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US Campaign Funding A “Protection Racket”

Three hundred of America's top executives from major companies have spoken out in a CBS news-poll over US politicians shaking them down for big campaign bucks. In some quarters it's being described as a well-oiled protection racket. John Howard reports.

Running an election campaign anywhere today takes big money - more so if it's for a candidate for US President or Congress.

Over the last 18 months more than $US1.6 billion has been raised by candidates, parties and other political groups involved in the November 7 US presidential and congressional elections.

Almost half of the $1.6 billion came from big corporations and some of them aren't happy about being squeezed.

It's not the business leaders rushing to give money to the politicians, it's the politicians shaking down the business leaders.

Charles Kolb, who heads a business group filled with corporate heavies says, " Many of our people have used the word shakedown. That's how they feel when they get the calls demanding these big dollars."

The CBS poll reveals that 54 percent of corporate executives believe the reason big business gives to politicians is to, "avoid adverse legislative consequences", or to, "buy access to influence", legislation.

But corporate leaders also say the system is broken, it needs to be reformed, they are afraid of the spite of politicians if they don't give, and most of them would like to get out of the system.

What really has the executives in an uproar is not just that politicians now routinely ask for tens of thousands of dollars at a time, but the image of corporate America is consistently being tarnished because of it.

In New Zealand, eyebrows were raised earlier this year when it was revealed that some companies had made significant financial contributions to political parties.


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