Bribing people with big bags of money or expensive gifts is so 20th century. Not only is it gauche to carry around suitcases full of hundred dollar bills, it is also stupid. Basically the only time American politicians ever get in trouble for corruption is when they accept really expensive Rolexes while in office or are literally caught with a freezer full of cash.
The perfectly legal way to influence policy makers is to simply let it be known that if they hold favorable voting positions, they will very likely be rewarded with lucrative jobs. There is no need for a quid pro quo or even explicit promise as long as a clear and consistent norm is established. This is what happened to Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA). From Market Watch:
Talk about victory in defeat: Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor will be pulling in about $3.5 million thanks to his new job with Wall Street investment bank Moelis & Co.
It’s a huge raise for the Virginia Republican, whose salary as majority leader was a lowly $193,400.
Cantor, whose Republican primary loss to little-known Dave Brat stunned Washington, will open an office for Moelis & Co. in the nation’s capital and also work out of its New York City office.
This was about more than just Cantor. Every member of Congress has seen this news and gotten the implied message.
We have 20th century anti-corruption laws that are completely inadequate for 21st century issues of good governance. If you want to know why there is such a huge disconnect between what regular people want on economic policy and our what our “democratically elected” legislature vote for, this is likely at the heart of the problem.
Photo by Gage Skidmore under Creative Commons license