The Supreme Court Just Made it Easier for Rich Folks to Control our Government

Supreme Court US 2010

The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, has lifted the cap on how much an individual donor can put into political campaigns for federal office. 

It left in place a $5200 cap on how much a single candidate can receive from an individual donor, but removed the $123,200 cap on the amount an individual can contribute to federal campaigns in the aggregate. 

That means that the uber rich can plow literally billions of dollars into federal campaigns, all across the country. Even though the cap on the amount of money they can put in any one campaign remains, if they are “directed” in their giving by special interest groups and political parties, (as they most assuredly will be) their influence on future legislation, government policy and anything else government can do for them will be overwhelming. 

We already suffer from too many puppet people legislators who vote according to the party line without individual thinking, regard for the needs of their constituents or the common good. The Supreme Court increased this by powers of ten. 

Make no mistake about it. This decision will affect your life in ways that you most likely will not understand, but which will devastate you ability to earn a living, live in peace and look forward to a secure old age. 

Will Rogers used to joke that we had “the best Congress that money could buy.” He was an optimist. What we already have and what is going to become even more pronounced, is the Congress that money has bought and owned. You can forget the “best” part. 

From CNNPolitics:

Washington (CNN) – If you’re rich and want to give money to a lot of political campaigns, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that you can.

The 5-4 ruling eliminated limits on much money people can donate in total in one election season.

However, the decision left intact the current $5,200 limit on how much an individual can give to any single candidate during a two-year election cycle. Until now, an individual donor could give up to $123,200 per cycle.

The ruling means a wealthy liberal or conservative donor can give as much money as desired to federal election candidates across the country, as long as no candidate receives more than the $5,200 cap.

While most people lack the money to make such a large total donation to election campaigns, the ruling clears the way for more private money to enter the system.

  • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

    One word: Berlusconi. Study the history of my country since 1994 and then tell me that government by the rich is a good thing.

  • FW Ken

    I have a problem with the simple notion that money equals political power. At the end of the day, H. Ross Perot and I each have one vote in the voting booth. I’m not talking about outright bribery, but campaign contributions. Sure, they buy ads and pay for campaign events. So what: I am not a stupid sheep. I can read. I can even do Google searches. It took me about 5 minutes to figure out why I wanted to vote for Greg Abbott and not just against Wendy Davis in the Texas governor race.

    This whole business of restricting political donations smacks of a sort of reverse elitism : we, the politically savvy, understand that you can’t be expected to resist the power of advertising, and therefore, we will restrict it, and let you get your information from the mainstream news sources. Yes, that inspires me with confidence.

    • Mary E.

      I share your skepticism about the unqualified belief that large financial contributions equals political power. It rests on the assumption that the candidates who are supported by the biggest donors always win, yet there is rarely any hard evidence offered as support for this assumption. The mere fact of a large donation by a wealthy donor is offered as evidence that a campaign will be successful. I’d like to see some hard statistics about this.

      It also occurs to me that wealthy individuals who are currently donating money to Democratic and Republican SuperPACs may reduce their financial contributions to those groups; since they will be able to make more direct donations to individual candidates across the country, they may feel less motivated to make donations to those organizations. So this decision could bring more of a shift in funding than an increase in funding.

      • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

        Berlusconi.

        • AnneG

          Berlusconi is one politician out of 50+ governments in the last 60 years in Italy. Are all the rest poor? Or just shills for other special interests?

          • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

            Your ignorance of Italian history would be nothing special if you did not take on yourself to base an opinion on that ignorance. Let me explain a few basic facts to you.

            Post-war Italy had a very stable majority which however depended on a coalition with two different main principles – secular liberalism (which had founded the Italian state a century before) and Catholicism (which had been excluded from government until 1946). The relationships between parties and even individual leaders were therefore quite complicated, and led to frequent government crises, which were usually solved with political deals. The situation grew even more complicated after 1960, when the Socialist party moved from the opposition area to the majority. Nonetheless, since the majority remained steady, government action was on the whole coherent and plenty of useful laws and reforms were passed. To give one small instance of the reforming drive of the Italian majority over time, Italy had five national parks in 1971. but 21 in 1992.

            However, the politicians had been growing corrupt and increasingly shameless, and between 1992 and 1994 a series of terrible scandals tore the majority apart. The Communist opposition – already largely morphed into a regular European social democratic party – fully expected to win the 1994 elections and to lead a government for the first time.

