157 of 163 people found the following review helpful
on January 21, 2004
It was President Theodore Roosevelt who said, "Talk softly and carry a big stick." This applies today in a way that Roosevelt was not speaking about when he delivered his famous statement. Roosevelt was talking about foreign affairs, but Charles Lewis demonstrates unmistakably that this maxim applies today in the campaign finance realm.
Lewis, the head of the Center for Public Integrity, relates fascinating facts about how the big money of special interests is the big stick that generates the necessary talk to achieve results. One does not even have to talk loudly, just incessantly enough to achieve the objective at hand, bolstered by the big stick of unceasing gobs of cash. He lets us know, for instance, that 40 members of the U.S. Senate are millionaires. These are people highly familiar with big money and its useful application. He also informs us that surveys indicate that the candidates raising the largest amounts of money will be the respective nominees of the Democrats and Republicans at election time. He cites an example of one candidate who pocketed money from a pharmaceuticals company and earned it by speaking on the industry's behalf while he was running for office.
In a recent interview with Bill Moyers on PBS, Lewis conceded that it was difficult to remain optimistic in the floodtide of corporate dominance through the purse string. All the same, he noted, seeing just how outrageously the system operates energizes him to make efforts to inform the public about the calamity we face.
Abraham Lincoln and Harry Truman have been mentioned repeatedly in civics books to demonstrate to youngsters that with hard work and application an individual from modest roots can reach the presidency. The staggering reality today is that many politicians have become no more than unblushing bag men. Such is the case with the presidency itself as George W. Bush spends a significant amount of time away from his White House desk, picking up vasts sums of money at quick stops. It was suggested recently that perhaps he can avoid the facade of speaking at a dinner where donations are given, saving time by just grabbing the money and moving on to his next stop.
Lewis notes that there is an inverse relationship between the overpowering dominance of big money in campaigns and the participation of citizens. Many, understandably, after observing the travesty of money chases masquerading as American democracy, opt out of the system altogether. As the money influence grows, more citizens stay home on election day, a sad and tragic consequence of a system that has run amuck as quests for public office have degenerated into special interest bidding wars.
94 of 97 people found the following review helpful
The question to ask this election season is not, repeat, not: "Which candidate will turn away from special interests?" As meticulously documented by the Center for Public Integrity in "The Buying of the President 2004", every candidate -- from richest to poorest, from the incumbent (Bush) down to the underfunded (Kucinich, Sharpton, etc.) -- gets their money from some political action committee (PAC) or other. The back cover blurb for BOP04 asks four questions about where candidates get their funding: the answer to two of those questions is "Joe Lieberman".
"Buying of the President 2004" runs nearly 500 pages, and I can honestly say I learned something new on nearly every page. The book begins with a series of three loosely connected essays about the state of the American electoral system, surveying the wreckage of the 2000 campaign (from the Bush teams coyly racist ploy to subvert John McCain in Arizona), to the 2000 election aftermath (you'll be surprised at the extent of voter disfranchisement in Florida), to which major corporations fund which parties. Most shocking is that News Corp -- the people who brought you Fox News Channel -- rank among the Democrats' top 50 donors over the last quarter century, but not among the Republicans'. BOP04 names the corporate names, and provides the dollar figures.
The second portion of the book is the political expose on President Bush -- from his New England birth and sheltered Yale education, to his disastrous years as an oil magnate, to his riding ownership of the Texas Rangers all the way to the Governor's mansion and beyond. His presidency is coolly dissected, contribution by contribution, dollar by dollar. You will feel positively unclean after reading these chapters, especially if you voted for him based solely on his debate platform and his "compassionate conservative" campaign talk.
But, BOP04 is not merely partisan slash work. The ten declared Democratic presidential candidates for 2004 are also taken apart by the same dispassionate, and at times sarcastic, eye. The most interesting chapters detail Dennis Kucinich's rocky political career, and Al Sharpton's bizarre financial dealings. The chapters on John Kerry and John Edwards are most significant now. Neither candidate is revealed to be special-interest-free. These chapters come highly recommended, especially as a lot of this information is still not well known out on the stumps.
The book's conclusion is grim. The writing begins to get carried away, especially with the reference to Todd Beamer on the final two pages. They'd already made their point quite clearly through the previous 500 pages. It's hard to wrestle with the facts and dollar signs presented in this book. The real question of the election season then, is not "Is my candidate truly indepedent?", but rather, "Am I comfortable with giving my candidate's financial backers access to the Oval Office?"
That may not be what the Founding Fathers envisioned (or maybe it is). Reading BOP04 did not cause me to change the lever I will pull in my party's primary (or in November), but I do feel a much more informed citizen for having read it.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2004
This book contains enough history about each candidate to make anyone feel confident with their vote. And, unlike almost any other political book I've read, it is suprisingly non-partisan. Furthermore, it really opens you eyes on the political fund raising system and what the candidates actually have to do before the become president.
After reading this book, it will become much easier to see through the candidates rhetoric, and this book or one like it should be a pre-requisite before voting.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2004
I have been doing a lot of research to find a book that provided a non-partisan view of the candidates-- and this book does a superb job of doing just that when it comes to providing information on the significant financial and political roots and decisions of the incumbent president and his rivals. Other reviewers have done a fantastic job of providing a more detailed look into the contents of the pages, so I will not repeat them here.
