Monday, September 27, 2010


"Corporations are NOT people! Money is NOT speech!"
- TomCat, Politics Plus -

Nick Coleman, a contributor for the Minneapolis Star Tribune whose writing I greatly admire, had the excellent piece below in that paper's Sunday OpEd section. While it centers primarily around the Minnesota's Governor race, it is also tremendously relevant to the midterm congressional elections. I have taken the liberty of bolding and capitalizing for emphasis certain points he makes. His piece was titled "Elections are for Sale, and that Stinks". It is italicized below, and my own comments follow beneath it after its conclusion.

What should we call people who want to influence the outcome of elections without having to disclose campaign contributions or allow their behind-the-scenes maneuverings to be revealed to voters?

How about "cowards"?

If that seems too strong, well, it's not as bad as the term that used to apply. That term was "criminals," as failing to disclose most campaign contributions was illegal, or becoming so, during the halcyon days of campaign finance reform that began in the 1970s. But the reform era ended with a crash in January when a derelict U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that corporations can spend as much money as they wish to support -- or oppose -- a candidate.

History often takes decades to render a verdict on the bad effects of mistaken decisions. But the rank odor of the decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission signaled a foul mistake right off the bat:

"The Supreme Court just put our democracy up for sale to the highest bidder," declared Common Cause, the organization that started the crusade for campaign finance reform and open government in 1970 (IT WAS FOUNDED BY A REPUBLICAN, JOHN GARDNER). The decision by a recklessly "activist" court, Common Cause continued, opened "the floodgates to out-of-control political spending by the wealthiest special interests."

We are now seeing how wealthy special interests -- including billionaires who dabble in and promote kooky ideas about climate change, human evolution and unchecked exploitation of natural resources -- are trying to buy the 2010 elections.

And these are the kind of people who expect to get what they pay for.

In Minnesota, giant companies such as Target, Best Buy and 3M have put hundreds of thousands into partisan efforts to support the Republican candidate for governor, Tom Emmer, and to defeat DFL candidate Mark Dayton. HOW THESE CORPORATIONS BELIEVE PUBLIC EDUCATION AND HIGHWAYS WILL BE FUNDED IN A "CUT GOVERNMENT" EMMER ADMINISTRATION, THEY DON'T SAY. But they have caused many consumers to think about what their Post-it Notes and gift cards are financing.

At least those corporate contributions, unwise though they may be, are public information. Other interest groups have gone to court to challenge a Minnesota law requiring them to disclose their contributions, and they also want a ban on political disbursements from corporate general funds overturned.

In essence, their argument is that pirates should get to use their booty as they see fit.

Although unions, too, are putting money into many campaigns, labor spending is a small fraction of the corporate spending that has been unleashed. If you think the University of Minnesota's (since-reversed) decision to pull its imprimatur from "Troubled Waters," the documentary about river pollution, may have been motivated by big money, you ain't seen nothing yet. Last spring, a federal judge struck down state spending limits on political contributions from corporations, siding with the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. The remaining safeguards against unreported spending are being challenged by the anti-abortion group Minnesotans Concerned for Life, and by the Taxpayers League, which, as you may suspect, is more interested in avoiding than paying taxes.

(We have arrived at that Orwellian stage where the true meaning of things often is completely opposite from the name given. If you are approached this election cycle by anyone who says they represent Americans for Mom, the Flag and Apple Pie, grab your mom and run for the hills. Take your pie, too.)

In the freshest example of the high-stakes shell game going on, the New York Times reported Friday that a group calling itself Americans for Job Security (its only employee is a 20-something Republican operative) is a front for wealthy conservatives to skirt campaign finance laws and pour unreported money into attacks on Democrats. Jobs are not on the agenda. Political domination is.

The Tea Party movement, too, is financed by hidden interests, as was reported in an Aug. 30 New Yorker magazine article by Jane Mayer. Mayer detailed the wacky beliefs and ruthless political strategies of David and Charles Koch, oil billionaire brothers (they own the Flint Hills Resources' Pine Bend Refinery in Rosemount) who have given unknown millions to further right-wing causes surreptitiously while spending more millions fighting environmental initiatives and pollution laws.