            However, the Clean Hands scandals (as they were called) had not threatened only politicians. Berlusconi, who had built a virtual monopoly in private TV under the protection of the extremely corrupt Socialist Party leader Craxi, risked exposure, bankruptcy and jail. To avoid this fate, he mobilized his colossal media empire – think ABC, CBS and Fox in a single owner’s hands – and his immense financial resources, and invented from nowhere a so-called “party” which essentially served to hire any non-Communist politician left homeless from the collapse of the old majority and willing to follow the TV wizard. In about six months, Berlusconi’s desperate blitzkrieg in the realm of politics had turned Italian politics upside down, bringing together a majority that had not existed before and that was held together only by his chequebook.

            What you have to understand is that this new majority was even more divided among itself than the old one had ever been. Beside prostituted Catholics and paid-for liberals and former socialists, Berlusconi had brought in the majority of the old Fascist party and made a deal with the racist Northern League. So you had in one place federalists and centralists, Catholics and the most extreme anti-clericals, former trades unionists and small businessmen with a loathing for unions – all held together by one thing and one alone:money. And all led by a man without a single political idea in his head, who had entered politics as an alternative to entering prison.

            The curious thing is that the Berlusconi governments proved remarkably durable. There were no early elections and most of them lasted out their terms. BUT THEY DID NOTHING. The old, messy post-war majorities had, in spite of their squabbles and their growing corruption, done the work of governing the country, legislating for it, reforming abuses, updating outdated institutions, and fostering economic growth. They had built roads and railways, worked at improving public services, enshrined civil rights in appropirate laws, and fourght terrorism and, increasingly, the mafia. With Berlsuconi, the evolution of the country came to a complete standstill, because Berlusconi had no political ideas of his own,and his followers fought each other. Laws were few and so badly written that a new institution entered Italian jurisprudence in these years – the interpretative letter, sent around the ministries after a law had been passed to explain what it meant and how it should be read.

            Berlusconi was only active on one front: a steady flow of laws designed to protect himself from prosecution on a long list of misdeeds. For instance, fraud in bankruptcy is no longer a crime in Italy. (He failed, even so; and recently one severe sentence against him was passed, apparently putting an end to his political career – were it not that his followers, incapable after twenty years to be a party without him, still take orders from him.

            Berlusconi used money as a bludgeon to batter his way into politics, and to stay there. He achieved his goal,at the price of corrupting everything he touched, and of leaving Italy much worse governed than before. Many Italians originally thought that a man who had built up a vast and successful group of companies, he should be able to run the country well; the last twenty years have completely disproved that. The rule of money does nothing for society. It does not even help money itself; after 20 years of business in power, Italian business in the worst condition it has been since the seventies. This is what government by the rich proves to be.

    • oregon nurse

      If advertising didn’t work in a very big way, no one would waste their money on it. And the money isn’t just attempting to buy your vote, it’s attempting and often succeeding at buying all the votes the winner will make.

    • Bill S

      Ken,

      The rich will abuse this new opportunity to stack the deck in the Senate and the House so that the Republicans can control the Congress, the selection of justices and maybe even the Presidency, since they can give a full share for electing representatives, senators and presidents to each. That’s a bad thing. Isn’t it ?

    • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

      Great comment Ken.

      • hamiltonr

        This is such craziness. Of course money equals political power. And of course the candidate with the most money is almost always the one who wins.

        I could give you so many examples it would fill a library of elected officials toadying to money. Money runs politics.

        One of the many things that you two are missing here is that these donations will be “directed” by groups and those groups’ agendas will then be what Congress tends to.

        You are both (meaning you and Ken, Manny) — and I respect and enjoy you both — are totally absolutely 100% wrong on this one. Money = power. In politics power is all that matters.

        • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

          And this ruling would reduce the need to toady for money. Larger donations require less time for money begging, and no, the candidate with the most money doesn’t always win. Just look at that special congressional in Florida the other week. Republican was out spent in a Democratic district and still won. In fact having the most money is a coincidental event, not a determining event. What makes a person win is incombency and name recognition and the mood of the country.

          • hamiltonr

            I didn’t say always wins. I won, and spent less money. Many times.

            However, they usually do. It’s so much the way things are that I am considered an anomaly in political circles. I also am looked on as an oddball because I vote what I think is right, which the others are not free to do. I can’t be instructed, and that makes me pretty much one of a kind.

