Tuesday, September 9, 2014

United States of America v. Citizens United

All the Kochs' money and all the Kochs' horses will be needed to try to put Citizens United back together again after the Senate voted resoundingly to bring an amendment overturning this highly contentious Supreme Court decision to the floor.  It is still an uphill battle for Democrats to defeat Citizens United, but they have some unlikely allies in the Tea Party, which is just as much pissed by how old guard Republicans use corporate backing to stay in office.  In fact, Americans overwhelmingly want campaign reform so that insurgents have a better shot of taking down long sitting incumbents, whether they be Republican or Democrat.

Still, the reach of corporate power is pervasive in our society and it will be difficult to get the 60 votes needed to overturn Citizens United in the Senate.  The USSC decision in 2010 opened the floodgates for corporate backed candidates in national and state elections.  Newt Gingrich kept his 2012 campaign alive almost entirely on the back of Sheldon Adelson, who donated $10 million to a Super PAC supporting Newt, allowing him to soundly thump Romney in South Carolina.  But, Romney had Super PAC money of his own, and eventually quashed Newt, as he did other GOP pretenders in the primaries, thanks to massive corporate support, leaving the embittered candidates sniping at him from behind.

In Wisconsin, the Kochs bankrolled Scott Walker's campaign through Super PAC's, allowing him to win the governor's seat in 2010 and survive a recall in 2012.  In turn, Walker did the Koch Bros. bidding by undermining collective bargaining in the state, which ostensibly serves as their home base.  Pretty amazing, when you consider that Wisconsin was once considered a Democratic union stronghold.  The same thing happened in Ohio.

The USSC decision seems to have favored Republicans moreso than Democrats, and for awhile the Tea Party seemed OK with it.  The aim in 2010 was to come up with a "majority" of 41 in the Senate to stifle any bills that might encroach upon corporate interests, so it was worth supporting insurgent campaigns like that of Scott Brown and Ted Cruz, Tea Party favorites.  But, as the TP grew increasingly volatile, and threatened to unhinge the GOP, that money dried up and the TP has struggled in Congressional races ever since.  

The Democratic Party is more or less stable, also benefiting from large corporate contributions that keep its power brokers in Congress.  But, it can win with or without this massive corporate support as witnessed by Obama's campaign in 2008, which appealed directly to the people.  Now, the Dems are struggling to hold onto their majority in the Senate, and one way to do that is to limit the corporate funding that keeps so many Republican campaigns afloat, as the GOP doesn't have this kind of mainstream support.

The Dems will need a half dozen Republican votes to carry the bill in the Senate.  They have to look carefully at the two dozen Republicans who crossed over in the procedural vote to move forward the bill and see if there are six or so who actually favor the bill and are willing to overturn Citizens United.  A win here doesn't assure a win in the House, where the Republican leadership can block the bill from ever coming to the floor, much as it did the immigration reform bill, which the Senate approved last year.

Sadly, American politics has become so muddled that it is difficult to stand up to these corporate power brokers, except in the streets or state legislative houses, as Wisconsin citizens did in 2011 when Walker introduced his anti-collective bargaining bill.  After surviving the recall election the following year, that energy evaporated.  However, the unrest is still there if only the Democrats can find a way to tap into it.

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