Supreme Court’s Boys’ Club Approves Broader Campaign Laundering
by Marc Belisle
The Supreme Court today sided with the Republican National Committee and wealthy businessman, Shaun McCutcheon, against the Federal Election Commission. The Roberts Court voted 5-4 to strike down limits on how much an individual can spend overall on candidates, campaigns and PACs. The Washington Post reports that Justice Stephen G. Breyer said, reading his dissent, “If Citizens United opened a door, … today’s decision we fear will open a floodgate.” This could prove to be the understatement of the decade. The ruling effectively allows anyone with the means to do so to donate to as many political recipients as their corporation’s heart desires. An individual billionaire and surrogates can now influence entire fields of candidates in limitless races.
The government argued that removing the limits could create loopholes allowing individuals to effectively donate millions to individual candidates. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that this concern was “divorced from reality.”
What reality is Roberts living in? In our actual reality, the 2016 Republican presidential hopefuls just cloistered themselves in Las Vegas with billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. Adelson, who donated $92 million to Republican candidates, campaigns and PACs in 2012, is also under investigation for corrupting foreign officials in Macao. Not long ago, presidential aspirants got very familiar with folks in Iowa and other early primary states. Today, they get cozy with a few billionaires. This is our new reality. In Roberts’s reality, the problem is that oligarchs don’t have enough influence over our ostensibly democratic government.
Roberts defended his decision thus:
“Money in politics may at times seem repugnant to some, but so too does much of what the First Amendment vigorously protects,” Roberts wrote. “If the First Amendment protects flag burning, funeral protests and Nazi parades — despite the profound offense such spectacles cause — it surely protects political campaign speech despite popular opposition.”
This is absolute nonsense. Funding politicians is not remotely analogous to Roberts’s examples. Take flag burning. It may offend the majority but an individual has the right to do it. But should that individual have the right to pay to ensure that only politicians who want to burn flags in spite of majority opinion are funded and therefore, electable? Roberts has ruled that, if that individual can afford it, then yes, that individual does have that right. This isn’t protecting minority speech, this is enforcing the domination of moneyed speech.
The Supreme Court has argued that money equals speech; that paying for a politician to speak is no different from doing the speaking itself. What the politician does with the money IS the free speech of the donor. To understand how astoundingly ludicrous this is, imagine the following. A rich donor donates to a politician who then calls in a bomb threat to a newspaper, or says that all people of a certain race should be murdered at a specific time and place. Those are not protected speech, and the politician would be in serious legal trouble. But should the donor also be arrested for making a bomb threat or for hate speech? The politician had his money while speaking, after all! What if the politician uses the money to buy crack, hire a hitman or pay for a prostitute? Should the donor be arrested for buying drugs, conspiracy to commit murder, or soliciting prostitution? I would love to see Roberts rule on that. The Supreme Court is not protecting free speech, it is protecting, expanding and entrenching bought speech. A tiny number of oligarchs seek to make speech too expensive for the rest of us, so that only they will have the right to speak and truly be heard through their purchased lapdogs. And the Roberts Court thinks we need more of that.
Since 2010, the Supreme Court has been midwifing increasingly blatant plutocracy. America is a democracy in theory, but becoming plutocratic in practice. Yet the plutocrats’ Achilles’ heel is very exposed. There is one thing that terrifies them more than anything in the world.
No matter how much money they spend, they can’t change your vote. And they can’t take it away unless you don’t use it. In the face of the corporate-captured Supreme Court’s expansion of plutocratic political puppetry, we cannot repeat 2010’s catatonic voter turnout. In November, the streets must thunder with armies of voters marching to the polls—including you.
Image by Steve Marmel
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