            As for the rest of it, I’m not going to get into it in a combox. Both parities game the system and money is one of the major ways they do it. However, if you only want to see this issue as R vs D, then it does come down to which rulings will lean toward allowing the Rs to game the system more effectively than the Ds.

            In truth, I have faith that both of them will figure out how to use this ruling to control elected officials. Also, the various business interests and nutty special interests that wealthy people love so much, such as Planned Parenthood, will have a heyday with it.

            The loser in this ruling is the American people. The winners are corporatism and special interests.

            If you think this ruling is good thing, so be it Manny. Go for it.

            • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

              The losers are the American people? The bottom 50% of income pay 2.36% of the federal revenue. Maybe they should pay their fair share. I say that sarcastically. You support my argument. Money is not the determining factor, but a coincidental factor. Incumbancy, name recognition, and mood of the country are determining factors. If anything this ruling will make it EASIER FOR CHALLENGERS to get funding.

              • hamiltonr

                Go file for office Manny. Run with no money. Come back and tell me all about it.

                • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

                  No. I have no credible basis for people to elect me. But Eisenhower, who was in the same position as me – just a citizen – was able to run and get backing. He had credibility. And that was when there were no contribution limits. No one is going to fund me because I’m not credible. And do you think I have a better chance with campaign restrictions? Actually you’re not even making sense. At least without restrictions I can possibly persuade a billionaire to fund me. With restrictions I had no chance at all.

                  • hamiltonr

                    You probably have just as much credible basis for people to elect you as anyone in office today. You have profoundly-held beliefs, the ability to express yourself and what appears to be a lot of determination and drive. As for President Eisenhower, he was an extraordinary man. However, today’s politics are as removed from those of his day as the politics of his day were from those of Lincoln.

                    • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

                      But so do lots of people. People will vote for a candidate who has some sort of basis for holding office. It may be superficial, but that’s democracy.

    • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

      Berlusconi

  • Bill S

    I really wish that Justice Scalia would retire or take a job in the private sector. It seems that eight of the justices are predictable, four vote one way and four the other leaving Justice Kennedy to be the deciding vote. If Scalia could be replaced with someone more progressive, we wouldn’t have decisions like this.

    • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

      The progressives vote for stuff like this all the time- there are plenty of rich progressives out there who want the government their money can buy just as much as conservatives.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    A good ruling. Freedom means you can spend on what you want. And Ken is right below, money does not equal political power. If it did, how come the top ten percent income pay 71% of the federal taxes?

    http://www.heritage.org/federalbudget/top10-percent-income-earners

    And how come the party of the rich happens to be the Democrats:

    http://news.yahoo.com/party-rich-congress-democrats-040228270–election.html;_ylt=A0LEV06kVj1T8D4AKmdXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTEzcjZjYnRkBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDMQRjb2xvA2JmMQR2dGlkA1ZJUDM2OV8x

    Somehow I seem to recall that Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Jeff Bezos, George Soros, Steve Jobs were all Democrats and they support all left wing causes.

    • hamiltonr

      Stop making everything a partisan issue Manny. This is about America. The political parties are both shills. Both of them.

      • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

        So it’s balanced. What’s the problem? The fact is that the issues that motivate the rich are the same as those that motivate the majority of Americans. More money for both sides to communicate the issues and their respective solutions is a good thing. If money equated to “control of our government” as you state, the top ten percent of income earners would not be paying 71% of the federal taxes. What exactly are the rich getting for paying all those taxes?

        • peggy-o

          The issues of the rich no longer reflect those of most Americans. If they did they wouldn’t have to buy their way into so many elections , especially those far from their home bases. The Koch brothers most certainly don’t represent my family and friends. Soros and Warren Buffett do not share the same values. I don’t think it’s the monoculture you suggest it is.

          • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

            So what issues are the rich pushing for that are not in synch with the American people? Be specific. As far as I can tell it’s all the same issues. You are being demogogued on the rich.

            • hamiltonr

              Manny, don’t interrogate and don’t insult. I give more leeway with Fabio because he can give as good as he gets.

              • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

                What? Where did I insult? Frankly you allow Fabio way too much leaway in how he insults people he disagrees. And I take the insults way better than Fabio does.

                • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

                  Everyone has a distorting mirror, I guess….

                  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

                    I went through every single one of my comments on this page I have found nothing that can be seen as insulting. And I have not reacted to your insults to me over the last few days.

