Saturday, June 9, 2012

Aftermath of Citizens United Ruling: Big, Big Money Politics

The Citizens United Ruling in which the U.S. Supreme Court deemed political contributions the same as political free speech shows its impact on the U.S. political environment. Forget about Super Pacs for now, we will focus on Wisconsin, where there is strong evidence that the Wisconsin governor and state legislators have bought out by charities lobbying for corporate interests. (See link below). Quid pro quo. Give political contributions and the politicians will create state policies and laws in your favor. Now as David Horsey writes below, extremely wealthy Americans have been heavily funding the Wisconsin recall election for Scott Walker in the millions. The problem with this action and which the U.S. Supreme Court failed to understand is that unlimited contributions is counter to encouraging popular support (the basis for democracy). So in the case of Wisconsin, there are candidates like Scott Walker who are significantly funded by minority support, and thereby likely have more influence on a campaign than a candidate who is funded significantly by middle and low income citizens (for example) but with far less contributions at his or her disposal. Consequently, the candidate with more popular support in terms of the number of sources of contributions is put at a campaign disadvantage. The FDA believes that election law should encourage outcomes which are consistent with democracy, such as popular support. Unlimited and excessive contributions levels are as mentioned inconsistent with encouraging popular support for candidates and parties, and actually weakens the freedom of speech of the majority through the freedom of speech of the wealthy minority. This is about balance and bias. To side with the majority, there will be reasonable limits on contributions; to side with the minority, there will excessive or no limits on contributions. Clearly, the Citizens United ruling favors minority interests....

Billionaires buy Wisconsin recall election for Scott Walker

By David Horsey (LATimes) June 7, 2012, 5:05 a.m.

Surrounded by dozens of supporters at an evening campaign rally in Madison on May 30, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the Democratic candidate for governor in Wisconsin’s tumultuous recall election, had something encouraging to tell the crowd: The fact that his opponent, Republican Gov. Scott Walker, was outspending him by more than 7 to 1 was no big deal.

“He’s got the mountains of money,” Barrett declared. “I’ve got you.”

Now, Barrett probably wishes he’d had the mountains of money. On Tuesday night, Walker turned back the union-driven effort to toss him out of office, beating Barrett by a comfortable seven percentage points.

Less than two years into his first term in office, Walker became a recall target after stripping Wisconsin’s state employees of their collective bargaining rights. Thousands of teachers, firefighters and other public employees marched on the capitol building. It looked as if Walker had a mighty army arrayed against him.

But Walker had something more potent than an army: billionaires.

The governor put together a nationwide fundraising effort and was richly rewarded. Two-thirds of the $31 million Walker raised to fight the recall came from out-of-state donors, mostly rich guys who hate unions. The gush of cash going to Walker overwhelmed Barrett’s boots-on-the-ground effort and provided more proof, if any more were needed, that the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling -- eliminating limits on campaign donations -- has dramatically altered the balance of power in American politics.

The Citizens United decision does not apply to big corporations alone; it also frees unions to give as much as they want. But the fact is unions do not have ready access to money on the scale of the billionaire boys club. When just one man, casino king Sheldon Adelson, can write a couple of checks and fund Newt Gingrich’s entire presidential campaign, you know the craps table of electioneering has been tilted in favor of candidates who look after the concerns of the mega-rich.

And guess what? Most of those candidates, just like most billionaires, are Republicans.

Occupy Wall Street enthusiasts can camp out on the sidewalk and conduct their exquisitely egalitarian group discussions. Anarchists can gleefully smash windows at Bank of America and Starbucks. Union members can set up phone banks and carry picket signs. But as long as elections are there to be bought, a handful of billionaires will have a far louder voice in who runs the country than all the activists on the left combined.

As evidence, I offer exhibits one and two: David and Charles Koch, the billionaires Democrats love to hate. These oil magnates are generous sugar daddies for the "tea party" and conservative candidates all over America. According to the Obama campaign, the Koch brothers have pledged $200 million to defeat the president in November. Others say the Kochs are only putting up $60 million. Either way, that is a big chunk of change from just two voters.

The vanity of rich men used to be stoked by buying yachts and racehorses and baseball teams. Now, the indulgence of choice seems to be the purchase of governors and congressmen and -- who knows? -- maybe even a president.

Big Money Politics and Wisconsin

Wisconsin in Canada

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