U.S. Supreme Court
There appear to be two realities on the question of campaign finance reform. One, is the world of what politicians do and say when they’re in front of tv cameras or talking to a reporter. They fall all over one another in an effort to explain that they’re all for it. The other, the real world, is how they feel about accepting large sums of money. It’s what they live for. They live to get elected and money is the grease that makes the wheels go ’round, particularly in this age of electronic journalism. This was first made apparent by the Nixon-Kennedy debates. JFK was tanned, rested, in makeup for tv and looking like he’d just stepped off the front page of GQ. Dick Nixon was sweating bullets and sporting a beard that made him look like he was badly in need of a shave. Some have argued that Kennedy won the debates on image alone.
It’s largely image that gets people elected in America and it’s no secret that it takes big money to present an image to the American people while fending off attacks from the opposition. When people give you money to run for office they expect a return on their investment. And so, those who have the most to “invest” in the Presidency and the Congress, are in effect, running the country. This is why we have no anti-trust laws preventing monopolies in the health insurance industry. It’s why the cost of prescription drugs doubles when you cross the border from Canada to the U.S. He who contributes the most, gains the most favor in the nation’s capitol. The insurance industry and big pharma have contributed heavily for years.
And so friends, finance reform has been a hot-button topic since 1833. Yes, 1883. For more than 100 years, our political leaders have failed to pass meaningful campaign finance reform legislation. Oh, bills do get passed, but lobbyists just bring the money in through a different door and nothing really changes.
Until we come to the court of last resort. The mighty Supreme Court of the United States. If the buck(s) is going to stop anywhere, this is where it will have to happen. But what has the high court just done? On a totally partisan vote, the dignified and noble Supreme Court of the United States has overturned precedents from 1990 and 2003 that upheld limits on what companies could spend independently, from their own treasuries, to support or oppose federal candidates.
The Supremes also struck down the part of McCain/Feingold that placed restrictions on broadcast ads for or against candidates just before an election takes place if the ads are paid for by labor unions, advocacy groups or corporations.
Common Cause President Bob Edgar responded to the ruling by saying, “This decision allows Wall Street to tap its vast corporate profits to drown out the voice of the public in our democracy.”
The five conservatives on the high court obviously do not agree. They seem to feel that opening the doors on a flood of new corporate spending to further influence the political process is an issue of free speech.
The thinking of the majority according to Justice Anthony Kennedy is: “We find no basis for the proposition that, in the context of political speech, the government may impose restrictions on certain disfavored speakers.”
And so, the political process in America becomes increasingly separate and unequal, favoring the wealthy over the poor, the middle class and even a number of Republicans who have been duped into believing that what’s left of their hijacked party continues to represent their best interest.