Buying A Government

The wealthy Republicans who recently attempted to buy the government of the United States for millions of dollars are sitting and licking their wounds. If you look quickly you can see them over there sulking behind the trees. There’s no doubt their attempt to buy the Presidency and the majority of the Senate didn’t work out as they had planned — this time. But they will be back and next time they are determined to spend more money and win. A recent article by Robert Reich gives the details of the last political campaign and the plans the Republicans have for the next go-round, but there are a few things I might add.

As Reich notes, Sheldon Adelson, who owns the Las Vegas Sands Corporation and has a net worth reported to be $21.5 billion spent around $100 million of his pocket change  mostly on lost causes this time around. But he knows about gambling, he has bottomless pockets, and he has pledged to win the pot next time. He has already started interviewing Republican candidates for the next run at the Presidency. Hold on to your hats.

Adelson (like the Koch brothers who spent $400 million of their own money in the last election) is determined to get a government in place that will make sure people like him are permitted to increase their already obscene wealth even more — to rid themselves (and the rest of us) of those pesky Federal agencies like the E.P.A. and regulations that are, from their point of view, an expensive nuisance — and from our point of view necessary for our  health and well-being. The Koch brothers reportedly support an organization called the “American Legislative Exchange Council” that funds politicians around the country to make sure they get into key positions in state governments and then in return push the items on the Koch agenda. The end justifies any means.

Money is power and it always has been. And there have always been wealthy men and women (mostly men) who push their own agendas and do whatever they can to get weak people they can control into positions of power. But the game has changed in this country after the “Citizens United” decision by the Supreme Court that eliminated spending limits on political candidates by individuals and corporations in the name of “free speech.” This has raised the stakes considerably.

It does appear we are playing with a stacked deck. Not only that, but the game that is now being played follows house rules and the house is owned by people like Adelson and the Koch brothers. It really isn’t fair, but our cries of outrage and anger will almost certainly fall on deaf ears. As Reich says in concluding his article, there really are only two viable alternatives to help us avoid the coming purchase of our government by the very wealthy:

As income and wealth become ever more concentrated in America, the nation’s billionaire political investors will invest even more.

A record $6 billion was spent on the 2012 campaign, and outside groups poured $1.3 billion into political races, according to data from the Federal Election Commission and the Center for Responsive Politics.

That’s why Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission has to be reversed – either by a Supreme Court that becomes aware of the poison it’s unleashed into our democracy, or by a constitutional amendment.

It’s also why we need full disclosure of who contributes what to whom.

In a word, if we want to stay in the game, “Citizens United” must either be overturned by the Supreme Court (unlikely) or we must hope that a Constitutional amendment can be passed to throw out the ridiculous decision that ruled corporations to be persons. And, clearly, there should be spending limits in all political elections. I guess the ball’s in our court.