"If we want to keep a government of the people and by the people and for the people, we better start paying attention," says State Sen. John Marty, whose failed campaign to win the DFL endorsement for governor last spring marked one of the only efforts to make campaign finance reform an issue in Minnesota. "We're turning elections into auctions. There's no way to sugarcoat it. Our government is for sale."

So. One more question:

What should we call voters who passively stand by as our elections are taken over, furtively, by billionaires?

Let's face it, everybody: the Supreme Court is NOT infallible. Its two worst and most unjust decisions of all time have both given concentrated capital (in the form of corporations) an unfair and indefensibly elevated position far above that of individual citizens. They were the notorious 1886 Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad (which granted the abstract entity of the corporation the same legal rights as a living, breathing, individual human being), and 2010's abominable Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, which gave corporations the right to make unlimited campaign contributions in political races. These atrocious decisions blatantly favor the wealthy over the poor and middle income, and also business owners over workers and the unemployed. Congress, already unduly influenced by the huge growth of corrupt, cash-doling lobbyists since the Reagan era, needs no further influx of cash from the "economic royalists", as FDR once called them.

Do you feel that Washington is out of touch? That it does not understand and is not delivering on your very real needs?

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the natural end result of your unrestricted "free market" in action. It is big money attempting to buy big favors, and it is often succeeding, at YOUR expense. This, too, VOTERS, is what the Tea Party movement and the ultra-conservative Republican Party is pushing: unrestricted "free market" access to government and resultant control over your economic life. It is a strongly conservative and pro-big business minority which now holds the balance of power in the Roberts Supreme Court. That same mentality CANNOT be allowed to dominate Congress and the White House! Voting in Tea Party and Republican candidates now and in 2012 will only increase Washington's unresponsiveness and will further increase the strangehold corporate money has on our government and judicial system. Independents and progressives, that is why I keep harping:



Engineer of Knowledge said...

Hello Jack,
I just have to pass on this story that happened to me yesterday, Sunday afternoon.

I was speaking / interviewing a young man in his late 20’s; maybe early 30’s, yesterday because he has been thinking of joining the Freemasons. We had an open house at the Blue Lodge and all were welcome. He was from the area of Bridgeville, DE but was thinking of joining a Maryland lodge.
He was asking some very good questions, etc. until he said, “I’m active in a Patriot movement in Delaware and if an open uprising broke out, would the Masons join us in arms?”

I was taken back with this statement so I asked, “I take it you are talking about the Tea Party movement in Delaware and because many of our founding fathers were Masons, you are of the mind that should the Tea Party take up arms to revolt against the government, like that in the Revolution War, would the Freemasons be of the same mind to arm themselves and overthrow the current U.S. government?”

The excitement lit up his face and replied with a, “Yea!!” I explained that as many of our founding fathers were Freemasons, it was not Masonry that fueled the Revolution. I explained that Freemasonry came to this country from England, and there were many Freemasons in the Colonies at this time period that stayed loyal to the King and Country of England. Disappointment came over his face with this answer. I explained that the Freemasons were not of any “One World Order” and the current political atmosphere is not of any Mason’s platform, much less giving validity to any armed overthrow of the current U.S. Government.

I did state that if he wanted to be a member of the Tea Party, and I being a moderate Republican, I had no problem with his choice. I then went on to give an example of the Civil War. When General Sherman, a brother Freemason, slashed and burned his way through the South, if you were a Freemason who owned a plantation, Sherman gave strict orders not to destroy the home or loot the family. When General Sherman rode into a town, the first posting of Union Troops would be around the Masonic Temple where Confederate and Union Troops would hold their meetings together in the sprit of Friendship, Morality, and Brotherly Love. Many times after a battle, it was Freemason Brothers from each side that gathered the wounded and dead helping each other. This is the lessons of Freemasonry.

Seeing the disappointment of his delusions on this man’s face, I don’t think this person has any interest in joining a Masonic Lodge any longer now.

Jack Jodell said...

