Of all the issues some voting Americans are disgusted about, big money in politics likely garners universal outrage from ordinary citizens on both sides of the political spectrum. Since Republicans’ masters the Koch brothers bought them control of Congress and a majority of state legislatures and governorships, there has been no action on, or good news about, campaign finance reform. However, in what is being hailed as a “Citizens United stunner,” the New York Times reported that President Obama is on the verge of executive action to rein in corporate and really big business’ use of “dark money” to buy Republicans, influence legislation, and destroy democracy.
After the Kochs influenced conservatives on the Supreme Court to define corporate money in politics as people with free speech rights, big business has spent unlimited amounts of “secret political money” to buy elections and affect legislation. The added outrage is that the same companies that get literally hundreds-of-billions of dollars in federal contracts are using portions of those billions to buy Republicans and influence elections. President Obama is about to put up what could be a very significant and major obstacle to stop the flood of “dark money” in politics.
The President is in the midst of very serious plan to issue an executive order that requires companies doing business with the federal government to disclose their political contributions. Just think; with a stroke of his pen the President will make “dark money” donors receiving billions of taxpayer money reveal who they contribute to or lose out on those highly-profitable federal government contracts.
Now, of course this does not, in any way, shape or form “overturn” Citizens United. But it is a major step in prompting some companies and corporations doing business with the federal government to rein in some of their dark money efforts to buy influence over the government. The directive, a so-called ‘dark money‘ executive order would mandate that “all government contractors publicly report their contributions to groups that spend money to influence campaigns and elections.”
Although it is true not every corporation or company in America does business with the federal government, there is no doubt that a considerable number of the largest companies in America profit from federal contracts. In fact, President Obama’s order would apply to roughly 70 percent of the Fortune 100 companies including Exxon Mobil, Apple, General Electric and General Motors to name but a fraction of the whole. The order will apply to any company with contracts exceeding $100,000 annually that probably will affect the preponderance of companies profiting from federal government contracts.
As mentioned before, this will not overturn Citizens United or fix the country’s woefully inadequate campaign finance laws. However, it will be a major step in exposing dark money in politics. A White House spokeswoman, Brandi Hoffine, declined to comment on internal White House deliberations or exactly when the President will use his pen, and administration officials said on Tuesday that no final decisions had yet been made. Hoffine said,
“While we will continue to examine ‘additional’ steps we can take to reduce the corrosive influence of money in politics, only Congress can put an end to it.”
She also noted that in 2012, House and Senate Republicans killed legislation, the “Disclose Act,” introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and in the U.S. Senate by Charles Schumer (D-NY ). The bill sought to require companies to reveal their campaign donations but Republicans blocked it leaving President Obama to enact a limited version. What is remarkable is that like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had to remind Republicans last year, Ms. Hoffine felt obliged to remind Democratic voters that “only Congress can put an end to it.”
As long as the Koch brothers own even one chamber of Congress, there will be no campaign finance reform legislation enacted and for dog’s sake NO end to Citizens United; no matter how many stinking petitions are submitted or who thinks their people on the Supreme Court can unilaterally repeal it. It is just not how laws are passed or how the High Court works.
Of course everyone wants dark money and Citizens United stopped, but the people who own the current Congress will never allow it. In fact, just the news that the President is mulling when and how to put an damper on dark money has corporations and big business screaming foul. The business groups and organizations that hate and reject any manner of campaign finance laws, or restrictions, argue vehemently that the executive order will encroach on “the corporate person’s” free speech rights; except that it will not.
Corporations and big business groups like the NRA, Chamber of Commerce, Halliburton, and Koch Industries will still be able to “speak loudly” with millions of dollars, but the voters will at least know exactly which “person” is “speaking” and to which candidate they are speaking for; something the voters have a right to know.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Blair Latoff Holmes, said asking dark money donors to follow disclosure rules is President Obama’s way of “harassing, intimidating and silencing those with whom they disagree. We continue to believe that one’s political activities should play no role in whether or not you get or keep a federal contract, and we encourage the administration to leave this bad idea right where it is.”
Big business and corporations were forewarned, by President Obama no less, that this coming “dark money” executive order was imminent. In his State of the Union address the President made a lengthy plea to “fix our politics,” and he specifically called for reducing the role of money in campaigns and denying “hidden interests” the ability to bankroll elections. Lisa Gilbert, the director of Public Citizen, said. “We took this loud call to action in the State of the Union as a signal that they are changing course.”
Obviously the President knew the Koch-Republican Congress had no inclination to doing anything, much less stop their dark money funders for running rampant over democracy, so he has mulled over this “coming order” for the past year according to insiders.
Vice President Joe Biden has been among the advocates for the move, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke to the President in person about the executive order in November and delivered a letter from 155 Democrats urging him to issue it. Pelosi said through a spokesman that,
“Requiring corporations to disclose their unlimited spending in our elections was the only path the misguided Citizens United Supreme Court decision left us to protect the sanctity of our democracy.”
Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) agreed with Ms. Pelosi and said,
“It’s the easy thing that he can do. It gets at a little bit of the problem, but more to the point, it buoys everybody who’s looking at this disgraceful political mess that we have out there that is infuriating Democrats and Republicans alike with the sense that they don’t control politics anymore, and it’s all being left to the special interests.”
Another Democrat, Rep. John Sarbanes of Maryland has actually introduced legislation to finance congressional campaigns with public money to no avail. But he sees the President’s action as just a part of “a package of solutions” he and the President have already discussed. A discussion centering around “containing the influence of corporations in politics and empower ordinary citizens;” the way democracy is supposed to work. Mr. Sarbanes said,
“It’s about having a referee there to police the conduct of the big-money players, but also bringing everyday Americans out of the bleachers and out onto the field themselves.”
Mr. Sarbanes remark is prescient in more than one respect, but most notably in explaining why a fair number of Americans fail to vote; they feel their voices are shouted down by “the big-money players;” and to a point they are sort of correct. However, regardless how much money, dark or not, is spent to either influence or buy Congress, money does not elect representatives or count at the ballot box; ordinary Americans’ votes do.
Although the coming-soon executive order will not limit the amount of dark money in elections, it may well be a deterrent to companies hiding behind non-existent campaign finance laws. One can be certain Republicans and their moneyed masters will scream presidential overreach, but the President will have to remind them and Americans that any “dark money” executive order will affect Democrats and Republicans alike. He will also need to remind Republicans and their donors that his action will not stop them from attempting to influence campaigns, elections, and politics, only that American voters will know who is spending to neuter the democratic process. And if they do not like it, they can forfeit their bloated government contracts and let companies not hiding behind non-existent regulations exercise their “corporate person’s voice.”