                    • hamiltonr

                      Please guys, don’t fight. I value both of you too much for that.

            • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

              Like that dreadful man who said all these terrible subversive pieces of demagoguery?

              Matthew 6:24

              “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

              Luke 18:25

              For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

              Luke 12:33

              Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.

              Mark 12:41-44

              And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

              Revelation 3:17

              For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

              Luke 6:20 ESV / 15 helpful votes

              And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

              Luke 6:24 ESV / 12 helpful votes

              “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

              Matthew 6:19-21 ESV / 12 helpful votes

              “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

            • oregon nurse

              I’ll give you just one. Maximizing profits, far beyond anything necessary to remain competitive, at the expense of their workers. How any Catholic can celebrate the sins of corporate America is beyond me.

              Have you noticed the extreme rise in art prices? Seems like every week there is another report of a record setting price on a piece of art or jewelry. That’s what happens when you have people who are so rich they have nothing else to do with their millions than bid against each other for something to stick in a safe and a rep for spending the most $ to date on an artwork. All those millions upon millions that the little dupes have been told will go to job creation if we would just get hell out of their way, cut their taxes, and let them make money. Now that workers have been forced out of employer funded pensions and into self-funded 401k’s, the stealing of billions has commenced at light speed – literally. None are so blind as those who refuse to see.

              • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

                You mean this didn’t go on before? Actually you’re not even making sense. We’ve had corporate limits and you still claim they get favors. Corporations pay millions of dollars in taxes every year. Without them paying all those taxes you would have to triple your tax payment to fund the government, if not more.

                • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

                  Which is why Rupert Murdoch’s News International – to mention only one – pay only 3 per cent of its profits, let alone its turnover, in taxes. The corporate contribution to the exchequer only looks big as compared to what the ordinary person has to pay. In reality it’s minuscule as compared to what the ordinary person pays from income, and that is true on both sides of the Atlantic. But never mind. You would not see anything wrong with measureless and uncontrolled wealth even if you were being dragged to slave camps.

                  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

                    I have no idea what the tax laws are for Britain. Fabio, this is an American issue on how we fund campaigns and what our definition of free speech is.

                • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

                  I’m fine with them paying lower taxes if they raise wages. In fact, I think Payroll should be downright tax free.

            • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

              In my industry, it’s H-1b Visas, used widely to bring in 3rd world workers to lower salary demands.

              • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

                They brought third world workers into our country for your industry? I’m confused.

                • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

                  Law of supply and demand. When the cost of American born software engineers and artists got too high, they campaigned to expand the pool of workers. The excuse they used was that they couldn’t find qualified Americans (duh, the proper way to get a software engineer with the skills you want is to hire them and train them on the job to the standards of your shop, whatever those standards may be, but of course that is expensive), but what they really meant was “we can’t find Americans to work cheap enough”. Thus the H-1b visa to increase the supply relative to the demand, lowering wages.

                  Related is offshore outsourcing of the work, but that doesn’t go as well, because when you have layers of abstraction between programmers and users (it is an art as much as a science) you get crappy user interfaces.

                  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

                    What does offshore outsourcing have to do with campaign contributions? Whether right or wrong, that’s a separate issue.

            • peggy-o

              Well there was this little thing with Wall Street scandals a few years back that most Americans didn’t appreciate. That was able to happen because of this little law called the Glass Stegal act that had protected us from this very thing was abolished by the demagogues in your party. Then there were the bankers themselves who said we need oversight because we can’t be trusted. The lack of accountability and oversight still shows our legislators are doing their donors bidding well especially when the same folks from scandal ridden private sector move to commerce secretary…small world.

              • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

                Well, according to President Bill Clinton himself, the repeal of Glass Stigal which he signed in 1999 had nothing to do with the subprime mortgage crises. The fundemental reason why it happened was because of Fanny Mae Freddie Mac pressure on banks to lend to people who did not meet the qualifications. You can find the Bill Clinton quote here, if you have the patience to read through it all:

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subprime_mortgage_crisis

                So your understanding of the issue is wrong. It had nothing to do with big business getting favors from their contributions.

                • peggy-o

                  Actually there is uniform opinion that the repeal of Glass-Steagall directly contributed to the financial collapse. You can find that on wiki too. As for Clinton, as Rebecca correctly and experientially states, both parties are shills.
                  It’s not all wealthy folks but these elite corporatist donors that wield political power that hurts this country and working people. Most Americans favor campaign finance reform and we will never get it. Jesus threw the money changers out of his fathers house and we want them out of our legislative houses.

