WASHINGTON – We’re approaching the sixth anniversary of President Obama’s rebuke of the Supreme Court over its 2010 decision to create a new personhood with rights of “free speech.”
With justices sitting in front of him at a State of the Union address, Obama condemned their Citizens v. Federal Elections Commission decision. It said corporations are people and can spend unlimited amounts, effectively in secret, on campaigns. The money buys presidents, senators and members of Congress.
The ruling, Obama predicted, “will open the floodgates to special interests.”
It has, and as agonizing as it is to type these words, this is not your government anymore.
In a concrete way, the change is seen in the massive new office buildings, and rebuilt presidios springing up on K Street, the holy of holies for lobbyists, and expensive condos regentrifying blighted sectors of the capital.
The Center for Responsive Politics cites the licensed lobbyist population at around 15,000. But an analysis in Atlantic.com says the number is closer to 90,000, counting former members of Congress and others serving as unlicensed “advisers” to lobbyists. The money they spend easily outstrips the funds we spend on Congress, according to the Atlantic.
And according to the Center for Responsive Politics, lobbyists have unlimited cash to throw at candidates. With the first primaries weeks away, presidential candidates have already spent $500 million. Even former Gov. George E. Pataki has spent $1.3 million.
The money comes from fatter corporate profits from mergers planned and completed – and allowed by our Justice Department – of big chemical manufacturers like Dow and DuPont, airlines, hotel chains, beer companies, office supply companies and banks.
These actions result in higher profits that result from poorer service and higher prices at the counter. And don’t forget longer and more dangerous trucks permitted by the federal Department of Transportation, and public and private colleges, which seem to have unlimited authority to raise tuition and fees. They all support lobbies here.
One of the largest political donors, Goldman Sachs & Co., worked $1.7 trillion in mergers and acquisitions this year, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Powerful firms like Goldman have been busy running the government, and indirectly you and me, while mass media distract us with black/white lives matter, threats of domestic terrorism, refugees, incorrect speech and other non-economic issues.
To be fair, Obama did not make as much use of the court’s ruling as he could have in 2012. He indirectly used some super PACs. But the run-up for the 2016 contest has set a brand-new, ugly pattern.
The biggest spender – of record – so far is Republican Jeb Bush, with $128 million on a losing campaign. He has five super PACs raising money for him – in unlimited amounts. And he has one of those super-secret foundations that makes zero disclosure as to donations.
Next comes our former U.S. senator, Hillary Rodham Clinton. The center lists 17 Clinton super PACs, including two opposing her. Her announced spending is $98 million. She wants $1 billion total. Is the money coming from Americans who want more manufacturing jobs, more corporate diversity and smaller banks?
Third is Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who spent $67 million.
The exceptions to this alarming list are Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-I, who has spent $41 million, all on the record, and The Donald. Real estate magnate Donald Trump, a Republican, has spent a mere $6 million, from personal and, perhaps, his business funds.
The tragedy is that while Congress and interest groups are making gestures at this dangerous sale of the government, it is all shadow boxing. Both parties like it the way it is.