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Pierce writes: "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."

David Barrows, of Washington, D.C., waves a flag with corporate logos and fake money during a rally against money in politics outside the Supreme Court on Oct. 8, 2013. (photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
David Barrows, of Washington, D.C., waves a flag with corporate logos and fake money during a rally against money in politics outside the Supreme Court on Oct. 8, 2013. (photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)


The American Government Is Open for Corruption

By Charles Pierce, Esquire

02 April 14

 

he 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. In writing the opinion for the court, Roberts further emphasized the equation of money with speech, and also seemed to agree with Anthony Kennedy's famous assertion in Citizens United that the ability of megadonors to shovel gobs of money into the election process,"We now conclude that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption." Roberts writes:

Significant First Amendment interests are implicated here. Contributing money to a candidate is an exercise of an individual'sright to participate in the electoral process through both political ex-pression and political association. A restriction on how many candi-dates and committees an individual may support is hardly a "modestrestraint" on those rights. The Government may no more restrict how many candidates or causes a donor may support than it may tella newspaper how many candidates it may endorse. In its simplest terms, the aggregate limits prohibit an individual from fully contrib-uting to the primary and general election campaigns of ten or more candidates, even if all contributions fall within the base limits. And it is no response to say that the individual can simply contribute lessthan the base limits permit: To require one person to contribute atlower levels because he wants to support more candidates or causesis to penalize that individual for "robustly exercis[ing]" his FirstAmendment rights. (Davis v. Federal Election Comm'n, 554 U. S. 724, 739.) In assessing the First Amendment interests at stake, the proper fo-cus is on an individual's right to engage in political speech, not a col-lective conception of the public good. The whole point of the FirstAmendment is to protect individual speech that the majority might prefer to restrict, or that legislators or judges might not view as use-ful to the democratic process. The aggregate limits do not further the permissible governmental interest in preventing quid pro quo corruption or its appearance.

What's good for Koch Industries is good for Sheldon Adelson, I guess. Roberts goes on.

This Court has identified only one legitimate governmental interest for restricting campaign finances: preventing corruption or the appearance of corruption. See Davis, supra, at 741. Moreover, the only type of corruption that Congress may target is quid pro quo corruption. Spending large sums of money in connection with elec-tions, but not in connection with an effort to control the exercise of an officeholder's official duties, does not give rise to quid pro quo corrup-tion. Nor does the possibility that an individual who spends large sums may garner "influence over or access to" elected officials or political parties.

And John Roberts apparently resides on Neptune. And, in case you didn't get the point.

Finally, disclosure of contributions minimizes the potential for abuse of the campaign finance system. Disclosure requirements are in part "justified based on a governmental interest in ‘provid[ing] the electorate with information' about the sources of election-related spending." Citizens United, 558 U. S., at 367 (quoting Buckley, supra, at 66).They may also "deter actual corruption and avoid theappearance of corruption by exposing large contributionsand expenditures to the light of publicity." Disclosure requirements burden speech, but, unlike the aggregate limits, they do not impose a ceiling on speech.

Having earlier argued that there was a First Amendment issue to be found in the aggregate limits because they hindered an individual's right to participate in the political process -- It is here helpful to note the everlasting irony of Antonin Scalia's view of Bush v. Gore. There is no individual right to vote, but an individual's right to purchase a candidate must be untrammeled -- but here, Roberts is saying it plain. To restrict money is to restrict speech. Period. And the only real legal restraint on the wholesale subletting of American democracy is John Roberts's strange devotion to "disclosure" as some sort of shaming mechanism within the electorate. Good luck with that one.

Justice Stephen Breyer takes up a lot of these points in his dissent, most notably, the majority's laughably narrow definition of what political corruption actually is -- that political corruption exists only if you buy a specific result from a specific legislator. But it hardly matters. The five-vote majority in favor of virtually unlimited corporate and individual spending in our elections is a rock solid one. 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 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. Money talks. Big money repeats itself, over and over, age after age.

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+59 # Sangze 2014-04-02 13:01
The US government has been highly corrupt for many years, and it is going to become far worse. Voters have been effectively silenced and Big Money has taken to outright boasting of its power. I doubt there are more than five elected officials who do not already have their fat hands deep inside the till. This suggests to me that capitalism has reached its end game. A point will soon come when people will find themselves paying more attention to Mao Zedong's views of power.
 
