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Entries in Citizens United (2)


When money is no longer coin of the republic

It is strangely comforting to watch as the Barack Obama campaign for re-election gets the short end of the fund raising stick. For the third consecutive month the Mitt Romney camp, along with its super pac surrogates, raked in millions more than than the incumbent president's organization. Too big to succeed could be one factor among others that buries Mitt Romney's campaign. Go ask Meg Whitman.

However, if Romney's financial braun prevails, then take a page from the things-must-get-worse-before-they-get-better manual. It would better serve this nation's long-term interests, for voters to watch the torrents of money washing into the election process--amplifying the echoplex of crass attack ads on radio and television. Then the electorate can go on pretending as though their influence over elections and governmental policy isn't already outspent into oblivion.

So, why not question our election culture's prevailing philosophy? That money makes the candidate? Yeah, okay--what about debating policy ideas? What values will prevail? And what happened to the one-citizen-one-vote fairness among all eligible voters?

Who has time for such quaint ideas? Mere distractions beneath the high-octane roar of the money derby.

Indeed, free speech is at stake here. If the corporations aren't allowed to wield their exploding bill folds to prop up either candidate--or both--then the First Amendment stands vulnerable to the tyranny of... democracy.

No matter which side you take on the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, arguing that the fundraising gap matters reinforces the delusional notion that money matters more than the exerted will of a U.S. citizenry. So, how long it will take for a plurality of voters to decide they are under no obligation to choose between bought-off Candidate A and greasy-palmed Candidate B--who knows?

However, it is fascinating that both the Romney and Obama camps go so far as credit small donors--those giving $250 or less--for comprising well over 90% of donations received respectively.

If that's truly the case (one can dream, no?) why shouldn't the presidential candidates and their supporters come to an election-landscape-titling the consensus? Why not adopt the $250 level as a campaign finance maximum? Why shouldn't voters demand it if both the incumbant and challenger are willing to acknowledge the measure of small donors' participation?

If ever such an opportunity emerged--that would be the day when votes became the coin of the republic.


Is money allowed to cry 'fire' in a crowded theatre?

The US Supreme Court's recent call to let their Citizens United decision ride reinforces  a kind of Animal Farm persuasion that taints elections in this country: simply put, that all votes are equal but some are more equal than others. Take heart--billionaires will remain unfettered in their efforts to buy elections.

Those who defend Citizens United blinklessly assert that corporations are people, too, my friend--an argument so specious as to be worthy of drunks and defiant children. Who has yet to address the twisted irony about today's corporation--whose purpose is to manage personal liability (meaning, avoid personal culpability) for its members; and now they cling to the Bill of Rights? Not only do elite, moneyed interests want to have their cake--they want to inhale it as well.

If you have any doubt that corporations enable the abandonment of personal responsibility, you should read about the Wachovia money laundering scandal that no one remembers anymore--that not one official from the bank was even arrested doesn't improve anyone's chances of recollection.

Need a more recent reminder? Not one member of any financial institution that misled investors and spread toxic mortgage assets--leading to the 2008 economic meltdown--has been arrested.

Fast forward to 2010: the British Petroleum oil spill--no arrests. Oh, wait, the feds did recently file some fey obstruction of justice charge against a low ranking engineer for deleting text messages. It's an arrest certain to strike fear in the hearts of would-be polluters all over the world.

What to do? Many progressives are spreading the message about a constitutional amendment that would reverse Citizens United. It's a great idea, however, said amendment would have to pass through the congressional and statehouse machinery that is largely already owned by elite, moneyed interests.

The solution will require a de facto effort on the part of those who care for the common good. The challenge appears almost impossible: ignorance and apathy have joined forces to comprise the 40% of eligible voters who fail to show up at the polls come election time. We are failing to teach the 40% a civics-minded media literacy, the kind of knowledge informing each voter about his or her choices--that there is no obligation to support candidates for public office who trade their decision making for large, bundled campaign contributions. Ultimately they must learn (and it may come to the hard way) what is at stake for his or her quality of life and well being.

It's a goal comparable to Thomas Jefferson’s hope for an educated citizen--someone prepared for the tasks of self-government and encouraged “to judge for himself what would secure or endanger his freedom.”