Secret McConnell Recordings Underscore Need For Reversing Citizens United

Published On August 29, 2014 | By Bob Rowen |

In a recent, secret Koch brothers summit first brought to public attention by The Undercurrent, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) – not knowing he was being taped – spoke candidly to his audience of wealthy corporate CEOs, uber-elite donors, and fellow conservative politicians that push their anti-worker, pro-business agendas.

Speaking of the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United vs. The Federal Elections Commission, McConnell said;

“…So all Citizens United did was to level the playing field for corporate speech…. We now have, I think, the most free and open system we’ve had in modern times. The Supreme Court allowed all of you to participate in the process in a variety of different ways.”

McConnell continued, and bashed Democratic attempts to raise the minimum wage for workers, extend expired benefits to the unemployed, and allow students some relief from crushing student debt. It seems McConnell was channeling George Orwell who said;

“All men are created equal, but some are more equal than others.”

The playing field that McConnell spoke of has “leveled” to the point that actual citizens voices have been reduced to the level of background noise while that of millionaires and corporations have been elevated to a deafening roar. A recent Princeton study showed that the influence of average people, even when joined with thousands of others, has only a fraction of the power of that of the wealthy and of corporations.

“The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy,” The study said.

McConnell has since been running away from those remarks, sometimes literally, but the reality remains. Big money, often from undisclosed sources, has come to dominate our political scene.

Big money made the GOP the dominant party through the 80’s, but then in 1992, Bill Clinton and the DLC (Democratic Leadership Council) made inroads into a few sources of funding, much of it from undisclosed sources. Clinton’s success in the elections of 1992 and 1996 were enough to generate bipartisan support for reform, which came in the form of McCain-Feingold. But then, along came a conservative-led Supreme Court to undo that progress with the 2010 Citizens United decision.

So what can be done about it? While Citizens United makes it impossible to regulate the money coming into campaigns, it is still possible to require disclosure of the sources of those funds. In an effort to shed light on the vast amounts of money corrupting our electoral system,  Senate Democrats have reintroduced The Disclose Act, which – while not restricting the flow of money toward candidates – will at least make it possible to trace so called Dark Money to its source.

Dark money – money that’s been funneled through an array of non-profits with anonymous donations and then spent funding election campaigns, has mushroomed from $69 million in 2008 to over $800 million in 2012 and is expected to easily eclipse that figure this year. The Center for Responsive Politics estimates dark money spending to approach $1 billion this election cycle.

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Ultimately though, disclosing the sources of the funds will not be enough. The spigot must be shut off or we will forever be stuck with the best government money can buy. The first step to do that must be the reversal of Citizens United.

On September 8th, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) has scheduled a procedural vote that could lead to a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United. Back in March, in calling for the amendment, Reid blasted the 2010 high court decision, saying from the Senate floor;

“There should not be a million-dollar entry fee for participating in our democracy.”

Another option toward an amendment reversing Citizens United is through the states. The Huffington Post reports that “16 states and more than 550 cities and towns” support an amendment to the constitution reversing Citizens United.

Whether Reid’s efforts to bring the amendment to the full Senate, or pressure from a mounting list of states calling for a convention to do so are enough to bring it about, only by getting the money out of our elections can this nation become again a democracy of and for the people.

You can get involved by contacting United For The People HERE.

You can also get involved with Move To Amend HERE:

PHOTO: Salon

Bob Rowen
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Bob Rowen

A lifelong politics junkie with particular interests in privatization and other business and labor issues like minimum wage and immigration.Robert Rowen is also a writer of fiction.His first novel is called The Ballad of Llewellynn.

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Bob Rowen
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