Republican Senator Roy Blunt got a big affirmation recently when the Supreme Court essentially okayed the type of big money politics that have provided the bedrock for his political career. The conservative (i.e. corporatist) majority on the Supreme Court delivered an opinion in the case of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission (McCutcheon) that was described by Garrett Epps in The Atlantic as the beginning of “legalized corruption and the twilight of campaign-finance law.” The decision did away with limits on aggregate campaign donations, which arguably opens the door to money laundering when it comes time to buy elections (give the limit to candidate a,b, and c each, who in turn pass the donations along to candidate d, the intended recipient of the largesse in the first place). Worse yet the decision was justified in terms that could be expanded to do away with all limits on campaign donations. In dissenting comments Justice Stephen Breyer noted that:
Today’s decision substitutes judges’ understandings of how the political process works for the understanding of Congress, fails to recognize the difference between influence resting upon public opinion and influence bought by money alone, overturns key precedent, creates serious loopholes in the law, and undermines, perhaps devastates, what remains of campaign finance reform.
Last year, commenting on the case which had not yet been decided, an op-ed in the Daily Californian had this to say about the potential of McCutcheon to continue the erosion of the democratic process that was initiated by the earlier Citizens United decision:
Alabama businessman Shaun McCutcheon, joined by the Republican National Committee, challenges these aggregate contribution limits, claiming they are a violation of his First Amendment right to free speech in politics. In doing so, he invokes the logic that was central to the Citizens United case: that money is speech.
This idea is not only dangerous but also false.
Take Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri. In March, Blunt quietly inserted the Monsanto Protection Act into a last-minute spending bill, allowing growers to plant genetically modified seeds even when they had been deemed unsafe by the courts. Who donated $79,250 to Senator Blunt over the past 4 years? None other than GMO giant Monsanto Company, making it his fifth-largest contributor over that period.
Political contributions may not be blatant bribes. As Monsanto’s ability to influence Blunt makes clear, however, these contributions are too powerful to be considered true free speech. Politicians do whatever they can to stay in power. If contributions from a few wealthy groups are keeping them there, they will no longer represent the majority. That is corruption.
It’s no accident that the piece singled out Blunt, who a few years ago was designated one of the most corrupt politicians in Washington by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). So, it’s no surpirse that Blunt doesn’t share the misgivings voiced by those who believe that democratic government should represent all the people, not just those who can afford to line the pockets of complaisant politicians. Not only does Blunt opine that the “total limit is questionable” while wondering about the distinction between aggregate and individual limits – the only remaining obstacle that remains between total ownership of government by the plutocrats that Blunt cultivates – but he also makes it clear that folks on his side of the aisle aren’t going to plug the loopholes opened up by McCutcheon anytime soon. In fact he pooh-poohs the fears about McCutcheon, pretending that there aren’t lavishly wealthy folks out there just salivating at the prospect of using their filthy lucre to buy up the political stable:
“I assume that it will have some impact, but not a lot of impact in contributing,” Blunt said. “I imagine there were several individuals out there who really are contributors at this high level of $123,000 who cringed when they found out that ‘oh no, the court says you’re going to have to mark that excuse off your list of why you can’t help an individual campaign.'”
Yeah. And how many billions has Sheldon Adelson dropped over the past few years? Or the Koch brothers? You think they and other one percenters won’t be more than willing to drown the rest of us out with more and more of their greenback “speech”? As Donna Brazile notes in a CNN opinion piece, there’s no downside for these folks:
… . The problem is that Adelson and other super-wealthy Republican donors are directing their largesse to buy elected officials who support policies that benefit their bottom lines at the expense of middle-class American families.
People like Sheldon Adelson support candidates who are in favor of lowering tax rates for corporations and the super-wealthy — people like Sheldon Adelson.
But those tax giveaways aren’t free. Rep. Paul Ryan’s House GOP budget pays for those tax breaks by gutting funding for investments in education and infrastructure, ending Medicare as we know it, and raising taxes on middle-class families with children.
The stakes are indeed big. Right now Paul Ryan’s budget – which the House just passed and which would destroy Medicare and decimate Social Security Insurance – is no more than a bit of nasty political posturing. But as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently asserted apropos the upcoming midterm election:
… . Control of the U.S. Senate is in play, due to a unique combination of geography and politics. And the result of the battle for Senate control will have an important effect on the power and influence of Missouri’s two senators, Republican Roy Blunt and Democrat Claire McCaskill.
And the big money boys are, thanks to McCutcheon, well-positioned to help shift Senate control over to their hirelings, folks like Roy Blunt – on the record as supporting Ryan’s efforts to take us back to the bad old days before there was a social safety net. Wanna guess what’s going to happen when the plutocrats are finally able to pay for a Republican takeover? Roy Blunt ought to be licking his chops for sure – looks like the good old days may roll around once again for this consummate, big-bucks player.