The first case the Supreme Court heard this term brought what’s left of campaign finance laws back for scrutiny by the same court that gave us corporations have civil rights and money is speech in Citizens United. Citizens United, the Sequel, is brought to you by Sean McCutcheon, a businessman and Republican activist from Alabama. Naturally, the chief benefactor of Citizens United joined him: the RNC.
This is a bfd because, if McCutcheon prevails, it means the Koch brothers and other rich totalitarian types will have unlimited use of their corporate wealth and their personal wealth to pool resources to buy Federal, state and local governments. President Obama and Senator Bernie Sanders voiced the grave consequences to our political system that came with Citizens United and why they will be greater in this case.
In effect, this case seeks to reduce elections to auctions in which billionaires are the loudest bidders. It means no matter who we vote for, our political representatives will be a billionaire’s pet.
McCutcheon v. the FEC argues since corporate money is speech under Citizens United, that logic should apply to living breathing individuals. If one thinks Citizens United is a good ruling, this logic is impeccable. If one recognizes that corruption is inevitable when a handful of people can buy a government, the very reasons the logic was flawed in Citizens United also apply in this case.
The only legal problem is Citizens United was legislating from the bench to overturn decades of settled law. If only the disastrous results of Citizens United were limited to that.
Since the Roberts court ruled on Citizens’ United, the Koch Brothers established the Teatalitarian Party, to push the sort of crazy extremism advocated by people like Ted Cruz and Michele Bachmann. Corporate money went dark at unprecedented levels pushing the Republican Party to ideological extremes that made the GOP an ideological neighbor of fascism. Moderates, at least when compared to the Tea Party, who wanted to survive the wave of Tea Party madness quivered in fear of being Tea Party challenged by corporate money.
The representation that Citizens United bought in 2010 was disastrous to the point that even the corporations that bought clowns like Ted Cruz and Michele Bachmann realize the monsters they created.
Citizens United brought us the Tea Party with its mix of religious extremism and corporatist economic policy. Citizens United brought us personhood amendments, bans on same sex marriage, attacks on the voting rights of everyone with the exception of the very people who benefited from CU and stand to benefit from CU on steroids.
We only need to look at North Carolina to see firsthand what CU on steroids would do to the political process at all levels of government. Art Pope bought the government, and now he controls its purse strings. The Pope regime passed the most extreme vote suppression law in the country. It wiped out any semblance of progress in the state, with corruption reaching levels comparable to what you see in banana Republics.
In various Teatalitarian Party controlled states, we saw the advent of personhood amendments and tax reform meant tax cuts for the rich with crippling tax increases for people at the lowest rungs of the income ladder. They gutted resources for public education in favor ALEC inspired Charter Schools. They gutted labor protections reducing people who work for a living to slaves who are increasingly unable to make ends meet. Programs designed to meet the needs of the most vulnerable and least politically powerful people have seen barbaric cuts and barbaric requirements such as the unconstitutional requirement of drug testing in exchange for public assistance.
Citizens United has, without question, changed a lot of things about politics in America in ways that have been detrimental to the electoral and political processes. With the exception of the 1%, Americans are getting poorer with children hungrier and less educated. If McCutcheon prevails, the problems that came with Citizens United will amplify in ways that are not evident today.
Under current law, an individual can contribute up to $48,600 to candidates for Federal elections during a two-year election cycle and $74,600 to PACs. Most Americans can only imagine having enough money to feed their families and still have $123,200 over two years to donate to their political party of choice. However, for people like Art Pope and the Koch brothers, this isn’t even coffee money. They will spend millions to adopt congressional representatives at the federal and state levels, and they will buy all the local representatives as well.
Limiting the damage of McCutcheon v. the FEC to partisan divides overlooks the greater concern, namely, the corruption that comes with individuals having the capacity to single handedly buy governments and the implications for other laws that regulate campaign finance. In fact, Mitch McConnell is hoping that a favorable ruling in this case can be leveraged to eliminate all campaign finance law.
McConnell, however, is aiming straight for the base limits restricting the amount a donor can give a single candidate ($2,600 per election) or a political party committee ($32,400). His argument hinges on overturning the Supreme Court’s 1976 ruling in Buckley v. Valeo, which found campaign contribution limits to be constitutional but campaign expenditure limits to be an unconstitutional burden on free speech.
According to observers, the court was more interested in pondering the dynamics of money and buying influence than on the constitutional question of whether limits on aggregate spending violate the first amendment.
Scalia doesn’t think facts matter and thinks that limits on aggregate spending “sap the vitality of political parties” and encourages “drive-by PACs” so it doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that Scalia intends to rule in McCutcheon’s favor. Given that Thomas is ethically challenged, he is unlikely to be moved by the inevitable corruption that comes with moneyed interests adopting political representatives or whole governments. Kennedy wrote Citizens United, so he is probably in McCutcheon’s camp.
The Chief Justice wondered aloud if removing aggregate limits would inhibit wider participation in the financial aspects of elections, suggesting that Roberts might join with the liberal wing in this case.
The fact that the court focused on the dynamics of campaign money doesn’t suggest to me that it was disinterested in the first amendment aspect of the case. This court already accepted that money is speech in Citizens United and in other cases.
The question comes down to whether or not the court concludes all voices have a right to be heard. Based on the Justices’ reactions, the majority is leaning toward giving the rich a bigger megaphone, while acknowledging that the many who are shouting from the forest should still have a voice, albeit one with much less volume and reach.
Image: Occupied Media