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Hullabaloo


Monday, April 07, 2014

 
Nixon's legacy lives on

by digby

I was reading some Rick Perlstein the other day and it struck me that the current campaign finance system was something Nixon would have loved. And lo and behold, Ian Millhiser at Think Progress had the same thought and analyzed it for you.

There was a time when even members of congress understood what corruption was:

The Ervin report “identified over $1.8 million in Presidential campaign contributions as ascribable, in whole or in part, to 31 persons holding ambassadorial appointments from President Nixon, and stated that six other large contributors, accounting for $3 million, appear to have been actively seeking such appointment at the time of their contributions.” Outside of the White House, the report uncovered “lavish contributions” to members of Congress from both political parties. The chairman of one oil company testified that executives perceived campaign donations as a “calling card” that would “get us in the door and make our point of view heard.” American Airlines’ former chair testified that many companies funneled money to politicians “in response to pressure for fear of a competitive disadvantage that might result” if they did not buy off lawmakers. In essence, businesses feared that if they did not give money to elected officials, but their competitors did, then their competition could use their enhanced access to politicians in order to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

And yet, according to Chief Justice Roberts and his fellow conservative justices, hardly any of this activity amounts to “corruption.”

What? You disagree? You think that might not be fair? Well, you need to think again. According to the Supremes, this is just a simple expression of free speech and democracy as defined under our constitution. Millhiser quotes from the Citizens United opinion to illustrate that principle:

Favoritism and influence are not . . . avoidable in representative politics. It is in the nature of an elected representative to favor certain policies, and, by necessary corollary, to favor the voters and contributors who support those policies. It is well understood that a substantial and legitimate reason, if not the only reason, to cast a vote for, or to make a contribution to, one candidate over another is that the candidate will respond by producing those political outcomes the supporter favors. Democracy is premised on responsiveness.

They're just being responsive! As Millhiser quips:

Democracy certainly is premised on responsiveness. Though it is a strange definition of democracy that offers enhanced responsiveness to those who can afford to pay for it.

I've quoted founder John Jay's maxim many times before ("The people who own the country ought to be the ones to govern it")so it's not as if this is a new idea. That's essentially what we're talking about, after all. The wealthy have a greater say because they allegedly have a greater stake. That's hardly democracy but it hasn't stopped many plutocrats and robber barons from pretending that it is.

But that's not the honest rationale the Court is giving with these rulings. It's making the fatuous claim that this is an equal playing field where everyone is equal and free and the money is just another form of political activity. If the country survives being an oligarchy and comes out the other side, I think these rulings will be considered among the most intellectually dishonest the court has ever made. And that's saying something.

I've always thought that this modern conservative movement was really forged by Nixon. You have to know that he'd be pleased as punch with this decision.


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