning has always been a solidly Republican bastion. In recent years, however, the upstate New York manufacturing giant has put $137,000 into Hillary's campaign coffers, becoming her second largest donor.

This political switch is not casual or coincidental — it's business. Clinton, you see, has gone out of her way to become Corning's leading champion in Washington, using her substantial influence to do favors that give a big boost to the corporation's bottom line. In 2004, for example, the Chinese government imposed a tariff on Corning's fiber optic products, charging the company with illegally undercutting the prices of Chinese firms. Corning ran to Hillary for protection and she promptly launched a personal push. She upbraided China's top trade official, summoned the Chinese Ambassador to her office, and even collared George W to get him personally involved — finally compelling the Chinese to drop the tariff.

One month after she began providing this service, Corning's chairman held a fund-raiser for Hillary in his home, quietly sacking up $46,000 for her re-election campaign. "When you are down and somebody gives you a hand," explained Corning's top lobbyist, "you have to remember that."

They can call such scratch-my-backism constituent service, but again and again in Washington, it's the backs of big corporate donors that get scratched by both parties. This is why we need public financing of elections, thus eliminating the need to do favors in exchange for corporate campaign money.

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Let’s Stop Beating Around the Bush, on sale from Viking Press. For more information, visit www.jimhightower.com


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