Wednesday, May 26, 2010


This past January the Supreme Court overruled Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, and partially overruled McConnell v, Federal Election Commission with its decision in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission.

That decision opened the flood gates for corporate money to pollute the American political process. H.R. 5175 - the Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act, is poised at the Rules Committee on its way to a floor vote. H.R. 5175 was sponsored by Maryland Democrat Chris Van Hollen, with 114 cosponsers.
Justice Kennedy
Much of what Justice Kennedy said in his majority opinion in Citizen's United makes sense to me. I love the First Amendment. I am a strong advocate for free speech. I accept the proposition that in elections, more speech is always better than less speech. The problem I have with Citizen's United is the legal fiction of a corporation being a "person" and entitled to speak on electoral matters.

Corporations don't have a soul to save or a butt to kick, all you can do is hit them in the pocketbook. Corporations seem to be a lot like Missouri's Mules. In order to get their attention you have to whack them in the head, or that other end.

The catastrophe continuing to unfold in the Gulf of Mexico is a perfect example of why Citizen's United doesn't make sense. The cozy relationship between bureaucrats and the Oil Industry ended up with an unsafe well being drilled. Now shall we let British Petroleum, Halliburton, and other energy conglomerates buy a Congress, or a Congress and a White House? The cost of purchasing politicians is less expensive than drilling safely, or really paying all the extended costs of this crisis.

H.R. 5175 tries to salvage the Federal Campaign Act of 1971. It makes a determined effort. Under the bill government contractors will be prohibited from making campaign contributions in federal elections. Foreign corporations are also banned from making contributions. Campaign finance disclosures are tightened by H.R. 5175. The bill clarifies, using the "reasonable person" standard, of a clearly identifiable candidate.
Rachel Maddow
In a Rachel Maddow like "Moment of Geek", the bill requires that persons required to file a report after making a campaign contribution are then required to "electronically file" reports after making subsequent contributions. The bill presumes that the "internets" are working. Or maybe the Congress is privy to some new technology, perhaps an "FEC REPORT AP" for your smart phone? Well the reports have to be "searchable, sortable, and downloadable." I can just feel the famous Maddow glee!

The bill is technical. It is a primer for the FEC to study and employ in the wake of Citizen's United, It just isn't enough for me. It will still be challenged because of the dopey rule that corporations are persons. That's hogwash!

My idea is to amend the Constitution saying that only registered voters can make campaign donations, of any nature, to candidates for federal office. Only corporations whose primary business is the "news business" may make endorsements for candidates in federal elections.

The only people who should have a voice in campaigns and elections will be registered voters with skin in the game. No Unions, no Chambers of Commerce, No associations of lawyers, doctors or Indian Chiefs, no hospitals or insurance companies, no churches, temples or synagogues, neither bowling leagues, taverns, or civic organizations. And, Mr. Justice Kennedy, no PACs.

Justice Kennedy displayed a rare disconnect with reality and the magnitude of influence created by corporate cash in his obiter dictum in Citizen's United. Kennedy noted that out of the millions of corporations only about 2000 had trekked the arduous path to set up a PAC. Mr. Justice Kennedy! Get real! Only the wealthiest corporations set up PACs. Kennedy has blindly compared Fortune 500 corporations to your janitor's closely held family corporation. Kennedy clearly mixed his applesauce in with his chicken manure, yuck!

The Senate version of this bill is S. 3295.

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