A guy almost everyone has never heard of just dropped a $1.6 billion donationIn pursuit of every right-wing fantasy that you can think of. It is the largest single donation by an individual in U.S. history and there is no way to change it.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: It’s all about the money. Why? Because money is the rule.
As we seek our truths and get caught up in legislation and advocacy, it is easy to forget this foundational principle. We lose the forest for the trees, and now the goddamn forest is raining cash down on so much that we would devote our lives to defeating … or put more specifically, the forest is raining cash down on politicians who suddenly find themselves devotedto provide esoteric tax cuts for hedge fund, real-estate, and private equity managers to the point where massive bills turn on giving politicians whatever they want. It’s a hostage crisis, and it has gotten worse by order of magnitude over the years.
Why is it so difficult to pass climate legislation? Ask the fossil fuel-driven contributors. Why is health care so expensive? Ask Big Pharma and insurance companies. Why is police and prisons still considered the best solutions to our problems? Ask the so-called “Law and Order” donors (among many other influential players). There are almost 400 million guns on the land, and schools have been turned into slaughterhouses. Ask the NRA and other gun “rights” donors. How did the Supreme Court become so heavily tilted to one side? Ask the Federalist Society donors and the Democrats, as they watched the court-packing process unfold over the years. Alfred E. Neuman lookOn their faces
Why can’t we fix the problem of money in politics? Ask the politicians who are receiving all the money. It’s a sealed loop, a legalized perfection of frictionless graft, with no way inside unless you have a check in hand, at which point you are part of the problem.
The problem is not a new one. Corporations have enjoyed the same 14th Amendment rights as people since the Supreme Court’s Santa Clara v. Southern Pacific Railroad decisionIn 1886. These corporate executives had campaign finance rights. codifiedIn later Supreme Court decisions like Buckley v. Valeo1976. This created a whole new category of super-people, the real “donor class,” corporations with the same rights asIndividuals but with about eleventy billion times more power to expand those rights by dint of their deep pockets.
And in 2010, whatever remained of the bottom finally fell out with the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, which opened the floodgates for unlimited donations of untraceable money, and all in the name of corporate “free speech.” Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy made a promise his ass simply could not keep: “We now conclude that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption…. The appearance of influence or access, furthermore, will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy.”
Sometimes, when I visualize Kennedy writing those words, I imagine him as a fuzzy little bunny hoppity-hopping through a flower-strewn meadow, little pink nose thrilling with the scents of springtime, little pink eyes bright and alight with all the pure innocence and good things in the world … just before the wolf right behind him bites him in half and devours whatever falls out onto the green and dewy grass. Either he was innocent, or he was bullshitting us. We’ve wound up in the same place no matter which was true.
If British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain can be rightly said to be Adolf Hitler’s 20th century champion chump, then Anthony Kennedy gets the nod for top money-power chump of the 21st century to date. If you think everything has gotten worse since 2010, you’re not wrong, and Citizens UnitedThe phenomenon appears to be a poisonous toad, and the squats are in the middle.
We now reach the newest star in this constellation, which is corruption and raw power.
“An elderly, ultra-secretive Chicago businessman has given the largest known donation to a political advocacy group in U.S. history — worth $1.6 billion — and the recipient is one of the prime architects of conservatives’ efforts to reshape the American judicial system, including the Supreme Court,” reports The Lever. “Through a series of opaque transactions over the past two years, Barre Seid, a 90-year-old manufacturing magnate, gave the massive sum to a nonprofit run by Leonard Leo, who co-chairs the conservative legal group the Federalist Society.”
Leo, the man at the happy ending of this transaction is a huge part of the reason Roe v. WadeIt has been thrown to the wind, and privacy and equality in marriage (for openers), may be next.
Seid (pronounced “said”) made his vast fortune catering to the analog end of the digital revolution – you may have one of his power strips in your home right now, or the servers in your office may be swaddled in one of his server farm cooling systems – but he is largely unknown outside a tight-knit group of far-right activists who emerged from the University of Chicago. Among the university organizations he has supported are the trickle-down prophets at the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics and the climate-denying Heartland Institute, which have both enjoyed Seid’s secretive multi-million-dollar largesse over the years.
This is one problem that’s both simple and difficult to solve. Get the money from politics! Right, good, of course, and while you’re at it, grab that bunny out of the wolf’s jaws. “Even if you set aside the monkeyshines from Mar-A-Lago, and the ratfcking,” storms Esquire blogger Charlie Pierce. “And the voter suppression. And the gerrymandering — Even if you eliminated all of those, our elections still would be a farce because of how money power has been allowed to drown the process.”
Everything – and I mean Everything – just got harder because of the thermonuclear money bomb Barre Seid slipped into the formidable financial arsenal already enjoyed by Leonard Leo and his Federalist Society cronies. This organization just turned the Supreme Court into an extreme right-wing playground Without Seid’s gigantic payout.
Leo and his associates now have the opportunity to play on a broader field. All those Trump-picked Senate candidates Mitch McConnell lamented recently can expect some much-needed stuffing to their campaign coffers. It is all of one piece, financed now beyond what avarice can dream of, and only 76 more days until the midterms.
All of a suddenly, and with everything else building up like a million-car pile-up in the icy fog on the Tri-State Tollway, the vicious reality that campaign finance laws have forced their way to the top again. This must be fixed before you can fix anything else. Go find that bunny.