Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Best Congress (and Supreme Court) Money Can Buy

Will Rogers said it long ago. "We have the best congress money can buy". 

The Washington Post says: 91% of the time the better-financed candidate wins. Don’t act surprised.

Now we have the best Supreme Court money can buy.

In 1971 Lewis F. Powell, Jr wrote his famous memo to the US Chamber of Commerce. It was as close as anything we’ve seen to a declaration of a corporate class war against most Americans.

Powell realized that their class warfare would need to be waged on multiple fronts, from manipulating the content of textbooks in public education to taking their lawyers to the Supreme Court.

Neglected Opportunity in the Courts

American business and the enterprise system have been affected as much by the courts as by the executive and legislative branches of government. Under our constitutional system, especially with an activist-minded Supreme Court, the judiciary may be the most important instrument for social, economic and political change. Other organizations and groups, recognizing this, have been far more astute in exploiting judicial action than American business. Perhaps the most active exploiters of the judicial system have been groups ranging in political orientation from “liberal” to the far left. The American Civil Liberties Union is one example. It initiates or intervenes in scores of cases each year, and it files briefs amicus curiae in the Supreme Court in a number of cases during each term of that court. Labor unions, civil rights groups and now the public interest law firms are extremely active in the judicial arena. Their success, often at business’ expense, has not been inconsequential. This is a vast area of opportunity for the Chamber, if it is willing to undertake the role of spokesman for American business and if, in turn, business is willing to provide the funds.

Yes, it turns out business is more than willing to provide funds in order to dismantle democracy and to transform it into corporatocracy. And do note how defense of civil liberties is considered “far left” by the Chamber of Commerce.

But those were the “bad old days” of 1971. Much has changed.

The Supreme Court is now stacked with judges who are not only very corporate friendly, but also willing to subvert the Voting Rights Act in last year’s Shelby County v Holder.

It’s been a long climb for corporations to be anointed with rights that supersede individual rights. It’s been an incremental process that has opened our elections to the highest bidders. There were significant decisions that have added to the rise of corporatocracy. Here are the most important:

Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company in 1886 was the first decision infected with the notion of corporate personhood. It wasn't in the decision itself, but added by a clerk sympathetic to the railroads.

Buckley v Valeo in 1976 opened the door for campaign money as free speech.

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010 struck down McCain-Feingold.

And the final nail in Democracy’s coffin:

McCutcheon v FEC in 2014 swept away aggregate limits of “free speech money”.

The Corporate Lawyer led Supreme Court has effectively expanded corporate and wealthy individuals’ rights proportional to their wealth.

If "Money is free speech" then Big Money has more freedom of speech. 

What is diminished is the standing of free speech for the 99.9%. You and I can’t buy TV ads for millions to see. That’s not a right, but a privilege of wealth. More money equals more "free speech". 

And that aint rocket science. 

Roberts’ opinion in McCutcheon defines the word “corruption” so narrowly that it is practically meaningless. 

The only type of corruption Congress may target is quid pro quo corruption. Spending large sums of money in connection with elections, but not in connection with an effort to control the exercise of an officeholder’s official duties, does not give rise to such quid pro quo corruption. Nor does the possibility that an individual who spends large sums may garner “influence over or access to” elected officials or political parties.

If you buy that, I have some real cheap land in Florida for you. 

So Roberts, you're telling us there's no expectation of favors behind all that donated money? You're telling us all that "free speech" is simply their selfless support of democracy?

Yeah, right.