Haycox: With Amendment, Americans Can Stop Money’s Corrosive Influence on Politics
September 4, 2014
Alaska Dispatch News
Lincoln Steffens, Ida M. Tarbell and Jacob Riis are not well-known names today, but there was a time when they had household familiarity, along with Upton Sinclair and Ambrose Bierce. They were all Progressive Era muckrakers, reform-minded investigative journalists at the turn of the 20th century who exposed corruption in politics, industry and the financial world. Though Theodore Roosevelt criticized them for their preoccupation with dirt and for being short on solutions to the problems they examined, historians credit them with having helped shape reform policies that curtailed graft and boodle, and restored democratic aspects of American politics.
One of the major reform campaigns of that era aimed to stop corporate and fat cat money from corrupting the U.S. Senate. As originally written, the U.S. Constitution provided that U.S. senators should be elected by state legislatures. But by the last decades of the 19th century, state legislatures had become such easy prey that wealthy corporations and industrial magnates were purchasing senators, who happily did industry’s bidding once elected. Money was even more corrupting at the state and local level.