Jan 23 2010

Christian Science Monitor has great faith: in incumbent Government, that is

Category: corruption,governmentharmonicminer @ 8:59 pm

In a stunning display of ignorance about the nature of American government and the intent of the founders, the Christian Science Monitor editorial board whines that the Supreme Court opens the money gates. There is more at the link, if you can bear to read it.

The Supreme Court on Thursday opened wide the gates to allow more corporate and union money to finance political campaigns, and potentially influence politicians and lawmaking.

That’s unfortunate, and means that the role of watchdogs tracking the money trail will be more important than ever.

It’s not as if corporations and unions have so far had their wallets glued shut. They can fund issue ads that are important to their interests. And they’re allowed to form political action committees that directly support candidates, as long as the donations are collected voluntarily from employees and union members.

But even members of Congress, whose energy is increasingly diverted to fundraising, have long recognized the potentially corrupting effect that big money can have on them. More than 100 years ago they banned corporations from donating directly to federal candidates.

Thankfully, the justices upheld that ban Thursday, as well as disclosure rules about contributors. But in a divisive 5-to-4 ruling, they overturned other important restrictions.

In time for this year’s midterm elections, corporations and unions can now spend directly from their treasuries on ads to support or defeat candidates, as long as those ads are produced independently and not coordinated with a campaign. They may also run ads right up until election day, instead of pulling them 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election.

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy grounded the ruling in First Amendment rights. Corporations and unions, like individuals, have a right to free speech, the majority reasoned. “The censorship we now confront is vast in its reach,” he wrote.

But Justice John Paul Stevens said in his dissent, “The court’s ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions around the nation.” Indeed, when voters say they want “change” in Washington, the influence of money on politics is the kind of thing they’re talking about.

Some facts do intrude.

There were plenty of rich people in America in 1850. They spent very little money trying to get candidates of their choice elected. The reason? Taxes were low. There was no income tax. The federal government didn’t spend all that much, and did not fund lucrative contracts. A government that doesn’t take much of your money, and can’t give you much, is not a government whose makeup matters enough to very many rich people, or groups, to bother to spend much money on.

Fast forward.  In the modern USA, the government has the ability to take your money, regulate everything you do, and spend lots of money buying various goods and services from the private sector.

The Christian Science Monitor suggests that the people who are affected most by government power, the people who have the most to lose, should not have a commensurate ability to affect the decision making process.

Shame on them.

And the CSM seems to think that a government that spends enormous sums of money is one that the people whose money the government took should not be trying to influence, or at least not very much.

That’s just ridiculously naive.

A couple of recent experiences of large corporations in relation to government are instructive.  Not so long ago, Microsoft Corp gave almost no money to political groups or candidates.  But ever since the Clinton justice department essentially attacked Microsoft under “anti-monopoly” law, Microsoft has become a large donor to BOTH parties, out of sheer self-defense.  Something similar has happened with Walmart, which was previously mostly uninterested in politics, until many legislators got the idea that they should force Walmart to change its employment policies in various ways, at which point Walmart began giving money to both parties.

Does someone think that Microsoft and Walmart should not have the right to try to influence the outcome of political processes that are going to affect them in a very big way?  Yes.  But those people fundamentally want the public, including the people who are most productive among us, to be unable to defend themselves from government.

There is no way to “get the money out of politics” and still have a free nation.  The best way to ensure some kind of balance and fairness is simple: require complete and total disclosure of every donation, donor and recipient, to the electorate.  Print it everywhere.  Then let everyone make their case, in the open, about who is influencing whom in a way that is against the interests of the public.

Then let the public decide at the ballot box, instead of letting judges and congressman decide who gets to fund what communication to whom, and when.

The REAL corruption is elected politicians drafting legislation to shut up people and groups who want to exercise their free speech rights.

Here’s another viewpoint on the Supreme Court decision.

6 Responses to “Christian Science Monitor has great faith: in incumbent Government, that is”

  1. innermore says:

    This decision was risky but necessary. I ask a few questions that I truly don’t have the answers to:

    Is this so-called commensurate method of influence an equal allocation of power or a relative one? Which type of power allocation, relative or equal, agrees the most with conservative principles?

