This year in my history class, my classmates and I were assigned to make a research paper on a problem in the U.S. today that has historical roots. At first, I had no idea what to write about. There are many problems with our country today, most of which have at least a vague historical root. After a few weeks and a couple topic changes, I decided to watch the news for a few minutes. After seeing the courage and leadership of the Parkland survivors, I decided to do a bit more digging into whether the claims they are making about the NRA bribing government officials were true. They are. After a bit of research, I realized that this had been going on far longer than just a couple decades. As a result, I decided to do some research and find other NRA-types of the past.
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Bribery in America is and has been a major problem. From the very first government of the United States all the way until now, bribery has been one of the most effective ways of getting things done. However, there have been laws passed to mitigate the ability for politicians to take bribes. Although, they may not have been all too effective, or they may have had well-exploitable loopholes. I aim to find such things out.
Since then, there have been examples like Jay Cooke, who gave 50,000 dollars (almost 1 million dollars today) to the Republican party in 1872 (Mother Jones). One historian said that no person had ever before had so much power over a politician. In more recent times, a 2002 politician took approximately 300,000 dollars from pharmaceutical companies to draft a bill limiting the government’s ability to bring drug prices down (Huffington Post). Indeed, these scandals pale in comparison to the example of Boss Tweed. Boss Tweed ran a massive Tammany Hall scandal in which he would put forward massive considerations for voters in the form of jobs, homes, and money (New York Times). In return, he would have each of them vote for the candidate of his choosing.
Today, we do have laws to prevent bribery of government officials. For instance, we have a law preventing donations of $10,000 or more to government officials if the intended purpose of the money is to take a certain stance on an issue or to pass a certain piece of legislation (The Law Reviews). However, there are some loopholes that are pretty easily exploitable in this law and others like it. For instance, the NRA donates millions of dollars a year to politicians, including potentially a lot more through bonds that are very hard to track, without explicitly (or at least publicly) telling the politicians to support any certain bill (BBC News). They can also use their power in different ways, such as publicly rating politicians based on their willingness to take their bribes, which has cost several people their seat in congress (BBC News).
What can we do?
After all my research, I have come to the conclusion that lawmakers will consistently succumb to the money of the NRA and will therefore never change any laws or tighten any restrictions around the acceptance of bribery in our political system, as is proven by the fact that, after hundreds of mass shootings in the U.S., gun laws have barely been changed since the mid-nineties (Time). Therefore, just as the people of the city rose up to defeat Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall, we as a people must rise up to demand change. We must rally, speak, and march until congress is forced to have tighter background checks on the money that our United States representatives are taking. Go to the March For Our Lives near you, lobby your local congressmen, and most importantly, vote! Vote for representatives who you think will reject bribes from the NRA and other related organizations. We need to come together to make change. We must huff and puff and blow down their houses made of money.
Ross, Aaron, et al. “250 Years of Campaigns, Cash, and Corruption.” Mother Jones, WordPress.com, www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/08/campaign-finance-timeline-dark-money/. 25 June 2017,
Berlin, Bruce. “America’s Political System Thrives On Corruption.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/americas-political-system-thrives-on-corruption_us_58d55629e4b0f633072b371f, 26 Mar. 2017.
Cohn, Scott. “Meet America’s Most Crooked Politicians.” CNBC, CNBC, www.cnbc.com/2016/07/28/meet-americas-most-crooked-politicians.html, 28 July 2016.
Mendelsohn, Mark F. “United States – The Anti-Bribery and Anti-Corruption Review – Edition 6.” The Law Reviews, Law Business Research, thelawreviews.co.uk/edition/the-anti-bribery-and-anti-corruption-review-edition-6/1151869/united-states, Jan. 2018.
Jonath, Naomi. “’Boss Tweed’.” The New York Times, The New York Times, www.nytimes.com, /2005/03/27/, books/chapters/boss-tweed.html, 27 Mar. 2005.
“US Gun Control: What Is the NRA and Why Is It so Powerful?” BBC News, BBC, www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-35261394, 8 Jan. 2016.
Gray, Sarah. “A Timeline of Gun Control Laws in The U.S.” Time, Time, time.com/5169210/us-gun-control-laws-history-timeline/, 22 Feb. 2018.
“Part 1: Ark. State Rep. Admits to Taking Bribes – Secure Arkansas – A Grassroots Organization.” Secure Arkansas, securetherepublic.com/arkansas/2017/01/06/part-1-ark-state-rep-admits-taking-bribes/, 7 Jan. 2017.
Online, The Economist. “American Corruption.” The Economist, The Economist Newspaper, www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2012/03/daily-chart-10, 15 Mar. 2012.
CBS/AP. “Women’s March 2018: Global Demonstrations Continue into 2nd Day.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 21 Jan. 2018, www.cbsnews.com/news/womens-march-2018-global-demonstrations-continue-into-second-day/.