“When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.”-Ben Franklin
When asked by a woman what sort of government had just been created, Frankin famously replied: “It’s a Republic if you can keep it.”
Last week, I had the great good fortune to attend a number of panels on money in politics at Netroots Nation (NN12) including the panel composed of Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) along with Trevor Potter (former council to Presidents Reagan and Bush cum comedy sensation), and Becky Bond of CREDO. The panel was moderated by former Congressman Tom Periello (D-VA).
I have always believed that despite the goodness of individuals, there is an inner Nazi lurking within every nation, snarling for its late-night human snack. The Senators confirmed my worst fears.
In 2010, the Supreme Court reversed over one hundred years of precedent limiting private donations to political campaigns by ruling in favor of Citizen’s United, a non-profit attempting to televise a video “documentary” about Hillary Clinton in violation of the McCain-Feingold Act. The SCOTUS went far beyond a discussion of documentaries, and gutted McCain Feingold along with a number of state laws limiting political donations. They equated money with speech.
(Trivia note: Citizens’ United claims it is not related to Citizens United Not Timid, an organization similarly devoted to defamation of Senator Clinton which produced tasteful tee-shirts emblazoned with their C.U.N.T. acronym, depicting what text suggests is a nude outline of Clinton with a triangular flag covering her genital area. The press generated by the non-coordination of the two allegedly distinct non-profits bears a certain resemblance to the efforts of comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, and their lawyer-turned-panelist, Trevor Potter, to completely legally not coordinate their own Superpac as seen in the video below:)
|The Daily Show with Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Colbert Super PAC – Not Coordinating with Stephen Colbert|
Senators Whitehouse and McCain (R-AZ) are fighting back (notwithstanding the polarized nature of Congress) by jointly filing an amicus brief supporting the State of Montana in a challenge to the decision which also torpedoed Montana’s anti-corruption laws. Whitehouse and McCain take particular exception to a finding of fact by the SCOTUS that no corruption or appearance of corruption will arise from unlimited donations since most donations will be adequately disclosed.
In fact, because of a loophole, political contributions are being made billionaires and corporations to 501-c-4 non-profits which do not have to disclose the sources of their funding (and hence, serve as a corporate drycleaning solution). We may know which phony non-profit has contributed to a campaign, but we can’t know who has donated to the dubious non-profit. According to Senators Merkley, Brown and Whitehouse, corporate CEOs are funneling large amounts of shareholders’ funds (but not their own personal wealth) into these non-profits without shareholders’ knowledge, thus divesting us of our right to limit contributions of collectively held funds.
And who are the shareholders? You and I. Our pensions are being diverted towards political contributions that limit our rights as workers, and even the transparency and solvency of our pension funds!
Moreover, as consumers we are buying products. Some of our purchases are helping to fund contributions to political candidates and causes we don’t support. Did you know that Brawny Paper Towels and Dixie Cups are manufactured by the Koch brothers, who appear poised to spend a billion dollars to influence candidates? Did you know that a dollar spent on Dixie cups could be a dollar spent intimidating politicians into opening up our watershed to fracking by Koch Industries? Would you buy a Dixie Cup if you knew that? Did you know that some of this corporate money is being poured into local races?
Senators Merkley, Brown and Whitehouse are betting that you wouldn’t want to buy that Dixie Cup if you knew it was going to be used to pour a sludgy oil-and-feces-infested concoction down your throat! This summer, they intend to introduce the Disclose Act repeatedly, forcing a series of all-night filibusters by Republicans. They’ve asked for bloggers to conduct all-night blogathons to draw attention to the need for disclosure.
I’m getting an early start!
But don’t get complaisant because there’s more to come about suppression of voter rights as “free speech” in future posts.