Engineer of Knowledge,
Thank you for sharing this enlightening story, and it's too bad its lessons were evidently lost on that younger man. I salute you for sharing this, and for taking the sensible and moderate position you took with him. Carry on, my good man, and we need more moderate Republicans like you to come forth and reason with the more extreme factions in the GOP and Tea Party. Kudos to you, sir!


I'm perhaps a hypocrite for responding to this but hell. My heart was always in the right place.

Years ago grass roots meant something to officeholders. It means nothing now. Privatization has destroyed patronage as we used to know it. Now it's government contractors that are the benefits of patronage. Not the guy who knocked on doors and put up signs. Government was taken away from this guy and sold to the wealthy who could donate the most for attack ad TV commercials.

Yard signs and lit drops are quaint. The day of the $5 soup supper as a fundraiser are gone. It's now $100 or $1,000 a plate. The little guy can't do that.

Yeah. I miss the old days when the little guy had a friend at city hall. When a friend helped a friend. Those days are gone. Replaced with screw you unless you give my campaign the maximum donation. Damn shame Jack. Damn shame.

Jack Jodell said...

I read you loud and clear, Ayatollah Truthmeni, and I wax nostalgic with you all the way. There are still some - admittedly few - genuine public servants who really do care and try to deliver for the little guy. We must preserve that type of congressperson and find him or her some like company. That is why we must VOTE and FIGHT to keep these types of solid candidates from being replaced by mindless teabaggers and bought-out conservatives!

mud_rake said...

Once again, Jack, you truly are a muckraker for middle class Americans. What is so frustrating to me [and surely to you as well] is the reality that so many Americans don't know these facts, these scoundrels whom you dredge out of the muck and expose to the light today.

What's wrong with the voters these days that they seem to be so ignorant of the obvious? It beats the hell out of me!

Jack Jodell said...

I thank you for your wonderful compliment. Like you, I remain firmly committed to exposing the lies of those who oppose justice and fairness for the poor and middle class. It is indeed a real mystery how so many voters can take in and buy so much bull from the far-right. But because of that, I am all the more encouraged to shine a bright light on all that hidden muck!

Tim said...

I'm not a happy camper with Obama but I always vote. I have thrown away my vote voting for a person who couldn't win but I felt was the better candidate. I'm an independent voter but will not vote for a Republican again. I'll still voice my concerns with Obama as I feel he's an extremely slow learner.
As far as Corporations, we're so screwed.. How the hell can we compete with that. Somehow the decision must be reversed. Hopefully in my lifetime.

Jack Jodell said...

I agree that Obama has been a disappointment in a number of areas, but the alternative to him is far, far worse. We cannot enable a teabagger or far right Republican majority in Congress or give them control of the White House. As for corporations, that is all the more reason we who are opposed to their power and corrupting influence MUST vote! I, too, hope we will see BOTH bad Supreme Court decisions overturned, but that will never happen if conservatives capture the presidency and have the power to nominate and install more conservative justices. VOTE, brother!

Engineer of Knowledge said...

Hello Jack,
You say, “I agree that Obama has been a disappointment in a number of areas, but the alternative to him is far, far worse”

Spot on my friend and as I consider myself a very active within the Party and a Moderate Republican….I will not be voting for ANY Republican candidate locally or nationally. All have gone way too far on the extreme right!! I did not leave the Party….the Party left me and it will be my job in the next few years to try to bring it back to the middle.

Jack Jodell said...

Engineer of Knowledge,
I give you my strongest encouragement and blessing in your quest to straighten out your party. They have left the realm of sensibility with their far-rightward shift and their new alliance with the unhinged Tea Party element. The GOP desperately needs more people like you, Michael Bloomberg, Joe Scarbrough, and Megan McCain---NOW! Keep fighting, my friend!

Lisa G. said...

The Citizens United vs FEC decision was one of the WORST decisions to ever come out of a Supreme Court. Unleashing a tide of anonymous corporate money on a populace that just can't compete. We are bought off - plain and simple. People who follow the teabagger and Repub movements are completely delusional and vote against their own best interests. It is completely dumbfounding.

Jack Jodell said...

Lisa G,
You nailed it, and I agree completely.