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“How Much ‘Free Speech’ Can You Buy?”: Citizens United Produced A Platinum Class Of Mega-Donors And Corporate Super PACs

In today’s so-called “democratic” election process, Big Money doesn’t talk, it roars — usually drowning out the people’s voice.

Bizarrely, the Supreme Court decreed in its 2010 Citizens United ruling that money is a form of “free speech.” Thus, declared the learned justices, people and corporations are henceforth allowed to spend unlimited sums of their money to “speak” in election campaigns. But wait — if political speech is measured by money then by definition speech is not free. It can be bought, thereby giving the most speech to the few with the most money. That’s plutocracy, not democracy.

Sure enough, in the first six months of this presidential election cycle, more than half of the record-setting $300 million given to the various candidates came from only 358 mega-rich families and the corporations they control. The top 158 of them totaled $176 million in political spending, meaning that, on average, each one of them bought more than a million dollars’ worth of “free” speech.

Nearly all of their money is backing Republican presidential hopefuls who promise: (1) to cut taxes on the rich; (2) cut regulations that protect us from corporate pollution and other abuses of the common good; and (3) to cut Social Security, food stamps and other safety-net programs that we un-rich people need. The great majority of Americans adamantly oppose all of those cuts — but none of us has a million bucks to buy an equivalent amount of political “free” speech.

It’s not just cuts to taxes, regulations and some good public programs that are endangered by the Court’s ridiculous ruling, but democracy itself. That’s why a new poll by Bloomberg Politics found that 78 percent of the American people — including 80 percent of Republicans — want to overturn Citizens United. But those 358 families, corporations and Big Money politicos will have none of it. In fact, America’s inane, Big Money politics have become so prevalent in this election cycle that — believe it or not — candidates have found a need for yet another campaign consultant.

Already, candidates are walled off from people, reality and any honesty about themselves by a battalion of highly specialized consultants controlling everything from stances to hairstyle. But now comes a whole new category of staff to add to the menagerie: “donor maintenance manager.”

The Supreme Court’s malevolent Citizens United decision has produced an insidious platinum class of mega-donors and corporate super PACs, each pumping $500,000, $5 million, $50 million — or even more — into campaigns. These elites are not silent donors, but boisterous, very special interests who are playing in the new, Court-created political money game for their own gain. Having paid to play, they feel entitled to tell candidates what to say and do, what to support and oppose. A Jeb Bush insider confirms that mega-donors have this attitude: “Donors consider a contribution like, ‘Well, wait, I just invested in you. Now I need to have my say; you need to answer to me.’”

Thus, campaigns are assigning donor maintenance managers to be personal concierges to meet every need and whim of these special ones. This subservience institutionalizes the plutocratic corruption of our democratic elections, allowing a handful of super-rich interests to buy positions of overbearing influence directly inside campaigns.

Donors at the million-dollar-and-up level are expecting much more than a tote bag for their “generous gifts” of “free speech.” Of course, candidates piously proclaim, “I’m not for sale.” But politicians are just the delivery service. The actual products being bought through the Supreme Court’s Money-O-Rama political bazaar are our government’s policies, tax breaks and other goodies — as well as the integrity of America’s democratic process. To help fight the injustice of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling and get Big Money out of our political system, go to www.FreeSpeechForPeople.org.

 

By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, October 28, 2015

October 29, 2015 Posted by | Citizens United, Corporations, Democracy | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Populism Is As Much A Problem As Plutocracy”: Mike Huckabee Is Not The Cure For What Ails The GOP

It’s become conventional wisdom among a certain segment of political pundits and conservative intellectuals — especially the so-called Reformicons — that the GOP has a plutocracy problem. Too many high-end tax cuts, too much indifference to the struggles of working-class voters, too many denunciations of the mooching ways of the American people — all of it adds up to a party that looks out of touch and overly beholden to the concerns of wealthy donors at the expense of everyone else.

The solution, supposedly, is populism — Republican candidates who can speak the language and understand the problems of ordinary voters.

Until recently, no one fixing to run for the White House in 2016 looked likely to do so as a populist. But that may have changed over this past weekend, when Mike Huckabee quit his television show on Fox News as a possible first step toward throwing his hat into the ring.

You’d think that the prospect of a Huckabee candidacy would cause the party’s populists to swoon. After all, Huckabee is a folksy Southern evangelical Christian, a bass-playing two-term governor, and an ordained Southern Baptist minister who won eight states (including Iowa) the last time he ran for president in 2008. And that was before he raised his profile with a nationally syndicated radio program and a TV show on the right’s premier cable channel.

And yet the Huckabee news this past Saturday produced the opposite of excitement. Mainstream conservatives mocked the prospect of his candidacy on Twitter, while reformers who’ve been pining for a populist have been muted.

The question is why.

And the answer, I think, is that on some level smart Republicans understand that populism is as much a problem for the party as plutocracy.