I'm writing to praise the balanced approach of the text as well as how informative the chapters are on the candidates' backgrounds. This book is the comprehensive work of award-winning investigative journalists who have come together under the non-partisan Center For Public Integrity. The book reads like a continuously-engaging newspaper article and provides analyses backed by records appropriated through the Freedom of Information Act-- records that the politicians cannot hide from, and hope you don't read. That's what makes this book so interesting: the truth it exposes about the candidates crosses all political boundaries, so you are free of potential media bias.
This book provides a wealth of knowledge for someone interested in beginning or expanding their political awareness of the candidates, which is particularly important for an election year like this one. I can only imagine that this book, along with the Center for Public Integrity, will only gain more prominence and clout with the voting public as each election cycle draws near. It certainly has my vote, and I will be certain to keep reading updated editions as they become available.
This book receives my highest recommendation, for its value in the election year decision-making process is priceless.
25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on March 29, 2004
Let me start by saying I do not want George W. Bush re-elected, and I don't have any interest in John Kerry running the White House for the next four years either. I left myself open to have my opinions on American government influenced by this book, but I could never have imagined the magnitude in which this book changed my beliefs of our political process. It's no secret to anyone that money rules each and every major player in our political system. But what this book does is demonstrate just how out of control it's gotten. Author Charles Lewis uses indisputable facts and figures to show the shortcomings each of this year's presidential candidates, especially each candidate's willingness to let money and particular groups dictate the policy he feels is best suited to run the country. He hammers Bush in a bad way, but nothing he says can be considered untrue. Lewis uses the Freedom of Information Act to compile a body of evidence that implicates Bush in a dozen shady financial undertakings and also describes the way in which many of Bush's closest advisers landed high-level positions in government. You simply cannot fathom the number of Bush's advisers who were once employees or board members in companies (pharmaceutical, energy, law firms, etc.) that make up Bush's chief campaign donors. That is, at least until you read this book and Lewis starts listing them one after another. Lewis and the Center of Public Integrity maintained their own integrity by taking a completely non-partisan approach to this book, unafraid to tackle Bush and Democratic challengers alike. I cannot wait until 2008 to see what Lewis uncovers next. Hopefully, Bush and his cronies (or Kerry, for that matter) won't further gut our rights as Americans and refuse us the right to read it -- and Lewis' right to write it.
21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2004
This book is THE benchmark for investigative journalism done by the people at [...] An honest, fair and balanced presentation of the facts surrounding the Democratic candidates for President 2004 (which has since been whitled down to Kerry) and President Gearge W. Bush. You simply cannot say you are an informed voter until you read this book.
38 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on February 26, 2004
Before the November elections, the responsible voter should first read this book. This book discloses funding information that the candidates would rather you not focus on in the November election. There is no wonder why issues like gay marriage have been pushed to the forefront by Bush in order to distract the average voter from bigger issues like the fact that democracy no longer exists in America. Our democracy is for sale. Capital Hill is for sale. You don't even need to have the most votes to become the President and this is not about to change. When looking at the facts, it is obvious that Washington DC is corporate occupied territory. For anyone with their head in the sand for the past 4 years, you may be alarmed by the facts on the Bush administration. The only presidential candidate who can't be bought by corporate America is Ralph Nader. Read this book and the facts will speak loud and clear on each candidate. Your vote is truly insignificant to the influence of the all mighty dollar. The problem is so ingrained in our system such that government agencies such as the USDA no longer work to protect the interests of the taxpayers, it works to protect the interests of large corporations and it works as an insider in the same industries it oversees to maintain the current structure of non-sustainable food production methods in order to protect current profits. (The cow with Mad Cow Disease in WA state was not a downer cow according to the actual cow owner/farmer, this is contrary to what the USDA officially reported that is was a downer.) It's time for the average American to wake up, listen to non-biased, not for profit media like National Public Radio, read books such as this one which focus on facts, and ignore the propaganda you receive from most major media outlets. And then vote your conscious and make sure your voice is heard. PS. I'm a Republican but I'll be voting for Nader to oust Bush and to oust the influence of the dollar on legistlation. Power to the people.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2004
We are brought up to believe that our vote really counts. We think that we are voting for the honest politician. We thought that our candidate hadn't sold his soul to a corporation or political action committee.
Here the author describes a system that cannot operate without money from various sources that want to influence public policy. In order to be a "public servant" it is necessary to accept money from donors. Of course there is no question of getting something for nothing, there has to be some kind of pay back.
This books provides you with the facts.
Unfortunately, the only choice left in this democracy is choosing the candidate that represents the lesser evil.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2004
This book is great! Charles Lewis, does an excellent job on the reporting, and stays unbiased and neutral. It should be a required read for anyone who votes. I urge everyone to read the book and stay just as neutral as Charles Lewis. It does not read as "Republican" or "Democrat." Know what is really going on.....but beware, the infomation could be hazerdous to your Dubaism.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2004
Charles Lewis gets right to the point of how the United States goes about picking our president. It all boils down to money and always as, and Mr. Lewis doesnt pull any punchs in where the money comes from. If you want to find out just where and how the money comes in to the elections this book is a must read. Larry Hobson-Author "The Day Of The Rose