Authors discuss money in politics at Seminary Co-op

Authors Wendell Potter (left) and Nick Penniman (right) stopped by the Seminary Co-op Bookstore, 5751 S. Woodlawn Ave., Tuesday, March 1, to discuss their new book, "Nation On The Take."
Authors Wendell Potter (left) and Nick Penniman (right) stopped by the Seminary Co-op Bookstore, 5751 S. Woodlawn Ave., Tuesday, March 1, to discuss their new book, “Nation On The Take.”

-Owen Lawson III

By SAM RAPPAPORT
Staff Writer

Authors Wendell Potter and Nick Penniman stopped by the Seminary Co-op Bookstore, 5751 S. Woodlawn Ave., Tuesday, March 1, to discuss big money’s suffocating grip on our nation’s democracy. In their new book, “Nation On The Take,” Potter and Penniman illustrate an American government that is controlled, at every level, by special interest groups.

Both of the authors started their careers as reporters. Potter, once a health insurance industry executive, is currently a senior analyst at the Center for Public Integrity, an investigative journalism organization. Penniman is the executive director of Issue One, an organization with the goal of reducing the influence of money in politics.

The authors prefaced the issue of money in politics as today’s number one threat to American democracy.

Penniman encouraged event attendees to view action on this issue as a democratic imperative.

“This is a tough fight–cleaning up money in politics,” Penniman said, “but when you read about Washington’s men dying of hypothermia at Valley Forge, this is nothing compared to that.”

According to the authors, $10 billion will be spent on this year’s election cycle. The Koch bothers alone, the authors said, have pledged to spend $900 million in this year’s election cycle. That dollar amount is larger than the sum of all the campaign contributions that will come from both the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee.

Statistics like these, Potter and Penniman said, begin to show our government’s departure from a democracy to an oligarchy.

“We are at a tipping point now,” Penniman said. “Just as with a stage four cancer, if we act aggressively, and have some luck, we might be able to cure it.”

According to the authors, there are tangible, relatively simple actions that we, as a public, can take to combat the overwhelming influence of special interest money across all forms of government. However, one of the main obstacles to mobilization, the authors said, is apathy.

“There is legislation to fix all of this but there’s not enough public pressure promoting these laws, Penniman said. “We need to realize the power we have to create the revolution we need.”

“Nation On The Take” can be purchased for $28 at the Seminary Co-op Bookstore.

s.rappaport@hpherald.com