“It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes. Distinctions in society will always exist under every just government. Equality of talents, of education, or of wealth can not be produced by human institutions. In the full enjoyment of the gifts of Heaven and the fruits of superior industry, economy, and virtue, every man is equally entitled to protection by law; but when the laws undertake to add to these natural and just advantages artificial distinctions, to grant titles, gratuities, and exclusive privileges, to make the rich richer and the potent more powerful, the humble members of society — the farmers, mechanics, and laborers — who have neither the time nor the means of securing like favors to themselves, have a right to complain of the injustice of their government. There are no necessary evils in government. Its evils exist only in its abuses. If it would confine itself to equal protection, and, as Heaven does its rains, shower its favors alike on the high and the low, the rich and the poor, it would be an unqualified blessing.”— Andrew Jackson
It is probably obvious to most people that I have issues with unfettered political campaign spending, and that the US Supreme Court’s apparent belief that money is speech – and therefore campaign spending is to be protected under the First Amendment – is something I regard to be a flagrant example of revisionism at it’s worst. And leaves me questioning the impartiality of the majority of the members of the current Court.
In April of last year, the Supreme Court, in a disturbing follow-up to their Citizen’s United decision, ruled that it was unconstitutional to restrict individual campaign contributions, other than obvious ‘quid pro quo’ contributions, effectively reversing several previous court decisions regarding such limitations. The crux of the case, which was partially funded by the Republican National Committee was that an individual, Shaun McCutcheon, wanted to contribute more in aggregate (to individual campaigns, and to various groups), than was legally permitted under the existing two year limits. The RNC, not surprisingly, wanted to be able to receive these additional funds. The court not only agreed, but also declared that Congress did not have the authority to place these limits in the first place. Now, due to quid pro quo restrictions, since even this Court wasn’t corrupt enough to interfere with those, the only real restriction is to individual contributions to individual candidates, PAC’s, and party funding committees. But courtesy of Congress shoving many unrelated things into the year-end omnibus budget, that limit is been increased to $324,000 per year by way of donations to three separate funds that both parties will be allowed to maintain.
This all brings me to the announcement made by the Koch brothers last week at their annual winter donor retreat that they aim to pour $889 million into the 2016 campaigns at the national and state levels. To put this into perspective, besides being greater than the GNP was some countries, this is roughly on par with the spending of each of the two primary political parties (& actually exceeds the spending that each party did in 2014 by roughly $200 million). And they are taking a far more public stance than they have in years past. Now that the restrictions have pretty much been lifted – why bother hiding. From where I’m sitting, it sounds like they’ve effectively launched their own party. It’s been there for some time now, but they, and the candidates that are lusting after that money, no longer have to pretend. Now they just have to pretend that there’s nothing wrong with this picture, and that their goals, and mega-rich donors’ goals, are all aligned with what’s best for this country. But they aren’t, and they actually cannot be. No one gives that much money away – there is always the expectation of some form of quid pro quo. And the interests of those that can afford that kind of ‘speech, are never aligned with what the majority of the country needs.
Money is not, and should not be considered speech. In a ‘one man, one vote’ system, it unconscionable that one man who gives $324,000 can, and will, expect more from their elected representatives than I can, or will, with my $50 contribution.