One Small Voice’s Warning
For several months past, on the radio, I’ve been screaming about Citizens United. Not about its existence or even its effect immediately on this current year’s campaign, but rather about how it can breech the walls of all elections in this country, from the presidential ones to the choices we make for our aldermen, selectmen, planning and zoning boards, and so forth.
Then the Supreme Court clamped down on the state of Montana “for maintaining its maximum contribution to political campaigns or candidates to $160 per person. The Court wants Montana, and other states which over the years fought possible political corruption by limiting this kind of money, to join the rest of our newly embillioned populace and to spend its money “on the come,” or for quid pro quo’s, rather than on infrastructure, education, science and technology. When you uphold one bad law, why not follow that up by approving another?”
The above quotation comes from a piece written for The Lakeville Journal some weeks ago.
I’m not clairvoyant, but anyone who cared could see the danger to one-man-one-vote democracy in the Court’s decision. Further, we could all see how this unstructured and unlimited money could filter down and into political races for “down the slate” offices.
Why, for example, should Linda McMahon spend her own money when secret contributors from the right can donate as much as they like anonymously to her campaign for the Senate? This virtually forces the Democrats to pour money into the state in favor of Chris Murphy.
Moving down the food chain, Elizabeth Esty may benefit from anonymous big money the same way Andrew Rorabach can.
And local probate judges? Why not?
In an almost buried editorial recently, The New York Times regaled us with the trials of an Iowa judge who is under the gun of Big Money.
When the Iowa Supreme Court approved same sex marriage a few years ago, three of the judges on its panel were summarily ousted from their positions by the electorate for provoking right wing wrath. And now a fourth, David Wiggins, is under attack this autumn not only by the far right but by visiting Republican honchos Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum. And you can bet the farm on it that those two did not fly in on their own dime.
The issue of same-sex marriage matters not a whit in this case. What does is the wrath and bankbooks of the Republicans’ right wing newly empowered and emboldened by Citizens United.
Judge Wiggins, according to The Times, is not raising money for an active defense. “Campaigns are political,” he explained. “They require candidates to count votes and appeal to donors. That system has created a big enough mess in Congress. It has no business in the courts. Judges should be beholden only to the constitution and the law.”
Even the US Chamber of Commerce will admit that judges elected by business interests have a tendency to favor those same business interests when they appear in their courts. (“Boys will be boys.” Or, “You get what you pay for.”)
Here’s a probable and disturbing scenario for the next few election cycles. Whether it’s the Republicans who have the loot to spend or the Democrats makes no difference whatever.
But unless the US of A comes to its senses, either with an amendment to the constitution (unlikely) or personnel changes on the Supreme Court that would allow it to reconsider a case that tangentially touches on Citizens United and thereby rectify its error, Big Money can control whatever it likes in your town, in our town, in any town in America.
From mayors to school boards, one side or the other with enough money can construct entire villages, cities, states absolutely guaranteed to do its bidding. As long as anonymity prevails, and the loot holds out, Big Money can and probably will control nearly every aspect of our daily lives.
Here are few things you won’t see on the news when this happens. Demonstrations against oil spilling companies or fracking concerns, public hearings on clean water, air, or PCBs. Reasoned criticism of banks which grow too big to fail. Affordable insurance and health care debates. Congressional disapproval of “pre-emptive wars” in the Middle East.
It’s a great life only if we’ve enough stamina for it.