When an old fella living in the backwoods of Oregon decides to disagree with respected opinionist George Will, he faces either a long, uphill battle or risks being just another voice lost to the wind. Aw, what the hell. Let’s go for it.
I am a loud, vocal foe of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision granting corporations free speech protections heretofore believed reserved for individuals. Others participating in this chorus of opposition do so for the same reason – believing that deeply flawed decision allowed the floodgates of unlimited – and much of it anonymous – cash into our political rivers. The balance board of free speech versus corporate influence has been severely thrown out of whack – deliberate or not.
But Mr. Will has written this week “Reasons for the Supreme Court to reconsider Citizens United are nonexistent.” Indeed, Will writes “There is no evidence for their (opponents) assertion that 2012 has been dominated by corporate money unleashed by “Citizens United.” He then tries to make his case by using total contribution figures compiled as of March 31. Of the total – at that time – $96,410.614 or roughly 86% is believed to have come from individuals and about 13% from corporations. Too bad he didn’t wait for the final figures which – I’m certain – will show a much different split. And don’t forget: a lot of those ”individual” contributions are, in fact, tied to corporations being funneled through employees. You betcha.
Will even accuses the American Bar Association Journal of falsely claiming “These multi-million-dollar PACs were made possible by“Citizens United.”
Then Will drops the “S” bomb, trying to make the same irrelevant charge my correspondent friends on the right so often cite: “SOROS.” Will says there was no” media or liberal anxiety” when George Soros spent $24 million supporting Democrats in 2010. And right there – right on the “S” word – is where Mr. Will’s argument rests it’s case on pillars of verbal sand.
There’s a vast difference in the long-time contribution activities of George Soros and what the Koch, VanDerSloot, Friess, Ricketts crowd has done. The major difference: for all his years supporting causes and candidates of the Democratic Party, Soros has done so with his name on the check and a very public voice acknowledging what he was doing. That’s not the case – repeat NOT the case – with the others who are using the “Citizens United” freedom to a fare-thee-well. These folks have been trying to operate under the radar and were mostly successful until some investigative reporting put the spotlight on their activities. VanDerSloot is exhibit “A.”
A second difference between Soros and the other billionaires: what the givers want for their giving. Certainly Soros has some philosophical and/or political goals he wants to support. It’d be very naive not to think so. I’ve no idea what they might be. But interviews and writings of his I’m familiar with speak to a society of inclusion – of the “American dream” of equality. His philanthropy has been along that line, too. Not terribly specific but not really self-serving, either.
Such is obviously not the case with the Koch’s, VanDerSloot et al. A close look at the individuals and the causes in whom or in which they’ve “invested” shows a very different picture. More de-regulation – especially of industries or business by which they make their money. Eliminating various agencies of government – mostly regulatory – their choosing. Union busting. Anti-abortion. More restrictive women’s health care. Support for people and causes that would change fundamentals of our national society to be more exclusive – not more inclusive.
Maybe Mr. Will’s more conservative approach to politics and his greater exposure to a world of experiences I’ll never know make him the voice to listen to – not the amateur ramblings of an old fella in the forests of Oregon.
However, for what it’s worth, I’m not nearly so comfortable with the “Citizens United decision and the political effluence created by the affluence it has so far attracted. While we’ve historically had billionaires and their money in our politics – yes, even (gasp)(shudder) UNIONS – we’ve always been aware of their interests and the goals desired in their participation. Pretty easy to understand and either support or oppose.
But these other folks – the ones that have tried to exert their considerable influence to alter our society – the ones who have tried to achieve their ends in secrecy and seem afraid of putting their mouths where their money is – the ones whose ultimate goals seem self-serving for them and potentially destructive for the rest of us – these people scare me. Really scare me.
They’re using their riches to hire people – in office and out – who’ll help them achieve their ends for a few pieces of silver. They would do so by avoiding the public stage – and the accompanying public accountability – while trying to change a nation’s social structure to their liking. They’ve exhibited efforts to control more than a political office here and there. They’ve made it clear they’re using politics as a means to other ends. In total, that’s damned scary.
Mr. Wills’ last wrong-headed thought on this subject: “The collapse of liberals’ confidence in their ability to persuade is apparent in their concentration on rigging the rules of political persuasion. Their problem is that the First Amendment is the rule.”
No, Sir. The rules have not been rigged by liberals – most of whom believe the First Amendment is still the rule. The problem is a Supreme Court stacked with minds of your persuasion that believe as does your presidential choice for president – Mr. Romney – that “corporations are people, too, my friend.”