Governmental and private sector corruption is one of the most fundamental yet underappreciated threats to efficacious and democratic governance, transparency and the rule of law. The founders themselves understood the constant danger of power and wealth seeking by elected officials and the importance of limiting this obstruction of healthy democracy. Today, questions are raised about the nauseating and seemingly never ending injection of money into political campaigns as a means to alter public opinion and the subsequent effects on the integrity of the American democracy.
Since the late 19th century, campaign financing has been a hotbutton issue. Just as it was then, now perhaps more than ever, it is evident that money makes a difference in politics. As understood (and perhaps taken for granted) as that may seem, what is not so obvious is the following: exactly how substantial is that difference (especially on the functioning of our political system and on the formation of our opinions about politics)? Does money help to exaggerate partisan animosity among the populace? How important is disclosure? How financially “dark” is the current presidential race with respect to others in the past, why does this matter and what are the implications for the future of American democracy?
Despite past congressional action being taken in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 as a result of a series of corruption scandals (the Watergate scandal and subsequent resignation of President Richard Nixon) which then illuminated the political ills of corporate corruption and bribery and incensed national ire, the United States anti-corruption regime (with respect to businesses and bribery to overseas entities) has only in the past decade come to life as FCPA prosecutions have skyrocketed and devastating fines and penalties have been doled out. What role does international business play in domestic American politics and vice versa?
The United States Congress in tandem with the Department of Justice and SEC has increasingly cast a scathing eye on those engaged in private-to-public corruption in accordance with the augmentation of international business transactions and the phenomenon of globalization. It has allied with other nations worldwide in an effort to stem corruption with the purpose of promulgating democracy, legitimate governance and civil confidence. What does the United States led effort to address corruption in other states private-to-public matters (such as in Russia in the Sergei Magnitsky bills currently disputed in congress) say about our feelings towards corruption and government? More importantly, are such sentiments reflected in the handling of corruption here at home?
My paper strives to answer some of the questions raised above and to examine the origins of the global American anti-corruption regime, reasons for its recent and constant expansion, and its effects on politics, society and (international and domestic) private enterprise. I am planning to also explore the controversy in the current presidential race with respect to historic amounts of money being injected into campaigns by private entities (and whether or not this private actions corrodes democracy), recent efforts in campaign finance reform and public perceptions on corporate influence in politics.
I really hope that you all are having a fantastic semester thus far. I plan to go through each of your proposals and so as to see if I can be of any assistance in direction or clarity. I am very much in the beginning stages of my paper and any help or opinions would be very much appreciated!
Leonard Horne ’13
International Studies and Spanish