Imagine this: in a week when the latest presidential campaign finance reports reveal a growing list of million-dollar donors to super PACs, right-wing bloggers and Republican lawyers are defending the Supreme Court’s controversial 2010 Citizens United decisions as maligned by media and of course, liberals.
The apologists are saying there’s nothing corrupt going on; it wasn’t caused byCitizen Unitedanyway; it’s people not corporations writing the checks; it’s only free speech; it’s always been done; and it’s good for democracy.
Let’s unmask these silly assertions one by one. It might come as a shock to the right, but Americans who care about democracy can see through their charade.
1. Denying corruption.
Does anybody seriously think that any of these donors, who are some of the most accomplished businessmen in America, are just handing over millions as if they were giving a dollar to a homeless person and walking away? Or might they be investing in something, as, say, political venture capitalists?
Don’t even answer that, but go to the next assertion by the defenders of these super-citizens: that their donations are being given to groups that have no relationship whatsoever to the candidate’s official campaigns. It’s simply a coincidence, nothing more, that super PACs are doing the mudslinging for specific candidates—while official campaign ads are pure as snow.
Nope, Newt Gingrich does not owe anything to casino owner Sheldon Adelson, whose family’s $10 million gift to a pro-Newt super PAC that has kept Gingrich’s campaign alive. And when they met in Las Vegas this month, you can be sure that Newt felt no pressure nor did he talk about the campaign. Neither does Rick Santorum owe anything to William Dore or Foster Friess for their big checks to another ‘independent’ and miraculously sympathetic super PAC.
Prove there is quid pro quo corruption going on here, responds James Bopp, the GOP’s attorney behind the Citizens United case. Where’s the evidence, he asks on online forums. Surely Bopp is correct: the founders wanted to create a system dominated by patrons who would have enjoyed golf with King George III (if he were alive today) and feel no fealty.
Seriously, even the New York Times has reported that Adelson seems to be playing Gingrich and Romney’s support of Israel against each other, to ensure that whoever gets the GOP nomination will take a hard line, including the possibility of a military strike against Iran. That is what he is buying.
And to summarily dismisspesky polls showing that a majority of Americans disapprove of the ruling and are losing confidence in the electoral process could not be more off base.
2. Shifting the blame from Citizens United.
It is true that the Supreme Court has deregulated campaign finance laws since the mid-1970s—a trend that transcends single decisions. But Citizens Unitedwas special, and did many things including watering down the legal definition of what constitutes corruption—saying it’s not anything that might ingratiate a candidate or officeholder. Nice, eh?
Justice John Paul Stevens, in his Citizens United dissent, called the majority’s view of corruption “crabbed,” meaning excessively narrow, and pointed to the congressional record behind a 2002 ban on soft money (an earlier big money loophole) that discussed interlacing activities that looked like corruption to the Court, when it upheld that ban. But who has time to read 100,000 pages?
The biggest claim by right-wingers such as Mediaite’s Dan Abrams is thatCitizens United did not lead to today’s explosion in super PAC activity, and it is “shameful, inexcusable and distorted” for the media to say so. “This argument is wrong,” countered Fred Wertheimer, one of Washington’s most respected campaign finance reform advocates, writing this week. “A little history is in order.”