Monday, September 26, 2011

$ can't buy love but it sure can buy elections

Here’s a good article by Paul Blumenthal on the results of the Citizens United Supreme Court Case. It is astounding that those Justices in favor of this decision could believe what they said. It’s one more example of the intentional conservative strategy to head off criticism but saying the opposite of what they know to be true, in this case that allowing unlimited money to influence elections somehow reduces corruption! Excerpts from the article:

“The federal system of campaign finance is in the midst of a sea change following the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC), which undid a host of regulations covering the use of corporate and union money by independent groups in elections. Those independent groups are forming a shadow campaign apparatus fueled by unlimited and often undisclosed contributions, without the same accountability required of political parties or candidates' own political action committees.

One of the two new kinds of groups playing in the shadow campaign: super PACs, independent political committees filed with the FEC that can accept unlimited funds from corporations, unions and individuals. In their debut election cycle in 2010, super PACs, like American Crossroads, spent a combined $65.3 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. This was part of a huge surge in spending by non-party groups, whose spending hit $304 million in 2010, a record for any election cycle -- presidential or midterm.

Super PACs weren't solely responsible for the surge in outside spending in 2010. Nonprofit groups organized under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code were also finally allowed to spend money on express advocacy -- calling for the election or defeat of a candidate -- thanks to the Citizens United ruling. Unlike super PACs, these nonprofits, including Crossroads GPS, are not required to disclose the source of their funds. While overall outside spending surged, undisclosed spending by nonprofits, or ‘dark money,’ exploded. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the source of only 51 percent of non-party outside spending was disclosed to the public in 2010.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in the Citizens United ruling, offering the main argument underlying the decision. ‘Independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption,’ he wrote.

The decrease in campaign finance disclosure comes after Kennedy's Citizens United opinion provided one of the strongest affirmations of transparency and disclosure issued by the Court. Kennedy wrote, ‘With the advent of the Internet, prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions.’ The new spending that Kennedy’s opinion would allow he believed, would be transparent and, thus, limit public concerns that could arise about the corporate or union spending.

‘The idea that this is some independent disconnected operation is a farce,’ said Wertheimer. The candidate super PACs are ‘undermining and in the process of eviscerating the contribution limits that exist for candidates in order to protect against corruption.’

The result has been ‘the opposite of what the Supreme Court predicted would happen.’

Super PACs have even gotten in on the secret money act.

‘The money has shifted to the fringes and it's become less and less transparent,’ said Center for Responsive Politics Executive Director Sheila Krumholz. It's shifting away from the parties, the candidates, the PACs, and shifting to these unregulated groups and becoming much and much more secret.’

By empowering corporations to donate to groups that can sway elections, Potter said, the court has empowered organizations that have very different incentives than actual human beings. ‘Corporations do not behave in the same way people do. They think about the best way to get an advantage over their competitor, either through the government or the marketplace. The whole country is going to see a situation where corporate interests are going to be electing members of Congress for that purpose.’"

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