Quid pro quo is a Latin phrase that literally means “this for that.” The slang way to say the same thing is, “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” If there is a Virginia politician who understands what that means, it’s Eric Cantor (R-7th).
During this election cycle, the same Wall Street firms that in 2008 gave more money to Democrats than to Republicans, have given less this time around to both parties, with one glaring exception: GOP House whip Cantor.
According to the watchdog group Public Campaign, Cantor accepted more than $460,000 in the second quarter alone from the financial sector – including Goldman Sachs and Bank of America – far more than he has raked in before from that group.
Donors from Goldman Sachs gave $15,600 to Cantor in the second quarter of this year. Donors from Bank of America offered checks totaling $6,000. Equity Group Investments officials forked over $10,800 and American Express employees donated $7,500.
Plus, Cantor raked in $18,250 from registered lobbyists and firms that have Wall Street clients, all of this largess coming (as luck would have it) as Congress was debating the recently passed Wall Street reform bill. Cantor helped lead the GOP fight against any re-regulation of the financiers that caused the worst recession since World War II. Coincidence? If you believe that, I have a great bridge in New York that I’d like to sell you.
David Donnelly, national campaign director for the Public Campaign Action Fund, called on the House Ethics Committee to investigate Cantor for leading the fight against reform while taking huge campaign contributions from the very institutions involved in that reform.
Whether Eric Cantor promised Wall Street that Republicans would stay bought might never be known. But what we do know is that in their efforts to fight financial regulation, Wall Street bet heavily on Cantor by giving large amounts of campaign money to him and his PAC – much more so than in the past. It’s another example of Washington’s money problem: when legislation and fundraising mix, everyday Americans are shut out.
Unfortunately, this quid pro quo is simply “business as usual” in politics, on every level, in the United States. Rather than representing their constituents, politicians are put into the situation where they have to raise large amounts of money to run for office, and then they find themselves beholden first to their benefactors.
Some call it simply gaining “access.” I call it institutional bribery, forced on all politicians by the lack of public financing of elections.
I see no way we can achieve a real representative democracy without public financing of elections and term limits for those holding office. Both of these reforms require changes in the Constitution. I’ll never live to see either.
I, too, would like to see an ethics investigation of Cantor. This particular episode is a blatant attempt by a business sector to curry favor with a politician. Thanks to the Democratic majority in Congress – and a couple of brave Republicans in the Senate – we got “half a loaf” in reform anyway.