Corporate Funding in Elections: If You Had the Money, You Could Do It, Too:
The Rude Pundit doesn't often go to these sorts of things because, inevitably, they end up depressing the hell out of him. But for various reason, last Friday night he found himself at the All Saints Unitarian Church in New York City for an event sponsored by the Big Apple Coffee Party. The title was "Should Corporations Decide Our Elections?", which was kind of a bullshit frame of a non-existent debate, there being no one present to take the affirmative side (something that GRITtv host and moderator Laura Flanders acknowledged at the outset), although it would have been fun as hell to have Ronald McDonald defending the golden arches.
Speaking were radio host and author Thom Hartmann and law professors Zephyr Teachout and Lawrence Lessig. All three were great speakers, but it was Lessig, as a prophet of doom, who truly stood out. The discussion centered around the Citizens United decision and the ludicrous notion of corporate personhood. (Remember: Citizens United was about whether or not a film that bashed Hillary Clinton could be advertised within 30 days of the primaries, in violation of a provision of the McCain-Feingold campaign financing act. The Supreme Court, in its infinite wisdom, said, "McCain can blow us and Feingold can work on our balls." And thus our elections are now filled with ads from mysterious groups that are accountable to no one.)
Lessig asked, compellingly (and all quotes are guaranteed to be correct only in spirit), "Even if Citizens United was overturned tomorrow, what would change?" His point, which the others did not disagree with, was that our election process, indeed, our entire governing process, is so encrusted with the filth of corporate funding that it is impossible for our elected representatives to, you know, represent us, the people. They end up representing primarily the interests of the corporations that fund their campaigns, and, as Lessig repeated brought up, a member of Congress spends around 40% (or more) of his or her time on the phone to major donors drumming up cash for elections. So who is Johnny or Jenny Senator gonna do shit for? You, Ms. Donates-a-hundred? Or that fat fuck over there who has a check for tens of thousands of dollars and a 501c4 ready to run attack ads?
The desire to please the corporate masters of our democracy was clearly at work in the creation of the Frankenstein's monster of health care legislation. It came down to which industries did they not want to piss off. If you ever wanted to vomit endlessly about how the legislative sausage is made, check out all the ground up pig anuses and tails revealed in Ryan Lizza's article from The New Yorker about the destructive compromises that had to be made on climate change legislation in order to avoid confrontations with the corporate organizations that had moneyed interests in the outcome. Fuck, when California senatorial candidate Carly Fiorina refused on Fox "news" yesterday to say what exact things she would cut from the federal budget, she was dancing as fast as she could to keep every donor happy. In other words, until corporate money is banned from elections, your vote is merely for which companies you want taken care of.
The reason the Rude Pundit avoids these gatherings is for a couple of reasons. The first is that the solutions are inevitably so radical as to seem impossible, which is depressing as hell. Lessig proposed that the states should call a constitutional convention in order to scare the Congress into acting. Yeah, that'd be pretty insane, but beyond amending the Constitution, what's the solution? Throw more money into the mix? Get other 501c4's to go on the attack? The Rude Pundit would like to figure out a way to play special interests against each other. Make them go to war and waste their resources on that.
The other reason is that, more often than not, the majority of attendees of these gatherings are just so fucking old. Where were the people under, say, 40? It's like the ones who know how to engage are the lefties old enough to remember life pre-Internet and pre-iPhone. As the speakers said, the only way for any change to occur is in face-to-face civic engagement, not through Facebook groups that you join and ignore and eventually block because they send too many updates. But it's easier to pretend you did something.