 
+7 # Glen 2014-04-02 15:29
I'm not clear on your reference to Mao Tse Tung. That era was nothing compared to this era in the U.S. You might want to check out who influenced Mao and who truly pushed policies that were inhumane and destructive. The U.S. definitely has people behind the throne calling the shots, but nothing they are doing right now compares to China.

Mao and his cohorts shoved out some truly despotic individuals controlling China. We all know that there are often unpredictable results of revolution. Revolution has not yet come back around in the U.S.
 
 
+12 # Old Uncle Dave 2014-04-02 17:31
Quoting Glen:
I'm not clear on your reference to Mao Tse Tung.


Mao said: "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun."
 
 
+14 # fredboy 2014-04-02 13:19
I believe they use the more refined word "influence." SSDD.
 
 
+63 # zitzwitz@mac.com 2014-04-02 13:29
Re: Our “Supreme” Courts decision today:
McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission

The "Conspiracy" going around for years, that we are going so far to the "Right" that we might as well do not call ourselves a Democracy anymore, has been proven correct. If another GOP tells me that he is a patriot, I'll have to muster all my emotional strength not to beat the shit out of him.
Interesting, that even a “normal” millionaire’s hands are tied behind his/her back. For them to contribute enough to make a difference will put them into a poor house as well.
Good Night Middle Class. Amen.
 
 
+60 # Regina 2014-04-02 13:52
I'm beginning to wonder who is paying off this Supreme Court? Whom do they think they're supposed to serve? It isn't We, the People. Maybe they should read the Constitution.
 
 
+32 # guyachs 2014-04-02 17:35
Roberts and Alito were appointed because they are in the pocket of big business. Alito is truly a lightweight who has no business being on the court. He's no more qualified than Thomas.
 
 
+13 # Regina 2014-04-02 21:52
Dubya was gleeful when he appointed Roberts as Chief, gloating that he was young enough to be around for a l--o--n--g time. The RATS quartet is obvious -- the big betrayal is Kennedy.
 
 
+31 # Marxian 2014-04-02 14:06
"We now conclude that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption." - Chief Justice Roberts
Let us make it more obvious in the way this group of clowns make their legal decisions and make the next 3 appointments to the Supreme Court: Moe, Larry and Curly.
 
 
+31 # jsluka 2014-04-02 15:10
Moe, Larry and Curly would certainly be an improvement.
 
 
+31 # MindDoc 2014-04-02 14:26
So it seems that justice is indeed blind (no offense to the visually impaired!). Anyone who cannot see how unlimited power to buy government for cash has even an appearance of corruption, well... who voted for these people? Once again, Chico Marx had it right, 'there ain't no Sanity Clause' apparently, with the SCOTUS driving this point home today. Sure, so corporations are people whose every dollar should equal 100 votes of mere 'people', whatever they are. Sad day in America! [ Breaking story: http://bit.ly/USA4sale ]
 
 
+25 # tclose 2014-04-02 14:54
All people are equal, but some people are more equal than others.
 
 
+12 # I.M. Hipp 2014-04-02 15:01
Thanks for the Gift of Roberts and Alito Mr. Nader. You were absolutely right, absolutely no difference between Gore and Bush. Although I doubt we would have had Iraq, the wealthy tax cut or an reactionary activist Supreme Court. Sometimes a difference at the margins does matter.
 
 
+23 # Kootenay Coyote 2014-04-02 17:09
Nothing to do with Nader, & everything to do with Florida & Ohio voter suppression.
 
 
-5 # Regina 2014-04-02 21:56
Maybe the Florida and Ohio vote finaglers might not have put Dubya into office if Nader hadn't bled off some votes. Idealism is noble until it runs off its rails.
 
 
+5 # nice2bgreat 2014-04-03 01:24
.
If people voted their conscience instead of through their schemes, maybe Nader would be President.

Nader has/had every right to run for office and had nothing to do with Gore not being inaugurated as President... NOTHING.

Anyone who says otherwise is ignorant, a fool, or both.

