Can Politicians be Manipulated?

Why do politicians pass legislation that is obviously contrary to the wishes of their constituents?  Undoubtedly there are politicians who vote contrary to their constituents’ wishes out of principle.  But at the risk of sounding paranoid, there may be more sinister reasons.

It is not a secret that the government occasionally spies upon it citizens. We know that Attorney General Robert Kennedy authorized the wiretapping of Martin Luther King Jr. It is a matter of record that First Lady Hillary Clinton had more than 900 FBI files in her possession at one point during her time in the White House. It is also a matter of record that Kathleen Willey’s personal protected information was released to the public. Also during the Lewinsky affair, officials at the Department of Defense leaked Linda Tripp’s personal information to the press.

These may be considered isolated cases where a small number of individuals violated the law. These things happen. However, what if government surveillance is more extensive? Perhaps Congresswoman Maxine Waters let that particular cat out of the bag. On February 4, 2013 Congresswoman Waters told journalist Roland Martin:

The president has put in place an organization with the kind of database that no one has ever seen before in life. That’s going to be very, very powerful. That database will have information about everything on every individual on ways that it’s never been done before and whoever runs for President on the Democratic ticket has to deal with that. They’re going to go down with that database and the concerns of those people because they can’t get around it. And he’s [President Obama] been very smart. It’s very powerful what he’s leaving in place.

If Congresswoman Waters is correct, this could be a powerful tool for any administration.  Could it be used to influence legislation?  Could it influence court decisions?  

Government officials are vulnerable in two areas: sex and money. State Department officials are warned about what Soviet defector Victor Kravchenko called “Liubyanka ladies.” These young ladies are employed by foreign governments to entrap unsuspecting government officials, journalists, and businessmen into compromising situations. (this was, of course, standard procedure under the USSR) More often, however, people engage in extramarital affairs that could possibly destroy their careers. Is it plausible that intelligence agencies are unaware of these activities even when they do not initiate them? This knowledge can be kept in reserve for when it is necessary to remove an uncooperative official. How long did the FBI know about General David Petraeus’ affair before he was induced to resign? There are also those who indulge in more unconventional sexual appetites. Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert  appeared to be a stodgy and respectable politician, yet he had a past that he was desperate to conceal. Were officials in the government unaware of his past?  Rep. Mark Foley and Senator Larry Craig also had unconventional sexual preferences. What compromises would they be willing to make in order to conceal their behavior? 

The second area of vulnerability is money. It’s interesting to note how many congressmen and senators enter government with modest means and retire as millionaires. How did Speaker Hastert, a former schoolteacher, acquire a fortune large enough to pay a $3.5 million dollar bribe?  Where did Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. acquire the funds to buy a $40,000 Rolex?  

Foreign intelligence agencies also maintain files on American politicians. With widespread computer hacking they are obviously aware of activities that these politicians would prefer to keep secret. Would a foreign power hesitate to attempt to influence legislation? Within the government there are also competing power blocs that have embarrassing information. According to Edward Klein in his book Unlikeable: The Problem with Hillary, former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, told the president to, “Call off your (bleep) dogs.”  She was more concerned about the damaging leaks of her emails than the investigation by the FBI.  The Obama administration obviously has information that Hillary Clinton would prefer not to have made public. Hillary Clinton also has information that the Obama administration would prefer to keep secret.

John Dietrich is a freelance writer and the author of The Morgenthau Plan: Soviet Influence on American Postwar Policy, Algora Publishing, 2013.