September 08, 2009
A Sucker’s Game

“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.”
—Warren Buffet

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.

Here’s why:

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.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at September 08, 2009 01:08 PM
Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):


Ahh, the corruption is mind boggling, but within the legal system it is truly awesome and beyond imagination. Allowing Bush to steal an election was a mistake the planet may not survive. He and his cronies have injected into all branches of government, particularly the courts and military, the most dangerous crazies of all time. Their influence is going to continue to haunt mankind for the foreseeable future with "blessings" that will challenge the planet's ability to survive.

I'm just saying and Obama has certainly been curtsying to the conservatives with his appointments.

Posted by: knowdoubt on September 8, 2009 3:57 PM

We need publicly financed elections. Actually I think this case may go the other way, the Chief Justice does not wield exclusive power and we have a new Associate Justice in Sonia Sotomayor who has been very good on electoral issues.

Posted by: Mike Goldman on September 8, 2009 6:22 PM

Politico article on AJSS.

Posted by: Mike Goldman on September 8, 2009 6:25 PM
In the article, which she co-wrote with the former longtime director of the New York City Campaign Finance Board, Sotomayor contended that privately-financed elections raise “again and again the question what the difference is between contributions and bribes and how legislators or other officials can operate objectively on behalf of the electorate. Can elected officials say with credibility that they are carrying out the mandate of a ‘democratic’ society, representing only the general public good, when private money plays such a large role in their campaigns? If they cannot, the public must demand a change in the role of private money or find other ways, such as through strict, well-enforced regulation, to ensure that politicians are not inappropriately influenced in their legislative or executive decision-making by the interests that give them contributions.”
Posted by: Mike Goldman on September 8, 2009 6:29 PM

All three Dems appointed by miilionaires (Obama) or guys who intended to use their post-presidency to become millionaires (Clinton).

As to MG's comment on SS's supposed critiques of money in elections, my gut tells me she'll be comfortable with the majority.

Posted by: on September 8, 2009 10:14 PM

Obama's a millionaire? How'd he manage that? He wrote a couple of best-selling books, but as far as I know, the law repealing income-averaging hasn't been repealed, and apparently the Obamas had huge outstanding education loans.

Posted by: Joyful Alternative on September 9, 2009 1:01 AM
Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember info?