Congratulations, America: You’re officially unncessary

Posted on January 29, 2012

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The nation’s biggest political-action committees have raised $66 million so far this year — all of it for Republican presidential candidates. That’s roughly nine-and-a-half times more than any one of those candidates has raised in public campaign financing.

The people behind Super PACs know how to influence elections (or “buy politicians” as it’s more accurately known), and how to legally avoid scrutiny.

At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, James Madison said, “The people are the fountain of all power.” Hop in the DeLorean and time-jump to today, and the power of the people has been utterly perverted. The job of supposedly leaders is to produce what the money-ballers and power-brokers who bought their office want. And we have the ludicrous “Citizens United” Supreme Court decision – wherein it was ruled that corporations have the exact same rights as individual U.S. citizens and cannot be limited on how much money they can give to a political candidate, *AND* they don’t have to disclose having done so.

A whopping $66 million was raised in the first half of this year by independent groups known as “super-PACs” (political-action committees), according to Federal Elections Commission filings. The justification for these money-funneling organizations is that PACs weren’t effective enough in buying politicians and super-versions of them were necessary.  It’s the same exact mentality that decided that Congress wasn’t effective enough to pass laws, so we needed the “Super-Congress” to get things done. And we’ve all how non-partisan, streamlined and effective that’s been.

That $66 million is more Barack Obama and John McCain raised COMBINED over an entire two-year period prior to the 2008 election.

What does this mean to you, me and every other average taxpayer?  It means that we are now *OFFICIALLY* irrelevant to the American electoral process, as opposed to the way we’ve just been peripherally involved for the past several decades.  Big money corporations and super-PACs are literally able, legally, to BUY ELECTIONS. Candidates don’t even have to bother with fundraising anymore. They just sit back and collect multi-million-dollar “donations” from people and organizations that are formed and run by their own people. They don’t need your money anymore. They don’t even need your vote anymore. All they need is one or two millionaire/billionaire buddies to buy the ballot box for them.  You?  You’re just there for them to pander to you; to rile you up, spew their spiffy bumper-sticker slogans at; and fool you into thinking they actually give a rat’s ass what happens to you.

Although there are currently more than 140 PACs involved, just five groups accounted for more than $50 million of that haul:

  • Winning Our Future: $27.4 million (directly supporting Newt Gingrich, including $10 million given by Gingrich’s billionaire buddy, Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson)
  • Restore Our Future: $15.2 million (directly supporting Mitt Romney)
  • American Crossroads: $3.9 million (founded and run by Karl Rove, directly supporting Newt Gingrich and anyone and anything that opposes Barack Obama)
  • Priorities USA Action: $3.1 million (directly supporting Barack Obama)
  • American Bridge 21st Century: $1.5 million (directly supporting Barack Obama)

Think about that: One man, one multi-billionaire, has given $10 Million dollars to Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign. $10 MILLION. And he’s got four-or-five more zeroes than that if he feels like throwing another 10-or-20 million into the fire.  Someone explain again how that’s NOT buying a presidential campaign or the political figure-head in front of it? Never before in the history of American politics has a single couple given more money to a single candidate and had a bigger impact – all courtesy of the Supreme Court and its grotesque decisions that speech is money and corporations are people under the First Amendment.

We’re supposed to believe that Adelson won’t want something in return if Gingrich gets into the White House?  We’re supposed to believe that influence won’t be pedaled to allow Adelson to build casinos in Florida and elsewhere that he’s been prevented by law from doing for decades? We’re supposed to believe he’s just a “patriotic American who’s participating in his Constitutionally protected electoral process” because he’s a nice guy?

Bullshit. I’ll believe Sarah Palin’s IQ is bigger than her bra size first.

