By Kristine Baumstark (May 3, 2022)
The undue influence of deep-pocket donors threatens to kill us in a variety of ways – polluted groundwater, polluted air, toxic chemical spills, overpriced medications, climate change related wildfires and floods . . . and on and on. Sadly, some Americans are literally dead, thanks to the undue influence that wealthy donors have over our elected officials.
Let’s talk NCDs
You may not have heard the phrase, but non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the leading cause of death and disability globally. NCDs include heart disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, and diabetes.
It sounds crazy, but NCDs are responsible for 7 out of 10 deaths worldwide.
Unhealthy choices as risk factors for NCDs
And now, a study in the March 2022 issue of Social Science & Medicine shows how the ever-present and undue influence of corporations increases NCDs. The report explains that because tobacco, alcohol, and unhealthy foods are contributing risk factors for NCDs, all 194 members of the World Health Organization (WHO) endorsed a set of 12 policies designed to constrain the sale and marketing of these products.
These policies include: tobacco taxation; smoke-free places; plain tobacco packaging and graphic warnings; tobacco advertising bans and mass media campaigns; alcohol sales restrictions, advertising bans, and taxation; salt reduction; trans- and saturated-fat reduction; child junk food marketing restrictions; and restrictions on the marketing of breast-milk substitutes.
Unhealthy but profitable products vs. people
However, the report found that “financial corporate influence is negatively associated with implementation of policies that seek to restrict the marketing, sale, and consumption of unhealthy (but profitable) commodities.” In other words, corporations undermine legislation that would protect people in favor of protecting profits.
As the report concludes, countries without advanced checks and balances are “less able to prevent foreign and domestic corporations from playing outsized roles in policy making.” You might assume that countries like the U.S., with “highly developed political financing regulations and oversight facilities,” would be able to prevent undue financial influence over policy making. You would be wrong. In fact, the report found that the U.S. is underperforming when it comes to implementing those agreed-upon WHO policies.
Reining in the undue influence of corporations requires action
The report goes on to lay out several regulatory opportunities for quashing the financial influence corporations have over legislative policies:
- donation disclosure
- public campaign financing
- banning donations from domestic or foreign business interests
- requiring politicians to disclose financial and/or business interests
- prohibiting legislators from abusing their positions for financial gain
- executive branch oversight
Sadly, Congress won’t act
The U.S. has some of these guard rails already in place, but our campaign finance laws also have mile-wide loopholes and ineffective enforcement. Additional laws would be helpful, but it’s clear that Congress won’t take any action that could cause its deep-pocketed donors to lose money and withdraw support.
For example, the DISCLOSE Act, first introduced to Congress in 2010, would establish new disclosure requirements, provide for greater and faster public disclosure of campaign spending, and combat the use of dark money in U.S. elections. The Act was first passed in the House in 2010, but was defeated in the Senate. Variants of the Act have been re-introduced to each succeeding Congress since 2010. None of them passed in both House and Senate to become law.
The people can act where Congress refuses to do so
When Congress is no longer responsive to the needs of the American people, it’s time for the people to act. That’s why Wolf-PAC is calling for an Article V Convention and 28th Amendment.
Article V of our Constitution provides two ways to amend it: 2/3 of Congress can propose an amendment or 2/3 of the states can apply for a convention to propose an amendment. The Article V convention route is our founders’ safeguard for representative democracy in case our federal government becomes unresponsive to the people.
Once we restore free and fair elections, a newly responsive Congress can start fixing a multitude of problems facing our country – as just one example, restricting the sale and marketing of NCD risk factor commodities. Learn more about how you can help here.
The Wolf-PAC all-volunteer Communications Team created this blog!
- Editing by Caroline Cherry and Brian Martel
- About Global NCDs. (2021, December 17). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/globalhealth/healthprotection/ncd/global-ncd-overview.html
- Allen, L., Wigley, S., & Holmer, H. (2022, March). Assessing the association between Corporate Financial Influence and implementation of policies to tackle commercial determinants of non-communicable diseases: A cross-sectional analysis of 172 countries. Social Science & Medicine. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953622001319
- Cloutier, J. (2022, March 24). While Texas’ top oil and gas regulators were deciding whether to permit a disputed oil waste disposal site, their campaigns raised tens of thousands of dollars from donors tied to the case. OpenSecrets.org. https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2022/03/texas-regulators-deciding-disputed-oil-waste-disposal-permit-recieved-thousands-dollars-donors-tied-case
- Davis, R. (2019, February 22). Polluted by Money: How corporate cash corrupted one of the greenest states in America. The Oregonian/OregonLive. https://projects.oregonlive.com/polluted-by-money/part-1
- DISCLOSE Act. (n.d.). Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DISCLOSE_Act
- Firozi, P. (2019, June 20). The Energy 202: Want to address climate change? Fix campaign finance first, 2020 Democrats say. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/the-energy-202/2019/06/20/the-energy-202-want-to-address-climate-change-fix-campaign-finance-first-2020-democrats-say/5d0a5bc3a7a0a47d87c56d5a/
- Kopp, E. (2014, February 12). Eastman Part of Coalition that Quashed Stricter Bill on Chemicals. OpenSecrets.org. https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2014/02/eastman-part-of-coalition-that-quashed-stricter-bill-on-chemicals/
- Yu, Y. S. (2019, September 25). Big Pharma invests millions as Congress readies drug pricing bills. OpenSecrets.org. https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2019/09/big-pharma-invests-millions-drug-pricing-bills/