Thursday, April 3, 2014

Money and Power

“The abuse of buying and selling votes crept in and money began to play an important part in determining elections. Later on, this process of corruption spread to the law courts. And then to the army, and finally the Republic was subjected to the rule of emperors.”  Plutarch

In the wake of yesterday's Supreme Court decision:
Big donors, leaders of political parties and candidates with access to wealthy supporters will be the biggest beneficiaries of the Supreme Court decision issued on Wednesday, a ruling that could fundamentally reshape the political terrain in the 2014 elections and beyond. Election experts predicted a surge of new money into congressional campaigns and political parties, expanding the world of high-dollar fund-raising now dominated by 'super PACs' and big-spending political nonprofit groups. The decision effectively eradicates a significant campaign finance restriction brought about in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, the cap on the total amount any one person can give to federal candidates and parties in any two-year election cycle. Two groups in particular stand to be most empowered by Wednesday’s decision: Those with the wherewithal to spend millions of dollars on campaign contributions and those with access to them, including party leaders, senior lawmakers and presidents.  New York Times
 Just wait till they decide that corporations have religions.

I despair.

Maybe we have to beat them by joining them. Is this the solution?
 If the burgeoning gray market in political money is to be countered, a few things need to happen. First, political money needs to be made easier, not harder, for politicians to raise. Second, the money needs to be encouraged to flow through channels that are ultimately accountable to voters and the national interest. Third, candidate and party donations need to flow in straightforward, observable ways rather than being routed circuitously, so that everyone can see what’s going on and vote or campaign accordingly. Fourth, disclosure needs to be improved for the nonprofits and other black holes. 
Greatly raising contribution limits and simultaneously improving disclosure would achieve those goals. High limits would affect only the most stratospheric contributions, the ones that raise the most serious questions about corruption; other donors could bring their money back into the mainstream system in an above-board way. Voters might not like it, but at least they could see it and, if they chose, vote against it. With money inside the political system, candidates and parties would have more control over their own campaigns and destinies. 
Yes, big donations buy access and influence. Yes, high limits tempt politicians to squeeze donors mercilessly for money. But if you think the existing system puts a stop to that, I refer you to the Adelson Primary the other day in Las Vegas, where Republican hopefuls lined up to curry favor with the gambling magnate. And in today’s era of presidential races that cost more than $1 billion and Senate races that top $20 million, even quite large contributions, short of the eye-popping level, are too small to make a candidate kiss the donor’s ring. With so much money out there in federal politics now (more than $6 billion in 2012), big is the new small.


JCF said...

Religions = corporations, corporations = religions:


Kevin K said...

This has been going on, in both parties, for years. Democrats get huge amounts out of Hollywood and the Plaintiff's Bar the nightmare of the right (Mr. Soros).

Republicans get huge amounts out of the Chamber of Commerce, banks and the nightmare of the left (the Bros. Koch)

IT said...

Kevin K, you can't compare the two.

For one thing, the Hollywood and Soros folks are open. The Koch brothers, ALEC, and so on are the opposite of transparent. And a significant component of the right's effort is to deny the franchise when they can.

Ironic isn't it, that the Supremes consider corporations people, adn money to be speech, but eviscerate the rights of actual people to vote.

Kevin K said...

Dear IT

Can too.

There appears to be no shortage of information about how much the Koch brothers have spent and where their donations go. I was looking at just such an article yesterday. The brothers don't seem to like the public eye but their campaign contributions are very well reported. How is that not transparent?

As for denying the franchise, the Courts have kept a pretty close watch on this issue. As someone who lived in Chicago I think that reasonable voter identification laws are important.

IT said...

As for denying the franchise, the Courts have kept a pretty close watch on this issue

I can't believe you said that with a straight face.

Kevin K said...

There was a decision yesterday about voter registration laws in Florida.