The issue of big money in politics has been pervasive throughout much of human history, and it spirals out into nearly every issue facing America today. Bruce Berlin, president of New Mexicans for Money out of Politics and author of 2016's Breaking Big Money's Grip on America, knows this better than most and discusses the goals of his organization at its upcoming conference this Saturday (8:30 am-4:30 pm Saturday April 28. Free. Santa Fe Community College, 6401 Richards Ave., 428-1000). Get more info and a schedule at nmmop.org/conference.
When did you get involved in this issue?
I think it started in the early 2000's with the Iraq war. It wasn't a war for freedom or liberating Iraq; it was a war for Iraqi oil. It was started because [George W] Bush and Cheney were oil people, and the oil industry wanted to get ahold of Iraqi oil. So we, as a country, went to war to liberate the oil, not the people. That was clearly a war for profit. And then the same thing happened with Obamacare; it was partly about getting better healthcare. Obama negotiated from the very beginning—three months into his administration—with the healthcare industry, the insurance industry and the pharmaceutical industry to find out how far he could go in getting some kind of healthcare provision without interfering with their profits, and actually multiplying their profits. And then with the Great Recession. Obama didn't do anything about punishing all those people on Wall Street who created the big bubble in the housing market that ending up costing a lot of people their homes and their jobs. It was because he got a lot of donations from Wall Street. He made sure that they were protected more than the American people were protected. It's not partisan. It's everybody.
How did the 2016 election influence the movement to get money out of politics?
There wasn't much of a focus on getting money out of politics until recently. There was focus on health care, on the environment, on climate change, on immigration reform—but in terms of money in politics being a big issue … it wasn't a big issue. Even now, it's not the number one issue. In my view it should be, because all the other issues are affected by it. The fact is, it's just beginning to gain momentum as a major issue.
What's the goal of Saturday's conference?
We're trying to create a coalition of all the different organizations, like Common Cause New Mexico, New Mexico Working Families Party and New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence, that deal with various issues and help them realize that they're all hindered by the same problem: big money. Unless they spend some of their time and energy on this issue, they're always going to be one step forward, two steps back. We're trying to not just get an understanding, but a strategy to get big money out of politics. It has to be a priority.