TIME TO "UN-RIG" THE SYSTEM
By Don C. Reed
Is the system "rigged"? Listen to Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig:
"We have a corrupt government, yet one that is perfectly legal."
One Supreme Court decision is at the root of the corruption.
"Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission", allows unlimited financial donations by corporations, unions and individuals. This virtually guarantees domination of the government by special interests and the rich.
If you are a billionaire and you want to influence the system, all you need to do is pick your party or your candidate, make out your checks (as many millions of dollars as you wish), give them to a Political Action Committee (PAC), and they will do the rest. Legally, there should be no contact between the candidate and the PAC, but that is no problem for donors. If a candidate is in favor of cutting taxes on the rich, for example, ads praising him/her will pop up like daisies after Spring rain.
How important is this? In 2012, the entire U.S. Presidential elections including the Congressional elections-- $6.3 billion. A lot of money?
Just one Republican billionaire, Sheldon Adelson, has a net worth nearly four times that--approximately $23 billion. He could literally put up the money for an entire election.
It used to be, a person running for office did not need millions of dollars to pay campaign costs. He/she would make speeches in front of groups, and at election time the voting process would take place. Now, TV ads skyrocket the costs.
Also, it was once illegal to flood the system with wealth.
Today, it is expected.
Could the Supreme Court undo this act of mandatory corruption, if a case challenging its Constitutionality were brought to them?
Yes, they could. But would they, if they are Republican appointees? I doubt it.
The Supreme Court has had a Republican majority for decades. Now, with the death of arch-conservative Antonin Scalia, the court has 4 Democrats and 4 Republicans.
When President Obama nominated a well-qualified moderate justice Merrick Garland, as was his right and obligation, the Republican-controlled Senate refused to do their duty; Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would not allow a vote.
If Donald Trump becomes President? He has promised to stack the court with ultraconservative Republicans. Here is the Trump list of judges, all Republican appointees, all with a track record of conservative decision-making.
If the Court goes back to a conservative majority with young judges, (lifetime appointments) the rich will own the government for generations.
But there is hope.
We can "un-rig" the system--if we meet two challenges.
First, we need Hillary Clinton in the White House. She has pledged to fight Citizens United, even if it requires a Constitutional Amendment.
Second, we need a Democratic majority in the Senate, to prevent Republicans from continuing to block Supreme Court candidates as they are doing now.
To take control of the Senate will mean changing 4 Senate seats from red to blue.
And if we win? Suddenly, a fair political process becomes possible.
"A more liberal court could overturn Citizens United, restore voting rights and workers' rights, protect women's rights... allow the President to address climate change..."
To achieve this goal, which Senate races should be most vigorously fought?
For your consideration, here are a magnificent seven Democrats, all in close races. Some are incumbents, some challengers, all are deserving of your support. (Note: my key issue is stem cell research. When there are two individuals with equal pro-stem cell positions, I make no recommendation. It takes courage for a Republican to go against their party's anti-science stance, and that deserves respect.)
WISCONSIN: Russ Feingold.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Maggie Hassan.
FLORIDA: Patrick Murphy
NEVADA: Katherine Cortez Masto
OHIO: Ted Strickland.
COLORADO: Michael Bennett
MISSOURI: Jason Kander.
In the next few weeks, I will write about each one of these top-notch Democrats, and detail the contests they face.
To be continued...
Don C. Reed is the author of "Stem Cell Battles: Proposition 71 and Beyond", available now from Amazon.com.