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Each Monday, Tommy Tomlinson delivers thoughtful commentary on an important topic in the news. Through these perspectives, he seeks to find common ground that leads to deeper understanding of complex issues and that helps people relate to what others are feeling, even if they don’t agree.

Why Do The Super-Rich Think They Can Buy Influence? Billions Of Reasons.

Tommy Tomlinson

You can argue about how Greg Lindberg ended up in a room with North Carolina insurance commissioner Mike Causey, talking about a bribe.

But you can’t argue about what Lindberg said, because the conversation was being recorded.

Lindberg thought one of Causey’s deputies was being too hard on one of his companies. Lindberg wanted her out and his handpicked replacement put in. And if Causey would do that, Lindberg said, “We’ll put the money in the bank.”

The money, according to federal indictments, added up to $2 million that Lindberg and his associates pledged to funnel into Causey’s reelection campaign. That led to charges of fraud, conspiracy and bribery, and the trial currently playing out in federal court in Charlotte.

Lindberg’s lawyers are arguing that he was entrapped – basically talked into offering the bribe. That’s for the jury to decide. But what seems clear is this: At some point, Lindberg became convinced he could just buy himself a new regulator.

And, to be honest, why wouldn’t he believe that?

To say money influences politics is sort of like saying hydrogen and oxygen influence water. But these last few months have shouted it loud and clear to not just the people in the back, but the ones outside the stadium and two towns over.

Two billionaires entered the race for the Democratic nomination for president. You know Mike Bloomberg – well, if you didn’t know him, you definitely do now, because he has bought advertising time on all the major networks and the inside of your eyelids.

The other billionaire was Tom Steyer, who made his money in hedge funds, which I bet you didn’t know, because nobody was sure why Tom Steyer was running, possibly including Tom Steyer. He seemed to come to the same conclusion when he dropped out of the race on Saturday, as votes were being counted in the South Carolina primary.

Steyer put millions of dollars into his South Carolina bid, wore a plaid tie to the debate in Charleston, and even danced at a campaign rally with the rapper Juvenile to a song whose title you're going to have to look up for yourself. All it got him was a distant third place and a lot of catering bills.

Steyer seemed to believe — and Bloomberg still seems to believe — that if you walk into a room with a big enough bankroll, you can walk out witih anything you want. For most of their lives, that’s probably been true. And it seems especially true today, where our current president might not actually be a billionaire, but certainly plays one on TV.

That’s the climate we’re in. So it doesn’t seem surprising that someone like Greg Lindberg would think a little bit of his money would buy him the government he wanted. The surprising thing, at least to me, is that it didn’t work.

Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column normally runs every Monday on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at ttomlinson@wfae.org.

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