Michael Hiltzik has another illuminating column in today’s L.A. Times, this time about Citizens United and the continuing practice of buying influence. The big bucks flowed and will continue to flow, despite the outcome of the presidential election, despite Sheldon Adelson’s abysmal failure to purchase a president.
The Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling overturned limits on political spending that resulted in unprecedented donations from corporations and a handful of billionaires to presidential and congressional candidates.
But just because ridiculous amounts of cash were unsuccessfully thrown at Mitt Romney and others who lost their bids for office doesn’t mean that corporate and individual influence doesn’t count and won’t get worse. We still have to demand campaign finance reform and somehow reverse that terrible SCOTUS decision.
As Larry Noble, president of Americans for Campaign Reform, a Concord, N.H.-based nonprofit seeking to dilute the influence of private money in elections, said:
“They may not have determined the election, but you can’t say they didn’t have any influence.”
As Hiltzik wrote, super PACs are still out there doing their super PAC thing, raising unlimited amounts of big money from unions, corporations, and individuals (supposedly) without coordinating directly with those they back. Key word: Directly.
Now, that whole “Fiscal Crossroads/Curb” issue is attracting big donors the way Susan Rice attracts GOP Sunday talk show attack dogs. Meantime, small donors are left in the dust:
The impulse to please big donors to keep the money flowing visibly narrows the breadth of debate in Washington, where raising the top marginal income tax rate by 4.6 percentage points, to 39.6%, is treated as the absolute limit on taxation of the wealthy. For most of the Reagan administration, the top rate was 50% or higher.
This mind-set reflects the outsized influence of a small clutch of wealthy individuals and corporate donors. According to a study by the nonprofit progressive organizations Demos and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, contributions to super PACs by just 61 large donors averaging $4.7 million each matched the combined donations of 1.4 million donors of $250 or less to the Romney and Obama campaigns.
The best counterweights to Citizens United lie in tightening up disclosure rules [...] Another good idea is to magnify the weight of small donations to tip the scale back toward the average voter. That’s the goal of the Empowering Citizens Act, sponsored by Reps. David Price (D-N.C.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) By providing a public match of 5 to 1 for the first $250 of any individual’s contribution to a presidential or congressional candidate, the measure aims to raise incentives for individuals to donate and for candidates to seek small donations.
If we don’t do something about all the inequity and abuse of what’s left of democracy, we’ll continue to face this: