Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The End Game for American Democracy?

Bill Moyers says (below) that American Democracy is on its last leg.

That's hyperbole, right?

Moyers says we are SO "close to losing our Democracy to the mercenary class, it's as if we are leaning way over the rim of the Grand Canyon and all that's needed is a swift kick in the pants. Look out below."
The predators in Washington are only this far from monopoly control of our government.



The journalists who could tell us these things [what REALLY goes on in Washington, DC] rarely do, and some, never. They aren't blind, simply bedazzled. [...]
William Greider, one of our craft’s finest reporters, fierce and unbought, despite a long life in Washington once said that no one can hope to understand what is driving political behavior without asking the kind of gut-level questions politicians ask themselves in private: “Who are the winners in this matter and who are the losers? Who gets the money and who has to pay? Who must be heard on this question and who can be safely ignored?” (emphasis added)
Frankly, that doesn't sound like an exaggeration, to me, at all.

Now, about that question of who must be heard and who can be safely ignored...

The US Supreme Court will soon (next month) hear arguments in McCutcheon v Federal Elections Commission, a case that challenges personal aggregate campaign contribution limits. That is, the amount any one campaign contributor may give to all candidates combined in an election cycle.
With the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be prohibited. This holding has paved the way for many other challenges to campaign finance restrictions. One challenger is Shaun McCutcheon, an electrical engineer from Alabama. In February of 2012, he voiced his frustration about federal limits on overall campaign donations during a two-year election cycle - and conservative election lawyer Dan Backer heard him.
What followed was McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, which the Supreme Court will hear in October. In this case, McCutcheon challenges a limitation on the total amount of campaign donations an individual can give during any election cycle. For example, during the current election cycle, an individual can give up to $2,600 per candidate per election, including both primaries and general elections. There is no limit to the number of candidates an individual can support, but the donor can give no more than a total of $48,600 to federal candidates over two years. Similar restrictions apply to donations to parties and political action committees. McCutcheon argues that Citizens United's holding requires the conclusion that these limits are unconstitutional. (emphasis in bold added)
I posted something about this from Represent.Us on Facebook and got very little feedback on it. I shared it again and had a friend tell me she was having a hard time getting her head around it.

We better get our heads around it pretty soon. Shaun McCutcheon is very serious about wanting to buy as many Congressmen as he can afford. I don't personally know anyone who can compete with that.

However, Dēmos filed an amicus brief (on behalf of the Sierra Club, Communications Workers of AmericaGreenpeace, NAACP, the American Federation of Teachers, Main Street Alliance, OurTime.org, People for the American Way Foundation, Rock the Vote, U.S.PIRG, the Working Families Organization, as well as Dēmos itself) for a united voice in this case. A voice that I believe represents MY point of view on the issue.

Dēmos summarizes the brief thus:
This Court has long grounded its campaign finance jurisprudence on the government’s compelling interest in fighting corruption or its appearance. Fighting the perception and the reality of a democratic government corrupted by the improper influence of financial support, however, is more than just a compelling reason for regulation; it is a responsibility of any democratic government. Legitimacy – the belief by the people that they are fairly represented – after all, is a first principle of democratic governance.
Aggregate contribution limits function in tandem with base contribution limits to protect the legitimacy of our democratic government by combating the perception and reality of corruption. Aggregate limits ensure that no one donor can find ways to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to a candidate or a party, and candidates and officeholders cannot solicit huge sums from a single donor – which evidence suggests would foster a belief among the public that elected officials are improperly influenced by such large contributions. At the same time, contribution limits impose only an indirect burden on speech and thus are not subject to strict scrutiny. For these reasons, this Court upheld aggregate contribution limits in Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976) (per curiam), and has had no cause to reconsider this sound principle.
Appellants ask this Court to overrule settled precedent regarding contribution limits at a particularly inopportune time, because even with these limits in place public confidence in U.S. government is by some measures at an all-time low. Public opinion data demonstrate that this lack of confidence in government is tied to the widespread perception that government is more responsive to financial supporters than to voters or the public interest, and is corrupted by the improper influence of money in campaigns. 
Recent political science research has demonstrated more clearly than ever before that this public concern is not speculative or irrational but rather quite closely tethered to reality. Campaign funding has long been the province of large donors, but the near-dominance of a tiny fraction of the U.S. population over contributions to federal candidates has escalated in recent years. Important new research has documented that the wealthy have starkly different policy priorities than the general public, especially on economic issues, and that government in the U.S. responds differentially – often dramatically so – to the preferences of those who are able to make large campaign contributions, even when these preferences run counter to those of the general public. This particularly affects communities of color, which are far less likely to be represented among the ranks of those whose policy preferences appear to influence officeholders. Campaign finance is a significant factor in this dynamic.
Striking aggregate contribution limits will exacerbate problems of corruption and its appearance. See infra Point IV. Without these limits, a small cadre of donors will be able to contribute millions of dollars to candidates, parties, and political action committees, and candidates and officeholders will be permitted to solicit large sums from potential donors, functionally reviving the “soft money” system that Congress acted to end a mere 11 years ago. This will provide further (and renewed) incentive for federal candidates and officeholders to grant these donors improper influence, skewing policy outcomes more and more towards the preferences of donors as opposed to those of the general public.
Perceptions of corruption are already at dangerous levels in the United States. These perceptions are not irrational fears but rather reasoned reactions to a system that is more responsive to the policy preferences of a narrow segment of the electorate as a result of the improper influence gained through large financial contributions. This Court must not risk undermining the legitimacy of our Republic by overturning longstanding precedent to strike a key bulwark against the reality and appearance of corruption of our democratic government. (emphasis in bold added)
Again, Moyers uses strong language but I don't believe it is hyperbolic. Unless WE rise up and make it clear to the Supreme Court that we will not tolerate them ignoring the corrupting power of unlimited money in political campaigns... well, there is just so much at stake.

The entire transcript of Moyers' essay can be found at:
Bill Moyers Essay: The End Game for Democracy | BillMoyers.com

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If you have HB2305 referendum petitions still outstanding, get them notarized and turned in PRONTO.

The Pima County Democratic Party should have a notary in the office today, but you can call ahead (520-326-3716).

In Maricopa County, Jacqueline Adams at ADP/MCDP headquarters is a notary. I turned my petitions in on Tuesday and she notarized them.


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