None of the other contenders in the GOP prime-time debate Thursday in Cleveland disputed Donald Trump’s characterization of a U.S. government controlled by private money.

Trump had bragged that he could buy politicians, including those on the stage with him. In a previous interview he’d said: “When you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do.”

“You’d better believe it,” he said in the debate. “If I ask them, if I need them, you know, most of the people on this stage I’ve given to, just so you understand, a lot of money.”

The only complaints came from two candidates who insisted that Trump hadn’t given them any money. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said Trump had donated to his Democratic opponent, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich said, “I hope you will give to me.”

Trump replied: “Sounds good. Sounds good to me, governor.”

Lee Fang writes at The Intercept:

Without missing a beat, the real estate tycoon continued: “I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And you know what? When I need something from them, two years later, three years later, I call them, and they are there for me.” He added, “And that’s a broken system.”

Repeatedly asked what he got in return for his donations, Trump said: “With Hillary Clinton, I said be at my wedding and she came to my wedding. You know why? She didn’t have a choice because I gave. I gave to a foundation that, frankly, that foundation is supposed to do good.”

… Trump was illustrating the key problem with the current campaign finance system. Campaign contributions are legally considered bribes only when there is an explicit quid-pro-quo. But as Trump explained, giving money to politicians bought him access and relationships, which he could leverage down the road in the form of favors. Such conflicts of interest are inherent in privately funded election systems.

Meanwhile, independent socialist and Democratic candidate for the presidency Bernie Sanders has pledged not to fund his campaign with super PAC money.

Read more here.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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