Keeping politics clean

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 March, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 March, 2002, 12:00am

The United States is held up as a democratic model, but deficiencies revealed by the last presidential election and scandals over political donations have tainted that image. Congress has attempted to correct matters by passing a bill limiting election funding and influence-peddling.

It was inevitable that the economic excesses of the 1990s would eventuate in ever closer liaison between big business and politics. The association has always been there, but greed became almost synonymous with good and hundreds of millions of dollars passed into political coffers. Politics became a business where only the rich can survive.

In the American context - and increasingly elsewhere - money has damaged politics. This has long been recognised and questioned, but it is only with the collapse of the energy giant Enron and the wake-up call of the September 11 terrorist attacks that the push for reform won a majority.

Enron's contributions to President George W. Bush's Republican Party clearly influenced policy decisions. Its spectacular demise highlighted what was wrong with America and Congress has bravely moved to right what is wrong.

Hurdles lie ahead. Mr Bush says he will sign the bill, although it is not perfect. Opponents will take the issue to court because the First Amendment of the US Constitution, the right to free speech, is allegedly being violated.

It is to be hoped the bill is signed into law soon and that opposition measures fail. American lawmakers have recognised and are attempting to correct flaws in their system of government. Other governments should follow the lead and ensure money and politics remain a reasonable distance apart.