|Available mid-March 2012 |
University of New Hampshire Press
February 3, 2012 12:15 pm
A little more than two years ago, Doris Haddock, a 100-year-old resident of Dublin, had this to say about a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance: “The Supreme Court now opens the floodgates to usher in a new tsunami of corporate money into politics.”
Haddock, who was familiarly known as “Granny D”, died less than two months later, distressed that her unusual advocacy for limits on private campaign donations — at age 89, she walked the breadth of the county to spread her cause — had been stomped on by the court.
In a 5-4 majority ruling in a case known as Citizens United, the court said that private interests (including corporations, labor unions and other parties) could spend as many dollars as they wanted on political campaigns, so long as they didn’t formally link themselves to particular candidates.
The ruling gave birth to what are called Super PACS — political action committees — that are essentially surrogate campaign groups, some of whose donors can remain shielded from the public eye. The outrage of it, then, is two-fold: Not only can rich interests funnel unlimited sums of money into politics — literally enriching their quid-pro-quo influence in the process — but many can do so shrouded in anonymity, leaving the public in the dark.
Financial reports this week have revealed the breathtaking dimension of the exercise, as Super PACS from both the left and the right reported gathering a great many tens of millions of dollars to influence the 2012 presidential election. A measure of the absurdity of it all is that a Super PAC put together last year by Steven Colbert, the political satirist, raised $1 million.
Arizona Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee and the co-author of now- invalidated campaign finance limitations, said of Super PACS on a talk show last Sunday, “I condemn them on all sides.”
His condemnation is, to turn a phrase, on the money. The flood of so many dollars from wealthy interests into politics is more than a shame; it is a crime against American democracy, and, coming at a time of widespread economic distress in so many American families, it is a crime against the senses. It is startling that both of the likely candidates in the fall — Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney — are apparently unbothered.
Granny D fought against such polluting excess, and she lost. John McCain fought against it, and he lost, too. As for the rest of us who did not actually fight, we are in the camp of losers, too, as is the nation.
Granny D's American Century Doris Haddock, Dennis Michael Burke ed. available March 2012 University of New Hampshire Press