Thursday, February 16, 2012

Rich People Rules

The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled in the Citizens United case that corporations can contribute unlimited amounts of money to help elect (buy) candidates. The Court said that corporations have the same constitutional rights of free speech as people have, because the court can't tell the difference between people and things such as corporations that aren't people. What the Court hasn't quite said yet, so far as I can tell, is whether people have a constitutional right to spend unlimited amounts of money to help elect (yes, buy) candidates. If they do, then all the campaign finance laws will be thrown out, and rich people will have the unhampered ability to overwhelm the electoral process.

A lot of people think that letting rich people run everything is a bad idea and that it will destroy what is left of democracy. But one group that likes to get rich folks' money believes that rich people ought to be able to buy whomever they want. That group is Personal PAC. They have filed a lawsuit to have Illinois' $10,000 limit on personal contributions to political action committees thrown out. Their reasoning seems to be that if corporations are allowed to corrupt the system, rich people should be allowed to corrupt it, too.

The Illinois law hasn't been around for long. It was passed after our last governor was arrested because of the way he was letting money influence him. That governor will start serving his 14-year jail term in the next couple of weeks. If the campaign finance law is thrown out, he'll have a lot of time to wonder why it is that he has to stay locked up while the rich people get to keep buying elections.

The group that is trying to eliminate campaign finance limits is not usually thought of as some right-wing front for the ruling class. Quite to the contrary. Personal PAC exists to lobby for women's rights to get abortions. Because they support women's reproductive rights, they would normally be placed on the liberal or progressive end of the political spectrum.

Apparently, though, Personal PAC's concern for women doesn't extend to the rights of women to live in a free society and be governed by public officials who owe their allegiance to the people. The issues of equal pay for women, advancement of women in business and the professions, violence against women, sexual exploitation, sexual stereotyping, and harassment, all of which are directly affected by the actions of elected officials, don't seem to worry this group. No, so long they can get their money and women can get abortions, this group is happy. Maybe they think we ought to trust that they and their rich friends know what is best for everyone, and that they will take care of everything. I guess they think we shouldn't worry our pretty little heads about the consequences of eliminating campaign finance laws.

Personal PAC says right on their website that they use money to influence elections. The obvious problem, of course, is that if this group wins its lawsuit, groups that want to eliminate abortions will also be able to raise unlimited money from rich people. Whether women can get abortions will depend not on any concept of rights, but on which side has richer friends. The outcome of entire elections will become, even more than it is now, just a matter of which side the richest people are on, and not a questions of which position is right, fair, and just. We won't have a democracy at all. All that will be left is a teller window.

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