Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The fifth anniversary of Citizens United

Is our democratic republic better off now than it was five years ago?  Most Americans don't think so.

Specifically regarding the Supreme Court’s Citizens United campaign finance decision from 2010, respondents were told:

In response, 80% of Americans opposed the decision and 18% supported it. Although Republicans (72%) were less opposed to the decision than Democrats (82%), it was Independents (84%) most opposed to the decision.

Neither do most of the so-called experts.  In the face of unrelenting negativity about our political system, I usually need a laugh, so let's check in with Al Franken.

I love anniversaries of many occasions. I love birthdays, which are perhaps the most fun kind of anniversary. And every year Franni and my wedding Anniversary is a really, really big deal. When you’ve been married for 39 years, it certainly oughta be.

But the 5th Anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United is coming up later this month. Corporations, special interest groups, and people like the Koch brothers are probably beside themselves with happiness and preparing their 5 year (wooden?) anniversary gifts (I believe silverware is the modern gift).

But let me tell you — that’s one anniversary I will never, ever celebrate.

Citizens United has taken a place among the worst decisions in the history of the Supreme Court. It created just the kind of opportunity special interest groups and shadowy billionaires had been hoping for – a legal way to funnel tens, even hundreds of millions of dollars into American elections. And in many cases, the actors are completely anonymous.

Consider the numbers. 2008 was the last presidential election year before Citizens United, and outside groups spent about $338 million. In 2012 — the first presidential election of the Citizens United era — outside groups spent a staggering $1.03 billion on elections, and nearly all of that increase came from so-called “independent expenditures.”

The Supreme Court based its decision on the idea that spending by outside groups, including corporations, will not and cannot give rise to corruption — or even to the appearance of corruption. The Court shred decades of established law with that conclusion. And follow-up cases like v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC have led us even further down the unlimited-corporate-spending rabbit hole.

It’s been five years. In those five years, we’ve seen our elections get nastier, and we’ve watched the American people slide from skepticism of Washington to outright contempt. And I think they have every right to be upset — corporations pour money into politics, and the policy discussion takes a decidedly pro-corporate tilt, while the voices of middle class families are drowned out. If that’s not corruption, or at least the appearance of corruption, then I don’t know what is.

As long as Citizens United remains on the books, any campaign finance reforms will be half-measures. We will be lopping off the leaves of the weed, while its roots sink deeper and deeper.

So how do we get rid of Citizens United? Glad you asked.
  1. We can wait until the Supreme Court overturns the case themselves. Which isn’t likely to happen. So let’s forget that.
  2. Congress can pass legislation or a constitutional amendment to overturn the effects of Citizens United. This is probably the best option, but it’s also going to take a long time to get through. We’re still working on it. But in the meantime –
  3. YOU could remind Congress how hard we’re willing to work to overturn Citizens United. We’ve already got more than 631,600 signatures on our petition. If your name isn’t on there, here’s where you go to add it.
Citizens United has got to go, and we can’t rest until the job’s done. Until then, here’s to hoping that Citizens United doesn’t make it to its candy/iron anniversary.

I like to call the constitutional amendment that would overturn CU the "Political Consultants Retirement Act".  Just think: no more Karl Roves, or Dave Carneys, or Allen BlakemoresCampos -- and all the rest of these, from Houston to Austin to Washington -- would have to find a real job.

That's what they call a win-win, people.

Of course our broadcast media corporations, without this steady flow of advertising revenue, would be in an even bigger world of hurt than the professional political prostitutes.  Would it be a bad thing, however, if they had to reinvent themselves without breast-augmented, too-tight-top wearing weather forecasters or male model news readers (from six years ago, predating CU and intentional snark aside).  The beefcake and cheesecake and the reporting of it is almost out of control.  If you want higher ratings, station managers, just go ahead and have them read the news in the buff (NSFW, duh).  Dispense with the titillation and slide one seat over to soft porn, for crying out loud.

We'll get better mainstream media if we get the political money out of it as well.  We're now up to win-win-win.  Do you need any more reasons?  How about this news, via Crooks and Liars, about Charles and David Koch and the way they're celebrating the anniversary this weekend.

Four leading Republican presidential prospects are expected to appear this weekend in the California desert before an exclusive gathering of rich conservatives convened by the Koch brothers’ political operation, several sources tell POLITICO.

Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida, and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin received coveted invitations to speak to the vaunted network assembled by the billionaire industrialist megadonors Charles and David Koch, the sources said.

The meeting, set to be held at a Palm Springs hotel, is the annual winter gathering of Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, the nonprofit group that oversees the network of fiscally conservative groups formed with help from the Kochs and their operatives.

None of the White House prospects invited to the meeting this weekend responded to questions about whether they planned to attend and, if so, what they planned to discuss. A spokesman for Freedom Partners declined to comment on the function, which is closed to the press.

No surprise that in addition to the Sheldon primary, there's now a Koch party that every Republican who's anybody wants to attend.  Or that the biggest beneficiary of CU on the left -- just barely left, for certain -- is Hillary Clinton.

All that free speech is bound to be just peachy for democracy.  You ready now?

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