Money Can’t Buy You Love, But It Can Buy You Influence and Elections
First, Americans lost limits on campaign donations to political action committees, with the Citizens United ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Then, they lost protections in the Voting Rights Act (Shelby v. Holder).
And now, they’ve lost more federal limits on political contributions in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Committee.
What will the court do next?
The McCutcheon case struck down limits on the total amount one person can contribute to political candidates, parties or political action committees. Supporters of the ruling tout such limitless donations as a First Amendment right to free speech. Baloney. The justices ruled as if they live in a separate universe where giving bags of money to politicians doesn’t corrupt the political process.
What is the net effect? Look around. Those with the money wield power and influence.
Last week, Jon Stewart on The Daily Show noted that recently there was a procession of GOP politicians to visit Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas casino magnate, to hear his views about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Stewart said his grandmother has plenty of opinions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, too. He said she was sitting in New Jersey waiting for politicians to line up outside her door to hear what she has to say.
The difference between Adelson and Mrs. Stewart is that Adelson donated $92 million to Republicans during the 2012 election cycle. Mrs. Stewart, to be clear, didn’t.
Yet the justices, in their bubble, maintain that limitless political donations aren’t corrupting, that they don’t buy access and advantage, that in the real world there’s no expectation that the donor will get something in exchange for, in Adelson’s case, $92 million.
Let’s be clear. The example above notwithstanding, corruption isn’t a Republican thing. Democratic politicians don’t have some gene that renders them immune to being bought.
But some people are happy to use a megaphone of money to drown out the voices of everyone else, and to discourage them from voting, too. The more disenfranchised, the better. Leaves the way clear for influence to be bought without, you know, democracy to mess up the game.
Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in a dissent that the McCutcheon ruling “eviscerates our nation’s campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to resolve.”
This comes on the heels of the collapse of campaign reform in the state. Pay-to-play is a frequently used term to describe money and politics in New York. According to a recent New York Public Interest Research Group analysis, 170 campaign contributors gave $28 million in increments of $50,000 or more to shadowy party committees and state candidates.
To his credit, Gov. Andrew Cuomo included campaign reform in his budget. But then he buckled under pressure, or through calculation, during budget negotiations and disbanded his own Moreland Commission. That’s the commission that outlined Albany’s culture of corruption. In addition, he watered down his own campaign reform effort to include only a “pilot” program involving the state’s comptroller’s office.
Last week was a good week for quid pro quo corruption, but not a good week for democracy. Ask yourself a simple question when you read NYPIRG’s list of political contributors: What do they want?
Followed by NYPIRG’s list of 170 political contributors over $50,000 in NYS.
– The top 32 Super PAC donors, giving an average of $9.9 million each, matched the $313.0 million that President Barack Obama and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney raised from all of their small donors combined (at least 3.7 million people giving less than $200 each).
– Nearly 60 percent of Super PAC money came from 159 donors contributing at least $1 million. More than 93 percent of the money Super PACs raised came in contributions of at least $10,000 from just 3,318 donors, or the equivalent of 0.0011 percent of the U.S. population.
– It would take 322,000 average-earning American families giving an equivalent share of their net worth to match Sheldon Adelson’s $91.8 million in Super PAC contributions.
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The New Times in the Media
On the March 28 edition of the Ivory Tower Half Hour on WCNY-TV, Kristi Anderson, political science professor at Syracuse University, gave an “A” to Ed Griffin-Nolan for his Sanity Fair column March 19, “Money for Nothing.” Andersen called the Sanity Fair essay at “powerful and nicely written indictment of our campaign finance system.” You can see the clip at tinyurl.com/m85kvmg; the reference is at about 23 minutes, 40 seconds.
During the March 21 Ivory Tower, Andersen gave an “F” to a billboard on I-690 that shamelessly, and wrongly, claims abortions raise the risk of breast cancer.
“This has been repeatedly debunked. Researchers found no link between breast cancer and either spontaneous or induced abortion,” she said. “I really hate this continuing dispersal of lies in hopes that they will stick.”
Her comments drew “hear, hears” from at least two panelists.
The New Times addressed this issue a year ago. A cover story on April 10, 2013, was written by free-lancer Renée K. Gadoua. While some opponents of abortion continue to say the link is accurate, medical experts overwhelmingly say science shows no link. As one of our sources said last year of those clinging to the misleading claim, “Don’t confuse me with the facts.”
In case you missed it: A Syracuse native made history last week. Linda LeMura, provost at Le Moyne College, became the first laywoman — anywhere — to become president of a Jesuit institution of higher education. LeMura was appointed Le Moyne’s 14th president Thursday, April 3, after a unanimous vote of the college’s 33-member board of trustees.
She succeeds Fred Pestello, who is leaving Le Moyne to lead St. Louis University, also a Jesuit school.
During a short, emotional speech Friday morning at the college, LeMura gave a shout-out to her parents, who immigrated to the United States.
“When my parents came to this country in 1950, with family in tow, of modest means, not knowing the language, who would have thought that one of their children would become the president of a Jesuit college in Syracuse, N.Y., in the United States of America?”
Read the background HERE and watch LeMura’s speech HERE: