Tuesday, May 12, 2015
A Rudderless Ship in a Raging Sea of Corruption
We can have a litany of philosophical discussions over political corruption. For example, if a statute or enforcement policy within a particular country pretty much legalizes what is corruption in most of the rest of the world, is that local activity considered corruption? If you don’t get caught or prosecuted for corruption, particularly if you are behaving pretty consistently with your peers, even if your activity falls within the four squares of a criminal corruption statute, are you really deemed to be corrupt? If the legal body charged with corruption is unable to enforce anti-corruption legislation for internal political reasons, is the otherwise unregulated activity that appears to violate the law still corruption? If the highest court in the land has ruled that rather clearly corrupting practices from open-ended, high-powered and rather large political funds aren’t justifiably subject to regulation against corruption, is the underlying activity nonetheless corruption or completely legal?
Normally, these are questions asked of banana republics or SEC interrogators looking at American companies bribing and wheedling their way to business dealings overseas, under the harsh eye of the enforcers of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. But today, that lens needs to examine how this entire nation, from gerrymandering and voter ID laws to the massive excesses engendered under the “no spending limits” Citizens United Supreme Court decision (and a subsequent ruling that sparsely-populated Montana was not allowed to limit such political spending even with clear paths to corruption), is drifting rather quickly into a becoming a plutocracy where money determines political outcomes. We are sliding down the transparency ladder with every move.
Reacting to the nasties from the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s, the Federal Election Commission was established in 1974, and, until recently, operated with reasonable efficiency. But lest you believe that the F.E.C. is currently on top of this current move into the abyss of corrupt-moneyed politics, let me disabuse you of that naïve assumption. The F.E.C. is a leaderless administrative body, overwhelmed with challenges, with an admittedly hopeless task that they cannot fulfill. Ann Ravel, chairwoman of the F.E.C., has all but given up trying to stem the rapidly-rising tide of the corruption and election laws violations she sees all around her.
“The leader of the Federal Election Commission, the agency charged with regulating the way political money is raised and spent, says she has largely given up hope of reining in abuses in the 2016 presidential campaign, which could generate a record $10 billion in spending… ‘The likelihood of the laws being enforced is slim,’ Ann M. Ravel, the chairwoman, said in an interview. ‘I never want to give up, but I’m not under any illusions. People think the F.E.C. is dysfunctional. It’s worse than dysfunctional.’
“Her unusually frank assessment reflects a worsening stalemate among the agency’s six commissioners. They are perpetually locked in 3-to-3 ties along party lines on key votes because of a fundamental disagreement over the mandate of the commission, which was created 40 years ago in response to the political corruption of Watergate… Some commissioners are barely on speaking terms, cross-aisle negotiations are infrequent, and with no consensus on which rules to enforce, the caseload against violators has plummeted.
“The F.E.C.’s paralysis comes at a particularly critical time because of the sea change brought about by the Supreme Court’s decision in 2010 in the Citizens United case, which freed corporations and unions to spend unlimited funds in support of political candidates. Billionaire donors and ‘super PACs’ are already gaining an outsize role in the 2016 campaign, and the lines have become increasingly stretched and blurred over what presidential candidates and political groups are allowed to do.” New York Times, May 2nd.
Since the bulk of the SuperPac money is coming from conservative coffers, and bulk of voter imbalance is occurring in southern and other GOP strongholds, the motivation to control the impact of raw injustice and huge-campaign-contributing donors is almost non-existent among Republican members of the F.E.C. “Now, [Ravel] said, she plans on concentrating on getting information out publicly, rather than continuing what she sees as a futile attempt to take action against major violations. She said she was resigned to the fact that ‘there is not going to be any real enforcement’ in the coming election… ‘The few rules that are left, people feel free to ignore,’ said Ellen L. Weintraub, a Democratic commissioner.
“Republican members of the commission see no such crisis. They say they are comfortable with how things are working under the structure that gives each party three votes. No action at all, they say, is better than overly aggressive steps that could chill political speech… ‘Congress set this place up to gridlock,’ Lee E. Goodman, a Republican commissioner, said in an interview. ‘This agency is functioning as Congress intended. The democracy isn’t collapsing around us.’” NY Times. The GOP hides under the new Supreme Court rubric of “First Amendment Rights,” but the results of that policy are self-evident.
As the United States has become a nation of a majority of minorities, the GOP probably would lose control of its Congressional majority, its majority control of most state legislatures where districts are heavily gerrymandered and face an almost insurmountable hurdle to elect a president without the ability to distort “one-person, one-vote” fairness and enable the richest members of society to have the ultra-loudest voices on who gets elected and what their platforms must be. So election-driven-fairness is the arch enemy of the GOP, even though that fairness is the backbone of the entire basis for the existence of the United States. Republicans like Abraham Lincoln and Dwight David Eisenhower must be rolling in their graves.
I’m Peter Dekom, and if we cannot provide our citizens with the democracy promised by our founding fathers, perhaps we should cut our entire defense budget since this may no longer be a nation worthy of being defended!