Big money mocks one person, one vote by Marjorie Arons-Barron

The entry below is being cross posted from Marjorie Arons-Barron’s own blog.

That whoosh you hear is the sound of money, gobs of it, flying from wellheeled donors to political candidates and “independent” committees on behalf of candidates.  The roar is increasingly deafening especially when the money is coming from corporations and superPAC’s (and, to a lesser extent, labor unions.  Corporations, Mitt Romney explains to us, are “people too,” and yesterday the Supreme Court affirmed that interpretation, meaning that the floodgates are welded open.

The issue before the Court was whether the 2010 Citizens United decision applied to a century-old Montana law limiting corporate contributions. Montana, no bastion of liberal reform, wanted to uphold a law that dated from a time when mining companies were throwing their monetary weight around, buying favorable governments and outcomes.  And, that’s what we’re going to get more of at both state and federal levels with the reaffirmation and extension of Citizens United.

We’ve already seen the effect on the presidential campaign, though big money is not solely the province of corporations.  Wealthy individuals can distort the political process as well, though it is somewhat gratifying that billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s multi-million contribution couldn’t buy the Republican nomination for Newt Gingrich.  Now he has given another $10 million to a super PAC backing Romney, but the GOP isn’t alone on the receiving end.  Big money buys access, no matter the party of the candidate.

The White House says it’s disappointed by the Supreme Court decision but won’t unilaterally disarm. Its superPAC will continue raising unlimited money.  Of course, Obama took the same position in 2008, refusing public monies for the election in order to avoid the resulting constraints.   That calculation (running against campaign finance reformer John McCain) effectively ended public financing of Presidential campaigns.

In Massachusetts’ 2010 election, independent organizations, including labor, spent about $18 million, half of which came from the Republican Governors’ Association in support of Scott Brown. It will be interesting to see if Brown’s pact with Elizabeth Warren to keep outside money out will hold through the fall election.

It’s staggering to contemplate the several millions that President Obama collected yesterday in Boston.  One event cost $40,000 a head; another, nearly $18,000.  According to the Boston Globe, Obama has raised only half the allowed individual $2500 contributions he did four years ago.  But the huge individual donations are permissible when they are divided among the party’s National Committee, state committees, and other joint committees, like the Obama Victory Fund. (It reminds me of the slicing and dicing of collateralized debt obligations, including mortgage-backed securities.)

Last weekend Mitt Romney rewarded big donors with a lavish retreat at a resort in Utah, where those who had personally given at least $25,000 or had raised at least $100,000 could mingle with top GOP office holders and other movers and shakers. Similar events were also being held at Carlsbad and Beverly Hills. This, according to the L.A. Times.

It’s enough to make one’s head spin. And it drives home the depressing message that ordinary folks can’t possibly matter.  Thanks, U.S. Supreme Court.  We owe much of the sordid mess to you.

But then again we owe it to ourselves. As Finley Peter Dunne’s Mr. Dooley aptly said in 1901, “No matter whether th’ Constitution follows h’flag or not, th’ Supreme Coort follows th’ election returns.”

I welcome your comments in the section below.

3 Responses to Big money mocks one person, one vote by Marjorie Arons-Barron

  1. C R Krieger says:

    And yet, as Paul Marion pointed out on this blog just recently, we are a “half and half” nation.  At this point no one is running away with the race for the “Kennedy Seat”.  And Democratic Candidate Marisa DeFranco wasn’t squeezed out by money, but in the old fashioned way, by party muscle.

    For me the question is the value of a vote and how it registers on Beacon Hill.  Does David Nangle note my write-in vote for someone else, or the ~20% who leave that office blank on the ballot?  I doubt it.  I suspect that if >50% didn’t vote for Mr Nangle in ’08 and ’10, it wouldn’t have made a difference. For this I bame the Republicans, but also all those Independents, who are happy to let things continue as they are.  But, how does this translate into power on Beacon Hill?  Mr Nangle being there when the new General Court convenes is probably taken as a given by the leadership on Beacon Hill.  So, will money impact the State Rep races in Lowell?  Will money increase our influence on Beacon Hill?  Money is not the arbiter in the local area either.

    My vote has high value when it can make a difference.  Close races mean concern for what I think.  Well, maybe not me, but those Independent voters who could swing one way or another.

    In the mean time, I would like to see an outline of the legal structure if corporations weren’t “people”.  Given that every solution has the seeds of new problems, what problems might a reversal of Citizens United cause us?

    Regards  —  Cliff

  2. Christopher says:

    A reversal of CU would allow the full regulation of money in order that democracy can’t be bought. Personally I favor a constitutional amendment to say something like, “Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to prohibit the Congress and several states from regulating the sources, amounts, and receipients of monetary transactions which have the intent of influencing the outcome of an election.” Only individuals should be allowed to give to parties, campaigns, and advocacy groups, and that information should be public. Cliff, you’re active enough that I keep thinking that one day your name will be on a ballot, and since it’s hard to lose to no opposition the incumbents will keep winning. As for DeFranco, that wasn’t party muscle that kept her off the ballot; it was Elizabeth Warren winning the hearts of 95% of the delegates each only responsible for his or her own vote. Plus I did not see really any evidence that DeFranco organized slates to run at the caucuses whereas Warren did.

  3. Renee Aste says:

    PACs now just seem to be a form of money laundering. Of course it is great there is a legal means of cordinating cash for campaigns. If every politician has their own PAC along with their campaign funds, I donate not only to the campaign, but numerous PACs knowing where the money is going.

    And don’t get me started with some of the names of the PACs, it always takes a few minutes online to figure who is behind the curtian.

    We should thank Warren and Brown for the pledge.