The Supreme Court could tell us this month on why they were right about Citizens United, the case that has changed this country for the worse, as the Wisconsin recall election made very clear, and as those in November are shaping up to do the same. Or they could hear the case in the fall and decide whether or not they screwed up.
Unlimited use of private wealth to influence election outcomes is giving a handful of political billionaire sugar daddies more clout than the candidates themselves.
An article in today’s L.A. Times drives the point home while it illuminates. For example, all that money that’s been given to campaigns isn’t as corporate as you’d think. An entirely different case was decided by a U.S. Court of Appeals after the Citizens United ruling that affects super PAC campaign ads, not necessarily corporate ones.
The rise of “super PACs,” which may raise and spend unlimited amounts so long as they do so independently of a candidate, has allowed close aides to candidates to set up supposedly independent committees that have raised huge amounts, primarily from wealthy individuals. The PACs have spent most of their money on negative ads attacking the opposition. That unlimited fundraising was set in motion by Citizens United, but came to full flower after the subsequent Court of Appeals decision.
So, as the L.A. Times reports, we have a two-track campaign funding system: “One features small donors and strict regulation; the other exists for the very wealthy, who are largely freed from regulation.” A twofer!
And SCOTUS decided that the 1st Amendment protects independent spending on campaigns and that “more public speech and debate on politics is a plus, not a minus.”
And by public speech and debate they mean secret money.
As I mentioned earlier, the problem is that control went from candidates and political parties to outside groups.
The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, citing the 5-4 opinion, reasoned that since the 1st Amendment guaranteed the right to unrestricted “independent” spending on politics, PACs should have the right to collect unlimited sums, so long as they too were independent. [...]
A person who wants to contribute to the campaigns of President Obama or Mitt Romney, his Republican challenger, may give no more than $5,000 this election cycle. But those who have a million dollars to spend can send their money to a super PAC supporting Obama or Romney.
Super PACs have to disclose their donors, but those who prefer secrecy can use not-for-profit groups and trade associations that don’t disclose theirs.
The Supreme Court is being asked to hear a case to address some of this mess, in which the Montana Supreme Court refused to strike down its state ban on election spending by corporations. But you can bet that the wealthy will win, because their guys on the highest court in the land attend and/or headline fundraisers hosted by conservative groups filled to the brim with corporate donors.