What Money Can Buy

I have mentioned in previous blogs that the “Citizens United” decision that was handed down from the Supreme Court recently will almost certainly change the way the political game is played. That may be an understatement. A recent story tells us that:

An infusion of millions of dollars, unlike anything we have ever seen before may now be the single biggest force in American politics. Some of the players are well-known, such as conservative activist and former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a business interest group long active in politics.

There’s no mention here of the Koch brothers, but their names should be at or near the top of the list. These are all people who, quite frankly, plan to buy themselves a government. They will do it by putting millions of dollars in selected candidates’ pockets and then calling the shots to guarantee they get the kinds of laws and protections they regard as a necessary return on their investment. The plan is clear. What is not yet clear is how much it will change the political landscape. But it will be radically altered, of that we can be certain.

I have also mentioned in previous blogs that the Constitution (for which I have the deepest respect, by the way) is not equipped to handle the new situation. This was clear when the Supreme Court, in its wisdom, decided that corporations were “persons” and entitled to the same protections and rights as individual citizens, including the right to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns under the aegis of “free speech.” There are absolutely no grounds whatever in the Constitution for this ruling. It is based on a loose reading of precedents going back to the “Dartmouth College vs. Woodward” case in 1819.  The Constitution itself simply ignores the existence of corporations — which is not strange given the times in which it was written when people took seriously such antiquated notions as “virtue” and “the common good.” Looking back from today’s perspective this seems a terrible oversight in a document whose main purpose was to limit the use of power and find a balance that would benefit all. But, again, in the eighteenth century people like the Koch brothers had not yet accumulated their billions.

In any event, the Court’s decision has opened the floodgates to corporate millions and removed any nominal controls to corporate spending on political candidates that may have been in place. And don’t think for a moment that the money flow will stop with simply marketing political candidates. Once elected these politicians will be owned by the people and companies that bought them a political office. I have used the ugly word “corporatocracy” before (no, I didn’t make it up) and I will use it again. This seems where we are headed. We shall see. The game is on and those who deal have stacked the deck and have all the chips. Brace yourselves!

8 thoughts on “What Money Can Buy

  1. Great post. The Koch brothers exemplify what is wrong with campaign financing. How do we go about having a citizen’s petition for Congress to address our campaign process? This is an issue that should go viral. But, it has to provide a path forward and cannot be a flavor of the hour. To me, this would be an issue the Occupy Movement could sink their teeth into, as when you get beneath the big funders, it is a bipartisan issue.

    • I agree. It may be the biggest of many political issues and one that is largely ignored. I’m bot sure where to go from here! I may contact MoveOn about it.


  2. I think “oligarchy” is the appropriate term. As you surely know, Aristotle predicts that all democracies eventually degrade into oligarchies. What then is to be done? Jefferson suggests that the tree of liberty be fertilized with the blood of tyrants and patriots!

    • Yes. I have read Aristotle, Dick! But the word seems too tame to describe what is going on in the country right now. The word “corporatocracy” is ugly and seems to fit nicely!


  3. Agreed! Aside from the obscene amount of money candidates will be able to spend on advertising and the fact that this absolutely makes it so peopleoutside the 1% essentially cannot run for office, the scariest part for me is what the quid pro quo is once these folks get to office. Thanks for keeping the light on this, Hugh.

  4. You and the “old fart” are pretty much my only regular visitors! I expect my blogs are too black for most people, though I don’t plan it that way. Thanks for your support. It means a lot.

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