    The united power of a group is stronger than the sum of its member’s. How does this fact/theory effect the free speech rights, or equal protection rights of a corporation and its members?

    Businesses have countless, complex relationships with each other. In attempting to openly disclose all donations etc., how many layers of association are sufficient? Is total disclosure a means of regulating the power of money, or of something or someone else? A donation to a politician is like a contract. Shouldn’t each “clause” in this contract also be openly disclosed?

    The publication and distribution of full disclosure is the responsibility of our biased press. How can we ever be sure of full disclosure by the large corporations that own them? And if we can’t trust those full disclosures, how the heck can we trust all the rest of the full disclosures media companies publish and distribute?

  2. innermore says:

    Oh, I have another question. It has been recently disclosed that Warner Brothers donated $125,000 to politician X. It is also a fact that Bugs Bunny, a well-known gun control activist, is on their board of directors. But so is Elmer Fudd, a big NRA guy. Based on this evidence, what am I as a voter supposed to conclude about politician X? Is he a righty or a lefty (wighty ow a wefty)?

  3. Bill says:

    Innermore, my big concern is foriegn entities – unfriendly to our government, people and way of life – buying a majority of individual companies in order to funnel money into our system to get those elected that will further our adgenda. And you are right, will the “shareholders” be disclosed – or just the company name – or the officers – or ???

  4. innermore says:

    Bill, you must be speaking of Marvin The Martian. Alright, I’m sorry. This Loonie Tunes symbolism is getting obnoxious. Again, a billion things can be alleged about a corporation with billions of associations. Under the guise of full disclosure, Geraldo or Maddow could dig up the fact that a cousin of a shareholder’s sister-in-law’s veterinarian is a Muslim terrorist. That oughta really dirty things up, too. How serious or ridiculous is this going to get?

    The biggest lib rant I’ve heard so far is the Dread Scott comparison. They say that back then, the supreme court said that persons were property. So now, the court has determined that property is a person. Typical liberal demonetization tactic. Seems like a bit of a stretch but, something to chew on.

  5. harmonicminer says:

    I think all of these concerns are ameliorated if we assume that there is a competitive media (i.e., voices on all sides) that is busy making its case for its candidate and against another. In the presence of such a media establishment, that’s why we have to trust the electorate to decide what connections and associations matter.

    For instance, I am not happy with the fact that Fox News has 6% ownership by a Saudi prince, and so when Fox puts up a “spokesman” for Islam like CAIR, I always look very closely, and assume some kind of bias till proved otherwise.

    When the press fails to do its job, the ability of large corporations to do large media buys to make counterpoints is just about the only remaining way to get competing perspectives into the public mind. For a great example of the failure of media to cover salient facts, and indeed to function as an arm of a campaign, buy a copy of the “Media Malpractice” movie advertised at the top of this page.

    This is precisely why we need for greater freedom in communication at election time, not less. We just need to make it a requirement that everyone knows where all the money comes from, and to whom it went, in time to make an issue of THAT in the election coverage, if there is some concern.

  6. innermore says:

    Point well taken sir.

    The news media’s focus isn’t reporting the news, getting perspectives out for voters, or promoting a campaign, etc. Those purposes are merely “noble” tools for the media to use to get their most important message out, which is ADVERTI$ING. I think the media puts on a tacky act, getting the attention of one group or another. And it’s all for one goal; massive consumerism. Any message, real or not, must be hyped up to a frenzied pitch for maximum attention-getting effect before it is aired. It’s not because of the lack of outlets that a message isn’t getting heard, it’s because we’re all covering our ears! Greater communication freedom is one good thing, but when the content of that communication is nothing but commercials, the airwaves become over-saturated and the listeners can’t pick out anything of substance anymore.

    I think the electorate is beyond frustrated that they can’t trust the message anymore, so we just sorta pretend we know(?). I think it has gotten to the point where even the truth and the facts about anything are impossible to rely on, so most folks have settled on relying on their instincts.

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