Obama has vindicated everything Nader said about the Tweedle Dee/Tweedle Dum Republicans and Democrats.

The only thing I fault Nader for is his going after Democratic votes ... again, not that that changed the election ... but it revealed Nader's ego. He constantly and too-much-so equated Democrats with Republicans, as if they were exactly the same, and as if Bush and Gore would have governed the same way.

Nader's theme, "if not now, when" would have been better saved against an incumbent, rather than an open seat. And if ever there was a time for not-now, it was then.

And though Gore ran a weak campaign, he still beat Bush. Bush is a twice sitting, never elected President.

Gore's big blunder was asking for recounts in only the three majority-Democr atic districts, rather than requesting a statewide recount -- as if election fraud would not be greater in Republican-domi nated areas.

It gave Republicans the opportunity to cry foul, while hiding their election crimes throughout the state.

So before getting into "Idealism [being] noble until it runs off its rails." You should make sure you are using it in proper context. This is not it.
.
 
 
+36 # Farafalla 2014-04-02 15:21
With this new weapon, the 1% will install the next senate and the next president. That president will install new justices. And voila! Game over. Outspent will have a whole new meaning!
 
 
+12 # nice2bgreat 2014-04-02 15:28
"This Court has identified only one legitimate governmental interest for restricting campaign finances: preventing corruption or the appearance of corruption."

Really? What about "representative government?"

A person can simply have differing views and experiences that do not amount to corruption, so in Roberts view, as long as that possibility exists, the only concern then is of corruption or the appearance of.

But to hold some theoretical instance, where someone can reasonably represent citizens they have little in common with, as the norm, such that, Roberts doesn't even acknowledge that political contributions can effect, not just corruption or the appearance of, but actual "representation ," as a "legitimate governmental interest," show his limitations; it more likely shows bias. He is not so dim as to accidentally neglect representation as a primary concern.

It is Roberts mentality -- knowing who his friends are, where his bread is buttered, and that the only consequence for his bias is a permanent home with the elites.

How can he not see that elected officials should represent the people from the States and districts they are from? He must know better, but simply fits his arguments to his preferred conclusion. He can do so, casually, because his support system won't allow an assault on his character.

The strength of conservatives/R epublicans is to stand up for the right-wing agenda. The strength of Democrats is standing against true progressives.
 
 
+19 # Anarchist 23 2014-04-02 15:36
S.T.A.R.K (Scalia,Thomas, Alito,Roberts, Kennedy)raving mad! The Oligarchy has pretty much bought up the whole game now.No need to palliate the masses any more...leaving any realities of 'Brave New World', entering the shear brutality and squalor of '1984'...get ready for your summons to 'The Castle' and 'The Trial'!
 
 
+14 # Underledge 2014-04-02 16:07
There is nothing new here. Only when the American people get fed up will anything change. Unfortunately simply by casting a vote isn't going to work.
 
 
-1 # Underledge 2014-04-02 16:07
There is nothing new here. Only when the American people get fed up will anything change. Unfortunately simply by casting a vote isn't going to work.
 
 
0 # Underledge 2014-04-02 16:08
There is nothing new here. Only when the American people get fed up will anything change. Unfortunately simply by casting a vote isn't going to work.
 
 
0 # jsluka 2014-04-02 21:54
Echo, echo, echo..... (LOL)
 
 
+17 # Liebermania 2014-04-02 16:11
If wealthy people are using their money as speech, because the Supreme Court says money is speech,
and we the people don't like what their money is saying,
THEN WE THE PEOPLE SHOULD ALSO USE MONEY AS SPEECH, AND NOT PAY OUR TAXES.
 
 
+22 # angelfish 2014-04-02 16:32
Our Democracy is dead. Sanctioned by the SCOTUS, we are no longer a Democracy. God knows, corrupption has been a part of our Governance since the Founders first signed our Declaration of Independence, however, it was never condoned, nay, FACILITATED, by our Supreme Court, until NOW! Hang your heads in Sorrow because the Dark Side is now in charge of our Government. The ONLY thing left to us, is our VOTE. Use it wisely, fellow Americans. It STILL has the ability to give some of these Cretins their walking papers in November and again, in 2016. We are now charged with seeing that only men and women who REALLY love this Country and ALL she has to offer EVERYONE, are given the sacred duty and responsililty to serve as our agents in Washington. The Cretins who would give it all to the Koch brothers, the Coors brothers and Sheldon Adelson's ilk have NO MORE RIGHTS than you or I! Wasting OUR time and money sitting on their hands, getting up ONLY to vote against the A.C.A. or to regulate a woman's Vaginal and Uterine issues, will NOT stand anymore. They have thrown down the gauntlet. We MUST pick it up and stuff it where the Sun don't shine!
 
