Before We Start on “Buying” Elections

In the wake of the Scott Walker win in Wisconsin, there are sure to be critiques from the left about the election overall because it had massive campaign donations from outside the state, made possible from the Citizen’s United Supreme Court decision. Let me start by saying that if someone only attacks the “corporate money”, when massive donations by big labor are also made possible by this decision, then they are a hypocrite, plain and simple. However, I would argue that people making these critiques at all are misguided.

In November, during the Occupy Wall Street Movement, I posted this article detailing how to truly get “corporate money” out of the political system. I think it is worth restating that to get the private sector out of the government, take the government out of the private sector. If we get government more involved to try to limit the money in politics, all we will do is force the biggest corporation to hire more lobbyists to create more loopholes for themselves at the expense of small businesses, who cannot afford to do that.

1 comment

  1. I’ve read many critiques of Citizens United on the left but haven’t seen anyone say that labor unions should be exempt from campaign finance laws. Can you point to a moderately prominent article, person, or group that is arguing for that?

    I also disagree taking government “out of the private sector” would leave corporations with no motive or ability to influence the government. Tax rates, tax breaks, and loopholes are a great example. By setting tax rates, the government is not “in the private sector” but this is where some of the most vicious and effective lobbying is done by corporations. Look at all the mega-corporations who are paying little or no federal taxes (Google, GE, ExxonMobil, Wells Fargo, etc). This has been enormously profitable for the big companies who can afford it, while leaving small businesses in the dust. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/the-outsized-returns-from-lobbying/2011/10/10/gIQADSNEaL_blog.html It’s a great example how not only does corporate money subverts our democracy, but also the free market.

    I think you’re missing the scenario of actually passing laws to get money out of politics. You say if we “try to limit money in politics” more businesses will hire lobbyists to create more loopholes for themselves. But what if we banned non-persons (labor unions, corporations, SuperPACs) from donating money to campaigns (and pass corruption safeguards addressing the revolving door between gov’t/business)? Sure, businesses might hire more lobbyists like you say, but what incentive would politicians have to do their bidding for them? With campaign finance, politicians would rely on money from actual voters, not corporations. So taking money out of politics would give influence back to actual citizens and away from giant corporations. I’m also unclear on what getting government “out of the private sector” means exactly. Is health care the private sector? Should we privatize the VA? Is energy the private sector? Shut down nuclear energy (which needs government guarantees/money to be insurable)? And would protecting consumers allow things like Bloomberg’s anti-soda measures?

    I also don’t hear anyone saying business should have no voice at all in politics. I think citizens (as in actual human beings) should be allowed to donate limited amounts of money (and an unlimited amount of time writing, speaking, petitioning, and using any other democratic right) and be involved in politics. Since CEOs, CFOs, managers, small business owners, and millions of shareholders are also citizens- business will always have a voice. So will labor, even though labor unions like corporations wouldn’t be treated as a person.

    I do agree the government should protect consumers, and they are currently doing a miserable job of this. But this seems to put you most in line with the Green Party, or secondarily with the Democrats (who are fairly good on this but still take some money from groups that profit off weak consumer protections), while putting you very squarely against the GOP’s stance which is to slash enforcement budgets, or appoint Any Rand devotees to the head of agencies that protect consumers (or judges of fine horses to the head of FEMA) so that the agency is certain to remain ineffective. The GOP fought Nader’s Consumer Protection Agency in the 1970s and they’re keeping at it by fighting the CFPB today- because they rely so heavily on interests that exploit and harm consumers (see Boehner distributing tobacco lobby checks to fellow Republicans on the House floor).

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