“If you’ve been in a poker game for half an hour and you don’t know who the patsy is yet, you’re the patsy.”
Republican appointees outnumber Democratic justices two to one on the Supreme Court. Of the six Republicans, five were named by multimillionaires (the Bushes and Reagan; Ford appointed the other).
These things render tomorrow’s arguments over Austin and McConnell all but irrelevant. The fix is in. The Roberts court wouldn’t have taken the case at all if the Chief Justice didn’t intend to use it to scrap the last few limits remaining on the power of the rich to buy our government.
A few shreds of today’s legal fig leaf may survive, but basically the game is finally over. Democracy lost. If Joe the Plumber and the government-hating tea-baggers had even the dimmest grasp of who was really responsible for their troubles, they would be rioting in the streets already.
Today, one political class is the overwhelming majority — we express our preferences with our votes or volunteer efforts. The other class consists of those wielding real power — the ability to finance the bulk of candidates’ campaigns and effectively “set the menu” of candidates from which the rest of us may choose.
The justices’ motivation for treating money as speech may not be racist, but the impact is. Major political donors are fully unrepresentative of Americans. According to a 1996 study by the Joyce Foundation, eighty percent of people investing $200 or more in political candidates are males from households with annual income exceeding $100,000, and about 95 percent are white.
Not surprisingly, Congress closely mirrors those distinctly unrepresentative demographics.
When you get into the real money — donations of $1,000 or more — the picture is skewed even further. Just one in a thousand adult Americans contributed $1,000 or more to any candidate in the last election, yet candidates for the 2004 presidential nomination raised more than 80 percent of their individual investments from these elites. And people wonder how Congress can consider repealing inheritance taxes for multi-millionaires while plunging us ever-deeper into debt.
The power of that 1% of citizens making thousand-dollar investments is further amplified by their ability to “bundle” contributions in the name of family members, co-workers or employees to offer many thousands of dollars to a candidate in a lump sum. In George W. Bush’s 2004 presidential campaign, bundling $200,000 was the measure by which donors gained serious influence.