 
+1 # angelfish 2014-04-02 16:32
There's GOT to be a better way to delete multiple Posts!...?
 
 
+1 # angelfish 2014-04-02 16:32
Sorry for the multiple postings.
 
 
0 # angelfish 2014-04-02 16:32
Sorry.
 
 
+1 # angelfish 2014-04-02 16:32
Oops.
 
 
+1 # angelfish 2014-04-02 16:38
SORRY FOR THE REPEATED POSTINGS! HOWEVER, I THINK WHAT I SAID DOES BEAR REPEATING! :^)
 
 
+1 # jsluka 2014-04-02 21:55
Like Underledge above (LOL again)
 
 
+19 # EmilyCragg 2014-04-02 16:43
This is--TRULY--the last straw.

Either people precipitate change, or we go down the tubes to oblivion ... once and for all.
 
 
+13 # BKnowswhitt 2014-04-02 16:46
Money has been the game primarily since Reagan took over. Now it's officially open season for that model. The only thing missing was the arrogant legislation of it all until this court officially codified that model. We've come full circle. Time for a real Tea Party to take place against the Redneck Redcoats of the present day .. oh yeah and throw away the Constitution as well .. now it doesn't mean shit!!!
 
 
+12 # PABLO DIABLO 2014-04-02 16:58
"Corruption or the appearance of corruption". You would have to be "paid off" or dead not to see it. Wake up America.
Greed never sleeps and ignorance never wakes up. Boycott the corporations that are killing us. Vote the leeches out of office. Take back our government.
 
 
+9 # PABLO DIABLO 2014-04-02 16:59
WHAT will it take to start the American Revolution again?
 
 
+9 # Kootenay Coyote 2014-04-02 17:10
Well, to paraphrase Roberts, “Tar & Feathers applied to a candidate is an exercise of an individual’s right to participate in the electoral process through both political expression and political association," & this court ought to be wearing that too.
 
 
+13 # born1929 2014-04-02 17:29
I N F U R I A T I N G !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !
 
 
+17 # Helen Marshall 2014-04-02 17:52
While everyone bashes the Republicans on this, let us remember that Robert got on the court via a confirmation vote that included many Democrats. Fooled perhaps, but they voted for him..78 to 22. Twenty-two Democrats voted for him, including Patrick Leahy, who advertises himself now as a progressive. If the 44 Democrats had stood together in opposition Roberts would not have been confirmed.

And now, just wait for the Hobby Lobby case.
 
 
+17 # m... 2014-04-02 18:04
The ROBERT'S COURT…. A Court that will live in INFAMY….
 
 
+3 # James Marcus 2014-04-02 19:10
How about....really , since Abe Lincoln's murder ?
(again, orchestrated by ....'The Money')
 
 
+8 # jcdav 2014-04-02 19:22
Welcome to the 2014 electoral AUCTION.
They now have the whole set. Media will propagandize the chosen candidate, the $ will pour into his/her campaign and presto the opposition gets drowned out and the wholly owned congressperson gets the office.
Last ditch effort- Constitutional Ammendment..Pos t last ditch effort--spirit of '76-revolution
OR-- well- enjoy thre kool-ade
 
 
+9 # dyannne 2014-04-02 23:00
Bye Bye American Pie.
 
 
+6 # pappajohn15@Gmail.com 2014-04-03 10:42
Another step in the seemingly relentless march toward unabashed plutocracy.

Most disappointing is the so-called people's party, the Democrats. These guys, when faced with the elite buying and selling our democracy, seem to be saying, "Well, don't forget us! We're greedy politicians without any morals, too!"

Just like the Tea Party is breaking away from less radical Republicans, it is time for the "progressive" wing to grow a pair and break off from the almost-Blue-Dog party.
 
