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Last week, amid the ongoing revolution in Ukraine and revolt by ethnic Russians in the east of the county, billionaire Petro Poroshenko was overwhelmingly elected to lead the county. Poroshenko is known as the “Chocolate King” because he made most of his millions running one of the largest chocolate companies in Europe.Managing Editor Christopher Fox Graham

As the former Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, entrepreneurs and the wealthy jumped headfirst into capitalism. Those who were most successful made billions as the rest of population slowly struggled to replace their old communist economy. The billionaires used their wealth to achieve political power — now Ukraine and most of the former states of the Soviet Union are oligarchies rather than full-blown democracies.

Most Americans assume that the United States is the same democracy of our grandparents, however, a recent study released in April by Princeton University titled “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizen” seems to prove that the United States is an oligarchy, although the study uses the term “economic elite domination.”

To most Americans, the knowledge that lobbyists rather than voters have a say in politics is no surprise. The study only makes concrete with data what most of us have already assumed. The study looked at nearly 1,800 policy issues between 1982 and 2002. When the super-rich support a policy, it has a 45 percent chance of being enacted. When they oppose it, it has only an 18 percent chance of becoming law.

The summary of the 42-page study concludes “The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”

Americans enjoy regular elections, but after sending representatives to Congress or state office, the average voter has little say in what they do or how they lead. Lobbyists, instead, dictate to legislators and leaders what their benefactors want.

As the 2014 election cycle heats up, voters will be inundated by ads and calls from politicians. Those elected to Sedona City Council or county office are fortunately beholden to residents and neighbors rather than big money. It’s easier to make elected officials listen if one can speak to them directly at a council or board meeting.

But when access to a politician is limited, it’s the money that talks. We should choose state, federal and national candidates who will represent their constituents and vow to take lobbying out of politics as best they can.

Our American forefathers forever rejected the entrenched power of wealthy lords and princes when they fired the first shots at Lexington and Concord. The voice of the American people should be the word of the voters, not the dollars of lobbyists. It’s our job as voters to make sure our leaders hear us.


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