03 June 2012

"TOM" AND GOLIATH


 
UPDATED: 07/17/12
"Come on, fifteen billionaires [who fund the GOP's continued existence], come out from behind the shadows. Come out into the open, so David at least has a chance to launch that single slingshot."
This is it! The moment Scott Walker was talking about when he told a fake Koch brother, "...yep, this is our moment." Yes, it is indeed Wisconsin’s moment to determine if its electorate can stand firm against the forces made infinitely more powerful thanks to Citizens United.

As of right now, Gov Walker is polling slightly ahead of Democratic candidate Tom Barrett.

After all that… after Walker’s betrayals in office, and after the sustained and statewide protests that followed; it is clear that there is only one reason this governor is slightly ahead:

Money spent for Tom Barrett (D): $2.9 million
Money spent for Scott Walker (R): $30 million

David, meet Goliath.

President Obama has largely stayed out of this battle. And that’s a good thing. The outcome of this recall is for Wisconsin alone to decide.

But, due to its national implications, all Americans (including the president) should observe that the problem with Citizens United is not just the amount of money raised, but the fact that we don’t know who is behind the money.

Would Goliath still be such a… goliath if we could all see him in the sunlight? Would Goliath even be American? Under Citizens United, the idea that foreign interests can inject themselves into our democratic process is a valid concern.

Unfortunately, the one man serving on the Hill with any kind of expertise on the subject of "secret money" is Senator John McCain, who is kind of a joke until he comes clean about his punchline, Sarah Palin.

Nevertheless, the following McCain quotes are pretty remarkable (all from Chicago Tribune, "McCain Calls SCOTUS Decision on Campaign Spending 'Stupid'" 03/28/12):
"What the Supreme Court did is a combination of arrogance, naïveté and stupidity the likes of which I have never seen," he pronounced from the dais. "It’s pretty obvious by the sarcasm from people like (Justice Antonin) Scalia and the absolute naïveté of people I voted for to be members of the Supreme Court, like (Chief Justice John) Roberts and (Justice Samuel) ['not true'] Alito and others, that they had no idea what political campaigns are about. They were incredibly naïve… Since when is a corporation a person?"
Senator McCain continues: 
"I've got to wait until we think that we can pass legislation and I'm not sure right now, frankly, that we could get it passed," he said. "I think there is probably a majority of Republicans right now that would vote against it because Republicans are profiting by it and there'll be a lot of Democrats who don't want to take it up." 
I can’t believe I’m saying this… but, here's more McCain: 
"I promise you there will be huge scandals because there's too much money washing around, too much of it we don't know who contributed it and there's too much corruption associated with that kind of money." 
Okay, okay, I forgive you for Sarah Palin!

Senator McCain nailed it. It’s not so much the amount raised. It’s that it can be and is raised in secret. And the reason secret donors remain largely protected is thanks to a persistent yet, in these cases, irrelevant argument about harassment.

For example, the LGBT movement has in certain instances called on courts to uphold donor non-disclosure protections as a way to shield gay-affirming private citizens and organizations from harassment by... shall we say, the less informed people of our recent past.

Ironically, Justice Clarence Thomas – who himself has questionable history in this area – cited LGBT examples in his Citizens United opinion, where he makes it known that he is no fan of mandatory disclosure requirements. He writes:
"These instances of retaliation sufficiently demonstrate why this Court should invalidate mandatory disclosure and reporting requirements... I cannot endorse a view of the First Amendment that subjects citizens of this Nation to death threats, ruined careers, damaged or defaced property, or pre-emptive and threatening warning letters as the price for engaging in "core political speech, the 'primary object of First Amendment protection.'"
But the same threats simply do not apply to companies - at least not with the broad brush used by Justice Thomas. This is a classic use of the First Amendment as smoke-and-mirrors. The same threats do not apply to a toilet paper company that would make a killing with Scott Walker hanging on as governor of Wisconsin. 

While we're on the subject of that toilet paper company, Koch Industries; it's time to connect some dots:
"[Common Cause] asserted that Justice Thomas should have withdrawn from deciding last year’s landmark Citizens United case on campaign finance because of both Mrs. Thomas’s founding of another conservative political group in 2009 and Justice Thomas’s own appearance at a private political retreat organized by Charles Koch, a prominent conservative financier." (New York Times, "Thomas Cites Failure to Disclose Wife's Job" 01/24/11)
The connection is clear. And now, Citizens United facilitates large corporations – like Koch – secretly spending money in a state like Wisconsin to influence the outcome of an election.

If the motive for a political donation is profit-driven, the "harassment" defense is invalid. The American people need to know.
"The problem with our disclosure laws is political, not constitutional. Congress has not seen fit to fix the holes in the campaign finance laws, and the Federal Election Commission’s rules allowed for much money to be left undisclosed. It got even worse recently when three Republican commissioners on the FEC, who have been blocking whatever campaign finance laws they could, interpreted the rules to require even less disclosure." (Slate, "Is Campaign Disclosure Heading Back to the Supreme Court" 05/16/12)
As Slate explains, this secrecy is meant to disrupt the flow of information available to us as we cast our votes. And you can bet that the entities (we don’t know who they are like the ones behind the $30 million suit of armor given to this particular goliath, Scott Walker  enjoy anonymity as much as they love to try to neutralize the media outlets that attempt to report on this stuff. The less we know, the better for them.
"It is important to note here that Freedom of the Press is a constitutional right. There is a reason this is First Amendment stuff! Our founders knew that a free press would be the enemy of those who seek the kind of power and influence that are not in our nation's best interest." (From "Our Path to Absurdity," 06/06/11)
Advocates of secretive special interests must stop pretending it’s about harassment. Come on, fifteen billionaires [who fund the GOP's continued existence], come out from behind the shadows. Come out into the open, so David at least has a chance to launch that single slingshot.

UPDATED: 6/18/12 - Fresh from their side's victory in Wisconsin... Senate Minority Leader, Mitch "McConnell (R-KY) defends political contributions as free speech." (Washington Post)

UPDATED: 6/20/12 - Senate Minority Leader McConnell continues to call on Republicans to protect secret money here: "Big Political Donors Shy Away from Public Scrutiny." (NPR) In this article, there is this quote by Norm Ornstein (who recently wrote the book mentioned here):
"If you're judging candidates and making your vote choices based on what you hear, you have got to be able to know who is saying the things that you hear."
UPDATED: 07/17/12 - "Harry Reid Worries About '17 Angry Old White Men' Buying The Nation." (NPR)