Super-PACs may raise unlimited funds from individuals, corporations, or unions to advocate for or against political candidates. They may also spend unlimited funds, though they may not “coordinate” with or contribute directly to a candidate’s campaign. And isn’t it amazing how often these candidates are seen having dinner with these donors, or playing golf with them, or at a party with them, etc.?  But we’re supposed to believe they’re NOT talking about the campaign or their financing. Why?  Because they tell us they weren’t, and politicians would simply never lie, especially about something as grave and serious as campaign fraud.

The court in Citizens United rightly approved requirements for public disclosure of donors’ names and other information. Unfortunately, political professionals have found a way around that by funneling money first through nonprofit corporations not subject to disclosure requirements. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that pro-Gingrich Winning Our Future, buoyed by $10 million in contributions from casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his family, had purchased $6 million in Sunshine State advertising. Restore Our Future was reported to have spent $7.7 million on behalf of Romney.

That’s nearly FOURTEEN MILLION DOLLARS, spent in one state, in one week, for nothing more than repetitive, negative, “attack” ads that have been proven – time and again – to be stuffed full of out-of-context quotes, distortions, misrepresentations and outright lies – all in favor of two pathological liars who want you to believe they are the best possible choice there is to be leader of the United States of America, and by proxy, the leader of the free world.

Super-PACs can avoid disclosing donors by contributing funds raised to 501(c)4 organizations; these non-profit “social welfare” organizations are not required by law to reveal their donors. During the mid-term elections, five super PACs attributed all or nearly all of their contributions to nonprofit organizations.

The dual-structure affiliation of super PACs and non-profits is currently legal, but it’s a blatant and obvious end-run around the voice of the voter, and a direct super-highway for corporations, big unions, and wealthy individuals to have unlimited influence on elections and officeholders. This was the reason “soft money” donations to the political parties were banned in 2002, and the ban was affirmed by the Supreme Court in 2010. But super-PACs don’t *CALL* it “soft money,” so the Supreme Court trumped itself, and royally screwed the ordinary voter, by saying that the “soft money” ruling didn’t apply.

The Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that works in the areas of campaign finance and elections, political communication, and government ethics, has filed a petition with the Internal Revenue Service, arguing that existing IRS regulations permit these 501(c)4 groups to make far more campaign expenditures than is allowed by the Internal Revenue Code, and requesting that the IRS issue new regulations that better enforce the law.

A collective of Republicans in the House of Representatives have already joined forces to issue a counter-proposal to block the petition on the grounds that it “violates the law of the land, as defined by Citizens United.”  You got that, didn’t you?  The politicians opposing the people who are opposing Citizens United, are citing Citizens United as the reason why it can’t be opposed. And nobody in Washington sees an inherent, systemic problem with that?  THESE are our “best and brightest”?

Unfortunately, because the system is designed to keep power in power, Congress will never reform itself when it comes to campaign finance. The rich will get richer, the powerful will get more powerful, and you and I will sit here, shaking our heads or screaming at the monitor, powerless, frustrated and prevented from doing anything about it by a system that’s designed to protect, promote and promulgate itself.

Newt Gingrich can whine and cry that Mitt Romney is spending millions of super-PAC dollars on negative campaign ads that make Gingrich look bad (mainly by pointing out facts from his political past). So what is Newt’s solution?  His super-PAC spends millions of super-PAC dollars on negative campaign ads against Romney, and justifies it because “Hey … the law says I can.”

And don’t look for the Federal Election Commission to weigh in on this. They’ve already released a statement that they are only responsible for how *elections* are conducted, not campaigns.

And that’s why I’m suggesting an end-run around Congress.

By invoking Article V of the U.S. Constitution and putting enormous pressure to fix this dismal fiduciary game of ba-zinga called “politics in America” through voicing opposition – loud and organized – at state constitutional conventions, we the people can take the strangle-hold off our financial and electoral throats and force the U.S. Congress to surgically remove a cancer that has poisoned it from within.

It’s either that, or torches and pitchforks.

And, frankly, I’m leaning *WAY* more toward the latter.

 

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