Yes, Mitt Romney’s tendency to toady to superrich donors and entrepreneurs — coming on the heels of George W. Bush’s high-end tax cuts — certainly saddled the GOP with a plutocratic image problem. But what about its tendency to flatter culturally alienated middle-class Americans by dismissing evolutionary biology, by mocking professors and “experts” of all kinds, and by pandering to the prejudices of a certain kind of ill-informed, reactionary religious believer?

The fact is that the Republican Party has long since become a bizarre only-in-America hybrid of fat cats and rednecks.

Deep down Republicans know that while a Huckabee candidacy might help address the image problems associated with the first half of that equation, he’d make those wrapped up with the second half far worse.

Consider some of Huckabee’s public statements in recent years:

Praising the work of a hack historian lionized by Know Nothing evangelicals, Huckabee declared in 2011, “I almost wish that…all Americans would be forced, at gunpoint, to listen to every David Barton message.” (Thank goodness for that “almost”!)

Responding to the Sandy Hook school massacre of 2012, Huckabee suggested that schools had become “place[s] of carnage” because “we have systematically removed God from our schools.”

Last winter, Huckabee stated in a speech (not unscripted remarks) that “if the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it.”

Huckabee’s latest book, slated to appear on Jan. 20, is titled God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy.

That, my friends, is what right-wing American populism sounds like in the second decade of the 21st century. It is the irritable mental gesture of a provincial (rural or exurban) white America that can’t tell the difference between cultural signaling and a cogent argument. And it treats the details of public policy as an afterthought or a matter of indifference.

Would-be Republican reformers can look for a better vehicle than Mike Huckabee for the populism they favor, but they’re unlikely to find one. Huckabee — or someone like him — is the only game in town.

The authentic reform of the GOP — its refashioning into a genuinely national party — requires more than the shedding of its plutocratic image. It also requires that the party’s leading lights give up on their impossible populist dreams.

 

By: Damon Linker, The Week, January 6, 2014

January 7, 2015 Posted by | GOP, Mike Huckabee, Populism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Content Free Propaganda”: “We The People” And Other Things That Aren’t True

According to a recent study by the University of California, 93% of income growth since the economic collapse of 2008 has gone to the wealthiest 1% of American households. Just 20 years ago, the amount of national income growth earned by the top 1% was less than half that.

So, if you are a right wing movement and not even you can justify concentrated economic and political power like that, what do you do? Well, you produce a video that celebrates “freedom” and shakes its fists at “tyranny” and you hope that the gullible will think the plutocratic takeover of our country is as American as apple pie.

The video is called “We the People” and it looks like it’s gone viral on the Right, collecting more than six million hits. I saw it because a friend of my wife’s thought it was just great and was sure we would too. Guess she didn’t get the memo!

The video is organized like an open letter to President Obama and its tone is a perfect replication of the gauzy, abstract vernacular of Fox News.

As the narrator informs President Obama, We The People “have stated resolutely we reject your vision for our country.” We The People “have assembled across America resisting your efforts to subvert our constitution and undermine our liberty.”

The video is filled with the sort of Americana that appeals to Sarah Palin’s right wing “real Americans.” As the Battle Hymn of the Republic plays in the background, scenes of Mount Rushmore, the Lincoln Memorial, a saluting Marine, an Apache attack helicopter, the Preamble to the Constitution, American flags, American flags, American flags and more American flags fill the screen. Even a Bald Eagle makes a guest appearance.

The video claims to speak for We the People but its voice is boilerplate Tea Party Republican: “Our greatest treasure is freedom;” “We believe in the power of the individual;” “Freedom is the capacity of self-determination.”

There are also the Thomas Jefferson-like “long train of abuses” hurled at the President: “you have expanded government, violated our Constitution, confounded laws, seized private industry, destroyed jobs, perverted our economy, curtailed free speech, corrupted our currency, weakened our national security, and endangered our sovereignty.”

And this is why, the video’s producers say, “we” are assembling all across this land, so that “we” can deliver “our” message that: “We will not accept tyranny under any guise;” that the redistribution of “the fruits of our labor is Statism and will not be tolerated;” that “We The People will defend our liberty;” and that “we will protect our beloved country and America’s exceptionalism will prevail.”

At first I thought “We the People” was the kind of parody Saturday Night Live might do as a spoof of right wing propaganda. Even its title was laughhable – “We the People” – as if the 70% of We the People don’t exist who think Democrats are right and Republicans are wrong when it comes to such key questions as whether to tax the rich more, to eliminate subsidies for oil companies or to preserve America’s endangered safety net.

But, at the end of the day, it is also disheartening to see how easy it is for the hard work of raising the level of understanding and debate in this country to all go to waste as vacuous, dishonest, manipulative and utterly content-free propaganda like this is produced to bamboozle even very smart people like those who sent us this insulting piece of reactionary performance art.

Then again, given recent experience, why should we be surprised that so many seem impervious to facts and reason or who now see politics as nothing more than brute force and war — a take-no-prisoners, law of the jungle scramble for survival of the fittest?

But I did like the Bald Eagles.

 

By: Ted Frier, Open Salon, March 31, 2012

March 31, 2012 Posted by | Democracy, Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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