      • pagansister

        Thus I am an Independent.

    • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

      Berlusconi.

      • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

        I don’t recall Berlusconi running for an American office.

        • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

          Of course, your rich are different. Sure they are.

          • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

            No our systems are different. I have no idea how your system works.

            • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

              If you have no idea how our system works, how can you be sure yours is different?

              • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

                Because campaign financing is a convoluted process here. It can’t possibly be the same elsewhere, and even if the same the cultural dynamics are different enough to not equate situations. Anyway, billionaires have always had the ability to fund their own campaigns in the US. This law does nothing to change or address that.

                And whether Berlusconi was a good leader or not has nothing to do with whether the process is proper. He was a particular individual. Another rich guy could easily have been a great prime minister.

                • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

                  One example, please. From anywhere.

      • FW Ken

        Fabio,

        I’m not talking about persons, but the principle that one person has one vote. Short of corruption (literally paying people to vote for you), campaign money buying advertising is used to influence, not control.

  • oregon nurse

    Maybe, if instead of upping the amount of cash a candidate/party could get, the court put a serious cap on all campaign spending we’d have a much better system and some actual honest people with good ideas would have a chance to run (sorry Rebecca, I know there are a few exceptions like you).

    It’s crazy to think money doesn’t buy votes. It’s also become a system where a politician has to practically prostitute themselves to special interests to get the money and party support needed to run a campaign. The system has assured that the most dishonest, most easily purchased people are the only ones who have a chance. And what is their payoff? It’s power and a career and connections that will assure them they can spend a lifetime switching back and forth between government and private sector amassing money and power and a huge influence over your life as they go. I think some politicians have actually sold their souls along with their votes.

    Yeah, keep voting in those party incumbants every election so you can complain endlessly about the stalled bi-partisan politics afterward. Insanity = keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results each time.

    • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

      One thing I think would be feasible would be a fixed amount of free spots across the media for all candidates. Each candidate would be allowed, say, two free pages a month in the leading newspapers for the three months before the election, likewise two half-hours a month, prime time, on TV, and so on, all paid from public funds. Public speeches would likewise be limited in number, although the candidate could hold them at any time of his/her choice. Such things as mailshots and phone campaigns would be forbidden or strictly regulated, and any irregular expense would get a candidate summarily deleted from the lists – this would mean that candidates would police each other. It would also have the advantage that you could limit the length of the campaign, instead of spending half the term of office effectively campaigning for the next election as people do now.

  • peggy-o

    Thanks Rebecca. You are right on in this post as well as the com boxes. I see a microcosm in my own agency. A few folks donate money to the governor to be on our commission. Then we spend millions of dollars building facilities and running programs that cater to their wealthy whims and friends… Tax payer dollars without taxpayer representation. This hurts very hard working employees whorls the lowest state salaries in the nation. It’s immoral.

  • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

    The previous cap was 6 times the average earning capacity? That cap was a joke to begin with, pricing most folks out of the game entirely.

    Heck, the $5200 cap insures that the rich and old will have a larger voice.

    • AnneG

      Theodore, FYI, most Republican donations in number and quantity come in the $200-100 and even less amount.

  • pagansister

    Guess if you buy your politician you expect to get everything done that you want—-unfortunately what else is new?

    • FW Ken

      There’s a saying in Texas : when I buy a politician, he stays bought.
      :-)

      • pagansister

        I expect that Texas isn’t the only state that has that saying. I think I have lived in at least 2 more. :-)

  • AnneG

    I agree with Rebecca that most politicians are shills who support causes they get paid for. They also do dirty deals for those causes that support them, for instance, the $150 million in the AFA for Nevada casino tourism. Another big problem is that many of our politicians have gotten rich and built family dynasties where they pass along their seats to their children, like Gore, Murkowski, Kennedy and Landrieu. The majority leader of the Senate and the VP have both designated their seats for one of their sons. Don’t mention the Bush’s as they are all from different states and different offices though GW’s support came from the establishment.
    I do not think there will be much change from this law except for one thing. Private industry can now compete against public employees unions. There is no restriction on union political activities or donations and most union members are public employees who should not be organized in the first place.
    That is not the root of the problem. Our system only works when we have an honest populace with basic, core moral values and principles. People will still cheat, but it only works when the basis is built on immutable values.


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