The remarkable story of how we have come to privatize political corruption in this country reached another milestone today as the Supreme Court, John Roberts presiding, handed down its decision in McCutcheon v. FEC, effectively demolishing the aggregate, two-year limit on contributions by individuals, and taking a big chunk out of Buckley v. Valeo, the misbegotten 1976 decision that got the ball rolling in the first place. It was a 5-4 vote, with the court split exactly as it had in the Citizens United case...
...Roberts writes: Significant First Amendment interests are implicated here. Contributing money to a candidate is an exercise of an individual's right to participate in the electoral process through both political expression and political association... The Government may no more restrict how many candidates or causes a donor may support than it may tell a newspaper how many candidates it may endorse... The aggregate limits do not further the permissible governmental interest in preventing Quid Pro Quo corruption or its appearance...The thinking from Roberts and his fellow conservative Justices (the vote split 5-4 between Republican-chosen Justices and Democratic ones) seems to be that since they don't see any specific instances of Quid Pro Quo (Latin for I Scratch Your Back If You Scratch Mine) then there's no corruption at play here, ergo campaign money is not bribery. They WANT to think money (which isn't free) is equal to free speech (which you shouldn't pay for).
But here's what happens in the real world now: a billionaire can cough up a sizable amount of money - say, $10 million, which is freaking pocket change to a billionaire - and put a lot of that into a SuperPAC... and now a good amount of those millions towards direct contributions that the political candidate for office needs to run an election campaign. That billionaire is coughing up that $10 million with the expectation that the person(s) the billionaire is(are) backing will win... and will represent that billionaire's interests when the time comes to vote on key legislation. The politicians know who it was that brought 'em to the dance floor, so they'll play ball and make their vote count for that billionaire... despite the possibility that vote goes against the interests of the 150,000 people from their district or the 18 million people from their own state.
It's one of the reasons why West Virginia is so f-cked up with its waters getting polluted by the coal industry owners: the politicians (both Republican and Democrat) are so beholden to those company owners that they've deregulated every safety guideline in the books... and ended up with polluted drinking water that's STILL making thousands of residents sick. With long-term effects - cancer especially - still a huge factor.
As Pierce notes in his Esquire article: Four days after almost every Republican candidate danced the hootchie-koo in Vegas to try and gain the support of a single, skeevy casino gazillionnaire, the (SCOTUS) majority tells us that there is no "appearance of corruption" in this unless somebody gets caught putting a slot machine in the Lincoln Bedroom on behalf of Sheldon Adelson.
Sheldon Adelson has about a hundred politicians knocking at his door and sucking up to his political wants. He's got billions of dollars. Me? There is no one knocking at my door and listening to my political wants (a jobs stimulus bill and fair wages, plus cheaper and faster Internet), because I'm making under $35,000.00 a year. The most I get is the constant emails from Obama's OFA begging for another round of $50.00 I try to pass on every other year (and something that I can't even afford to donate right now). See the difference, Justice Roberts? I may have the free-speech ability to say what I want here on this blog and elsewhere on Facebook and on Ta-Nehisi Coates' open threads, but nobody in Congress even knows I'm here because I'm not waving a $20,000.00 check at their campaign handler. This isn't fair or equal. What's my $50 compared to Adelson's $10 million?
Molly Ivins kept warning us "It's not what's illegal that's the problem, it's what legal that should scare you." She quoted that line once discussing how it was common in her Texas legislature (it might STILL BE) for businessmen to walk on the floor during a vote handing out blank checks to legislators voting on something those businessmen wanted. What the Supreme Court has done has been to make it legal for the rich - the billionaire trust-funders, the megacorporations - to pay for easier access to the elected officials on the floor of the US House and Senate who will be indebted to the ones who paid their way. And that easy access dictates how the government addresses its issues. If a billionaire wants the politicians he gave money to promoting the cutting of taxes on the uber-rich, we're gonna see those politicians promoting the cutting of taxes on the uber-rich despite the majority of voters from those politicians' districts screaming "hey, we NEED you to tax the rich. They're the only ones who can afford it anymore."
The Supreme Court is not seeing any corruptive Quid Pro Quo because they're not using goddamn common sense to see it. Roberts and his Right-leaning cohorts are sticking to a narrow definition of corruption that doesn't apply to what's really going on. They can't see that Congress isn't focusing on the issues that the voters want - JOBS AND MORE JOBS AT BETTER WAGES - and they can't see that Congress is focusing on what the uber-rich want - TAX CUTS AND DEREGULATIONS that we've seen over the last 20 years don't effing work.
Elections are not a non-partisan, democratic process anymore in the United States. Elections now are a billion-dollar industry, lacking any regulation or protection from corruption. It's become legalized bribery all because the Supreme Court majority doesn't want to see it.
The only thing that can save us now is voting out the politicians most likely in the pocket of the uber-rich (hint: they tend to have an R bracketed between their name and their district/state). But with gerrymandering and voter restriction attempts, that's not likely. And with dismal Democratic voter turnouts in midterms... well...
This is why I keep screaming at you Dems to GET THE DAMN VOTE OUT. And I'm not the only one screaming, I know. So will you, Democrats? WILL YOU FOR THE LOVE OF GOD GET THE DAMN VOTE OUT? It is the only way to defeat the Roberts Court's intent to make this nation a kleptocracy.