Citizens United States of America 2012


If I may quote myself from a previous post, the Supreme Court decision on the Citizens United case has enabled the most vile of the vile to raise unlimited quantities of very influential cash from undisclosed donors to buy votes for even more vile candidates.

And because of that, democracy takes a hit, because ordinary, well-qualified, smart, creative people who will never live in mansions and employ “chair slaves” know they don’t stand a chance against Candidate Moneybags, and so they forgo a run.

In today's L.A. Times, there is an article that goes into more detail about how big money is (negatively) affecting campaigns, called, "'Super PACs' are showing their power."  They sure are.

Independent organizations called Super PACs are spending unprecedented amounts of corporate money on this presidential race, the first since Citizens United allowed unlimited donations to these groups to the tune of what could end up being an estimated $6-7 BILLION.

In the good old pre-2010, pre-Super PAC days, real people (corporations are not people, my friend) gave their real, hard-earned money to candidates and political party committees.

Super PACs are now spending more on ads than the actual candidates are, who are forbidden to coordinate with the PACs in any way. One drawback to those running is that the PAC messages may not jibe with that of the campaigns.

If present trends continue, the 2012 election will reverse more than a century of efforts to curb the influence of big money on politics.

I guess that's called "progress." *Sarcasm drip* Thanks, SCOTUS, we owe you one.

Technically, the new rules permit donations only to independent political committees that do not coordinate their activities with a candidate's official campaign. But in the presidential race the candidates and the super PACs are intertwined by personnel, if not legally.

It gets worse:

Reformers are especially alarmed by super PACs active in congressional races, because large sums of money they command can be even more influential in smaller elections than at the presidential level.

Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson's campaign manager, Paul Johnson:

"A Senate race is now a national campaign in which you run in some ways as a surrogate for national groups with their own agenda. It means candidates run not just against their opponent but against all other Senate candidates competing for outside money."

He said the new environment discouraged promising candidates from running: "They look at the cost of this race and say, how do I compete?"

We rarely hear that argument, but it's an important one. As I mentioned at the top of the post, discouraging good, qualified candidates from running simply because they don't have fat wallets is a depressing, frustrating by-product of this awful ruling.  One of my mantras has been that we need to get more progressives into office from the bottom up, meaning starting with local races, then state races, and then eventually, national ones. But how do we do that without competitive funding?

A friend of mine was going to run for our local Board of Education, but he couldn't come up with the money for signs, promotional items, ads, you name it, so he decided against a run. We lost a great potential board member because he wasn't rich enough, nor did he have connections to wealthy donors. And it gets exponentially worse when you think about all the others who have faced the same hurdle.

Welcome to the new (ab)normal.