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Powells.com
Saturday, February 14th, 2004


 

The Buying of the President 2004: Who's Really Bankrolling Bush and His Democratic Challengers -- and What They Expect in Return

by Charles Lewis

A review by Gerry Donaghy

In a publishing season that has seen the number of George Dubya books published explode exponentially (love him or hate him, the man is a publishing gold mine), it is quite refreshing to see what, in my opinion, has to be one of the most non-partisan books on politics out there. The Buying of the President 2004 by Charles Lewis and the Center for Public Integrity is essential election time reading.

To set the stage for the upcoming elections, Lewis examines the many mistakes that were made in the 2000 presidential election. From Republican election officials who greeted with a shrug the accidental purging of thousands of eligible voters from the voting rolls, to the Democrats who attempted to have absentee ballots cast by overseas military personnel thrown out, few stones are left unturned.

From there Lewis examines the financial entanglements that mire the political process. This book is like having a smoke-filled room in the palm of your hand. Not only does it reveal who donated money to which candidate, it also illuminates a little discussed practice called bundling, where individual contributors can skirt their way around the $1,000 maximum contribution by agreeing in writing to raise $100,000 by soliciting 100 friends and family to contribute $1,000 each. In the George W. Bush parlance, this makes you a Pioneer, if you can get 200 contributions, you can be called a Ranger. Everybody has an agenda, and it's easy to see whose favors are being returned through legislation.

Without explicitly stating this, the authors drive home the point that politics in America is a flawed system, where voting means finding a candidate whose agenda closely matches yours or at least picking the candidate that disgusts you least. In an election where it seems like the Democratic nominee will be picked solely on the basis of whether he can beat George W. in the fall or not, this book is required reading.


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