Monday, June 29, 2015
The Enemy of the Big Dollar Influencers: Transparency
Sometimes I think elected officials in the U.S. are bought and sold like shares of stock on a national exchange. The hideous cost of running for office just about anywhere important – particularly when you have federal House seats face reelection every two years and the cost federal presidential elections could finance the budgets of entire countries for a year – is turning out to be the decider in way too many contests. The control of a rich and powerful few over the best interests of the many has a word to describe this system of government: “plutocracy.” Not “democracy.”
With the Citizens United and companion Supreme Court cases, the big influencers hold court to see which candidates will reflect their cares and causes with the most zeal and throw their massive SuperPacs in their direction. Las Vegas casino owner, Sheldon Adelson, want a lid placed against online gaming (his competition), and Marco Rubio seems to be the candidate who is most willing to accept his boss’ mandate. The Koch brothers, with massive fracking operations and powerful benefits from free trade agreements, have their choice selections as well. But lots of these SuperPacs have silent contributors, folks who want to remain anonymous and shielded from the negative publicity such donations would evoke. We call this “dark money,” and its mere existence is horribly anti-American.
But there’s more sneaky action afoot. With the distraction of Charleston, the ISIS war and Iranian nuclear containment negotiations plus the focus on the recent Supreme Court decisions, it’s never been easier to add riders to bills to benefit the rich donors, just as the U.S. government is running out of money and needs some quick appropriations relief.
“The House Appropriations Committee approved a spending bill [in mid-June] that included little-noticed provisions to hobble executive branch efforts to mandate campaign finance disclosure by federal contractors and other corporations… The bill would also prohibit the IRS from moving ahead with a rule defining political activity for nonprofits.
“The restrictions were tucked into a 157-page financial services funding bill. The vote occurred June 17, as the White House was considering renewed requests from public interest groups and congressional Democrats to issue an executive order mandating contractor disclosure.” The Washington Post, June 25th.
Just as Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, declared that the only litmus test she would demand of her Supreme Court nominees, if she is elected, would be the repeal of Citizens United (which had a narrow 5-4 vote in the Court), the move to exacerbate the ease of moving dark money even more prominently forward into the political process has become a less-than-open effort by the conservative side of the aisle.
As the United States is now a nation in which the “majority” of voters are “minorities,” and with the GOP facing massive losses in the relative power of their core, white traditionalist constituency, their efforts are heavily focused on giving their falling Base more power. Gerrymandering, voter ID registering voting, allowing dark money to flow, giving rich influencers a virtually uncapped ability to buy influence legally, cutting public education budgets (which mainly hurts those who don’t vote GOP), etc., etc. are the tools of allowing the few to dictate to the many.
Not that the Republicans are the only violators of political transparency. “Increasingly, allies of both major political parties have used ‘social welfare organizations,’ formed under Section 501(c) 4 of the tax code, to participate in elections using undisclosed contributions. Groups such as Crossroads GPS on the right, founded in part by Karl Rove, and Patriot Majority on the left, founded by allies of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.), have spent huge sums — more than $200 million during the 2014 midterm elections, according to some estimates.” The Post.
But the GOP rider noted above is supposed to get bureaucrats out of politics, according to its supporters, but we all know – wink wink – that is a fast track for dark money. If this is my country, I want it all out in the open. I want a level political playing field, buttressed by strong democratic principles. Who exactly is threatened by these goals? How do you feel about it?
I’m Peter Dekom, and if we don’t keep our democratic ideals intact, we can kiss them… and eventually our country… goodbye.