 
-2 # I.M. Hipp 2014-04-03 12:06
Quoting nice2bgreat:
.
If people voted their conscience . . .

Nader has/had every right to run for office and had nothing to do with Gore not being inaugurated as President... NOTHING.

Anyone who says otherwise is ignorant, a fool, or both.

Obama has vindicated everything Nader said about the Tweedle Dee/Tweedle Dum Republicans and Democrats.

The only thing I fault Nader for is his going after Democratic votes ... again, not that that changed the election ... but it revealed Nader's ego. He constantly and too-much-so equated Democrats with Republicans, as if they were exactly the same, and as if Bush and Gore would have governed the same way.

n. . . .


So before getting into "Idealism [being] noble until it runs off its rails." You should make sure you are using it in proper context. This is not it.
.


You make several good points - he had an absolute right to run, but I still disagree with your central point without insulting you. Like Perot undermined Bush I's election; its more likely than not that Nader captured enough votes in Florida and Ohio to put the margin in those states into a range where theft was possible. And as much as you seek to "validate" Nader with Obama analogies. Nader ego has a legacy - - Roberts and Alito will be his gift to the American People for the next 25+ years and the impact of the Iraq war and squandered surplus far beyond that.
 
 
+4 # PABLO DIABLO 2014-04-03 13:05
"nice2bgreat" is 100% accurate. Bush didn't legitimately win either election. It had NOTHING to do with Nader. If you want to ease your conscience for allowing the Supremes to select Bush as President by blaming Nader, that is your own shortcoming. Wake up. Take back "our" government.
 
 
+4 # Marxian 2014-04-03 15:17
Profits before people. Worship of Mammon. Isn't that the maxim by which all capitalism functions, especially the predatory capitalism of the U.S. of Amnesia? Why any surprise? People need to understand the economic system and stop expecting it to possibly work for the 99%. Money talks, people be damned. Delusions, madness and death is the only reward for the people. No more retirement for a lifetime of labor. We are merely indentured servants of the wealthy. Time for something new and different in the new century. This has hit the fan and doesn't work anymore.
 
 
+2 # Skyelav 2014-04-04 10:08
I mistakenly put a "thumbs down" by the writer of this graf:
You make several good points - he had an absolute right to run, but I still disagree with your central point without insulting you. Like Perot undermined Bush I's election; its more likely than not that Nader captured enough votes in Florida and Ohio to put the margin in those states into a range where theft was possible. And as much as you seek to "validate" Nader with Obama analogies. Nader ego has a legacy - - Roberts and Alito will be his gift to the American People for the next 25+ years and the impact of the Iraq war and squandered surplus far beyond that.
I meant it for the idiot that doesn't get that Nader's votes changed the world. I agree that if we vote for the "less of two evils" nothing will change. But I disagree that now is the time. Information has to get out to the dull-normal voters who can't seem to read or write and yet believe everything fed to them from the far right. Unless we stop this tide, we will never pull back to responsible government. Instead of rebelling like two-year-olds, it's time to hit the streets and formulate a populist rebellion. It may be too late. Roberts votes corporate every time, second to the latest debacle is the health care bill. Privatized health care for the forseeable future.
 
 
-2 # BKnowswhitt 2014-04-04 17:44
Stop whining about the past. Nader had nothing to do with how Gore et al played their cards post the Clinton sex scandal. The Repukes isolated the Dems post Clinton scandal and Gore ran to his own independant position and could not run on the success of Clinton Et Al. That made the election close and Ralph Nader had nothing to do what so ever with Bush getting in Office. If you blame someone you should be blaming Bill Clinton my friend .. not Ralph Nader .. who by the way has little or no ego for politics or mainstream fame ...
 
 
-1 # BKnowswhitt 2014-04-04 17:40
Little did i know as this article does not explain. This decision does not allow unlimited money to one campaign. The limit of 130,000 or whatever it was is still upheld. the only change is that one individual (obviously wealthy) or corporation .. can contribute that limited amount to as many campaigns as they so choose to spend their money ... so this article is lacking in fact finding ... and did not even mention the change as i have stated herein .. bad reporting Truthout .. in my view ...
 

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