WASHINGTON — Elections have become just another form of corruption in the six years since the Supreme Court legalized unlimited corporate spending on campaigns, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and others charged Thursday.
Speaking on Capitol Hill at an event where Democrats rolled out a legislative agenda that they said would put pressure on Republicans in the 2016 elections, Franken offered stark assessment of the impacts of the Supreme Court’s campaign finance ruling in the 2010 Citizens United Case.
Franken noted that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion that opened the spending floodgates, argued that allowing anyone to spend as much as they want on a favored or hated politician doesn't create an appearance of corruption.
“Well, I’m in the Senate. And it appears like there’s corruption to me,” said Franken.
Without naming names, Franken pointed to the case of Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), who briefly broke with his party to support holding hearings on President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland.
“Doesn’t that appear like corruption? To anybody? I see members of the press nodding, involuntarily. It’s amazing,” Franken said.
Franken and other Democrats noted that part of the Supreme Court’s decision assumed Congress would require spending to be disclosed, but bills that have been offered to require disclosure have been blocked by Republicans.
“The reason they did that was they knew that being able to have secret money was to their advantage, and it’s to the disadvantage of the American people, and the American people know it,” Franken said.
“Make no mistake about it. This is about corruption, and not just the appearance of it,” he added.
The package of proposals offered Thursday primarily aim to improve disclosure, but also would beef up the Federal Election Commission, ban lawmakers from future lobbying, prohibit companies from paying employees huge bonuses to join the government, and amend the Constitution to outlaw unlimited campaign spending.
The proposals stand little chance of being enacted with Republicans running Congress, but Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) argued that if the GOP ignores them, Americans will punish Republicans at the polls.
“This will be a huge issue in the presidential and in the senatorial and House campaigns, and those members who refuse to support proposals like this are going to pay a very significant price,” Schumer said. “They have not in the past, but this year the electorate is fed up, is angry, and is going to focus — and we’ll make sure they focus — on issues like this.”
“There is the appearance of corruption, and the American people know it,” said Franken. “The American people know that this is wrong.”