I don’t know what is more repugnant to the senses – Supreme Court decisions like Citizen’s United or the tortured reasoning used to validate these year-round Christmas presents of unlimited political expenditures for mostly Republican candidates.
By now most folks are aware of Citizens United. A 5-4 ruling that gave birth to super PACs (also known as Independent Expenditures Only Committees – IEOC) swaddled in billions of vote-influencing dollars. Under certain circumstances Citizens United allows for unlimited expenditures. Something that nobody or thing has been able to do since 1907. But this is a new dawn. A dawn of financial power as religion and patriotism.
I will bring you all the news about this money that’s fit to print and some that isn’t. Citizens United gets all the credit or blame for opening up the money spigots, but there are a couple of other court decisions that are just as onerous. There is also the somewhat sleazy behavior of the Federal Election Commission that might surprise you.
Shortly after the Supreme Court Citizens United decision came a lower court decision of equal import, building on Citizens United. It was the March 26, 2010 ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in SpeechNow.org. v. FEC. It lifted once and for all those contribution limits addressed by the Supremes when the Roberts court overturned Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce that had restricted corporate independent expenditures. No more! The Appeals Court sweetened the deal in lifting all contribution limits for corporations, unions and individuals.
But it doesn’t end there. Another key case further enhanced the monetary power of the big money boys in America’s elections. For years, a group called Public Campaign had been championing publicly funded campaigns, meaning campaigns funded by modest amounts of public money. Many candidates of both parties applauded the move saying it gave them more time to devote to their jobs and constituents (such a naïve concept). A total of 14 states hopped on board to publicly fund assorted state offices. Arizona has had a public funding law in place since 1998. Ten more states provide partial funding. In Arizona you qualify for the ballot by raising a certain number of $5 contributions before public funding kicks in. In most states, taxpayers fund the program through a tax check-off to their political parties. It’s strictly voluntary.
But the feckless five would soon take care of the notion that all candidates are created equal. Allow me to introducing the wordy case of – Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club Pac v. Bennett, Secretary of State, et al. The Arizona Free Enterprise club, whose founder also headed a conservative think tank, is a bunch of loaded good old conservative boys dedicated to padding their already corpulent pockets by persuading the state legislature to knock down every tax that impacts their bottom line. Their greatest triumph; cutting the capital gains tax by 25%.
Equal campaign funding would never do for this crowd. Particualry galling to the boys was the fact that if a privately funded free-spending 1 percenter started to exceed his publicly funded opponent’s state allotment, Mr. or Mrs. publicly funded could tap more public funds for at least part of the differential up to twice the public amount thereby somewhat evening the playing field. “John, Antonin, Anthony, Samuel – oh, and wake up Clarence – to the rescue berobed corporate Supreme Puppets!” Sure ‘nuff , no more matching funds.
You should also know that republicans have covered their tracks at the Federal Election Commission as well. If right-wingers don’t want something to happen at the FEC, like a ruling they might not love for instance, it doesn’t happen. Period. Exclamation mark. That’s because there are six FEC Commissioners. You guessed it; 3 republicans, 3 democrats. So if something untoward were to be handed to the commission for repair…it goes unrepaired.
Karl Rove has a super PAC called Crossroads. Crossroads also has a non-profit cousin, Crossroads GPS. As a non-profit (involved in all those social welfare good deeds don’t yuh know), Karl doesn’t have to reveal who funds Rove’s attack ads UNLESS those funders specifically direct their money to such ads. It’s called a loophole. A motion was filed with the FEC (by a democrat of course) to close the independent expenditures loophole. Wouldn’t you know, the vote was 3-3 effectively killing the motion. There’s also the possibility the same vote could take away the rule that candidates cannot coordinate with their favored super PACS.
Could Republicans get any more unethical? Sure.
Rove has pledged to super PAC the hell out of President Barack Obama. To the tune of at least $300 million. Then there’s Restore Our Future, founded to bolster the chances of the right-wingers favorite thug barber, ‘Mugger’ Mitt. “How would you like your hair cut today sir?” “Uh, how about medium with the tips of the ears barely covered.” “Okey Dokey. Mugsy! Moose! Brutus! Get in here and hold this f*g down! Don’t like girls, huh? (SNIP) Lookin’ at guys ‘that way’ ‘eh? (SNIP, SNIP!!!) Bring me the chain saw Mugsy!”
Now that Romney’s preoccupied with his favorite avocation, let’s move on. Other super PACs to keep an eye on are Obama’s Priorities USA Action. The Club for Growth (CFG) is another giant super PAC featuring a Board of Directors populated by such far right luminaries as former Ohio Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell. As state election’s head, his questionable antics probably cost John Kerry the 2004 election. Since leaving office Blackwell has cycled around numerous right-wing Think Tanks and organizations. Howard Rich is on the CFG board as well. He’s known (or at least his pocketbook) in about every state that has pushed school choice. He’s also a big limited government guy. FreedomWorks for America is overseen by Dick Armey, Tea Party co-partner. It’s one of the big super
PACs as well.
A bunch of new giant money-centers will emerge as November 6 beckons. In the first year after Citizens United, there were 80 super PACs. There are now over 500. Only a dozen or so will really count.