The report from the Center for Public Integrity, Washington DC, which was published recently, reveals that in the last seven years, the media giants of the USA (Time Warner being a prime example) have donated no less than 75 million dollars (2.85 billion roubles) in financial support to political figures. Expenses incurred by the large media companies were, according to the report, 31.7 million dollars (1.2 billion roubles), in 1999, involving 234 “lobbying” professionals. This aid to politicians comes in a variety of forms, ranging from “free air tickets” to “all expenses paid trips” (whatever “all expenses” means). Evidently, such support does not come without strings attached and these strings are namely in return for favourable legislation on a variety of issues concerning the media magnates and the many arms of the octopus of which they are only the head. “Obviously it is a problem but under existing legislation on lobbying and financing of political campaigns, it is perfectly legal”, said Peter Eisner, of the Center for Public Integrity. Obviously. However, we must remember that this statement comes from a country which chooses its president by not counting all the votes, or by deciding to count only a part of them, or even by excluding part of them…probably the ones that are more inconvenient to a particular judge or county or state. One was always led to believe that the politicians were elected to use their integrity to defend the interests of the people who elected them. If the contrary were true, then the case against totalitarian regimes falls apart immediately. If it is true that the richest companies can “buy” legislation, and within the realms of justice, maybe we should all think long and hard about what we consider as being “democracy” and “the rule of law” and indeed, about who has the right to speak and who should keep quiet. Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey, Pravda.Ru, Lisbon