Two events this week have made the fight to save democracy from big money, already an uphill battle, even harder.
In Washington, DC the Supreme Court struck down overall contribution limits on how much individual donors can give to candidates, parties and PACs. In New York State’s annual budget, Governor Cuomo and legislators killed a commission investigating political corruption, failed to pass campaign finance reform and gave tax breaks to the rich.
A couple of weeks ago, through my non-profit project, the Media Action Center, I filed a "Petition to Deny" the renewal of the broadcast license of a radio station in Sacramento, because, simply put, they killed a woman.
A Jacksonville dog racing track, a theme park in Orlando, and a sugar company in west Palm Beach -- not one of these has a SW Florida connection -- each gave the maximum contribution to an incumbent state legislative candidate from Sarasota or Manatee counties last year.
"Citizen Koch" is a highly regarded documentary about the billionaire Koch brothers and the growing influence of money in politics. Filmmakers Carl Deal and Tia Lessin turned to Kickstarter in a highly successful move that recently surpassed the funds they had previously expected to receive from public television before PBS withdrew support.
The Supreme Court announced Tuesday that it will hear a case challenging the per-biennial cycle limit on campaign contributions from individuals.
Venice City Council voted 4-2 Tuesday to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution asserting that corporations are not people and money is not speech. Once its staff completes its own resolution of support, council will join a nationwide groundswell of about 300 municipalities supporting the amendment in the wake of the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. the Federal Elections Commission, which removed restrictions on the amount of money that could be contributed to political campaigns.
VENICE — About 50 people assembled at Tuesday’s Venice City Council meeting to support a request that it place a resolution on the agenda of its Aug. 28 meeting in favor of campaign finance reform. Venice resident Wendie Highsmith delivered a five-minute address during the audience participation segment of the meeting, formally requesting the City Council “to join with other cities and towns across the country to pass a nonpartisan resolution in support of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which says that corporations are not persons and money is not speech.”
In all the hullabaloo over the Supreme Court’s decision on health care, another of its rulings quickly fell off the public radar. Before deciding the fate of the Affordable Care Act, the Court announced it would not reconsider Citizens United , the odious 5-4 decision two years ago that opened our elections to unlimited contributions.
Within minutes of that announcement, right-wing partisans were crowing about the advantage they now own, an advantage not due to ideas or personalities but to the sheer force of money.
This has been a busy week for the U.S. Supreme Court. It handed down decisions on Obamacare and the Arizona immigration law and, in what I consider the most important action of the week -- perhaps the year -- overthrew a 100-year-old Montana law prohibiting political contributions by corporations.
The court did not get into much discussion of the case. Just said it was covered by the decision in the 2010 Citizens United case -- arguably the worst decision by the court since the Civil War.
Lobbyists, hoping to persuade lawmakers and their staffs on any number of important issues, breeze in and out of the halls of the Capitol every day. But a growing trend that has alarmed ethics experts is the extent to which influence peddlers have burrowed into government to take jobs that place them in positions of power. A stunning example of this phenomenon is Senator Marco Rubio’s right-hand man.