For Sale: The White House
No doubt about it: If Willard Mitt Romney wins on November 7 it will be a watershed in American history – the first time a candidate and his rich backers clearly bought a presidential election. No one with a passing familiarity with the facts or a scintilla of common sense can argue otherwise. Anyone so inclined is urged to do a quick internet search using these key words: 1) Citizens United; 2) Super Pacs; and 3) 501(c)(4) organizations.
Next, check out the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC) and the rise of for-profit enterprises that specialize in campaign strategy and tactics, especially the use of attack ads, disinformation, and propaganda. Start with "The Lie Factory"(Jill Lepore,The New Yorker September 24, 2012) , a trenchant piece of journalism about "How politics became a business" starting in the 1930s. Then go and have a look at AAPC's website where you will learn, "…the cornerstone of the American Association of Political Consultants is ethical conduct in campaigns by political professionals. The AAPC has also demonstrated that we will remain vigilant in guarding political speech and defending our profession from unwarranted infringements." Presumably, the latter is defined to include limits on campaign contributions and regulations aimed at re-injecting sanity into our elections.
NPR's Peter Overby, who recently reported on how big money and secrecy (mega-contributions from undisclosed donors) are shaping this election (October 15), revealed how the business of politics has, for all practical purposes, been turned into a racket (like, say, bootlegging and prostitution in the 1930s) and the shadowy individuals who operate behind the scenes are little different from racketeers like Al ("Scarface") Capone and Benjamin ("Bugsy") Siegel.
The difference is that whereas the old mafia bosses ran illegal businesses for fun and profit the new racketeers engage in perfectly legal activities designed to subvert the political system. So who's worse?
Here's what Wikipedia has to say about 501(c)(4) organizations: "generally civic leagues and other corporations operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare…501(c)(4) organizations maylobby for legislation, and unlike 501(c)(3) organizations they may also participate in political campaigns and elections, as long as its primary activity is the promotion of social welfare...501(c)(4) organizations are not required to disclose their donors publicly." Note that 501(c)(4)s are generally operated "exclusively for the promotion of social welfare" but that "they may also participate in political campaigns and elections, as long as its primary activity is the promotion of social welfare." How's that for an oxymoron? Political campaigns and social welfare used in the same sentence, followed by a provision allowing non-disclosure.
This aspect of the law, we are informed, "has led to extensive use of the 501(c)(4) provisions for organizations that are actively involved in lobbying, and has become controversial" – an understatement if ever there was one, because this legal sleight-of-hand, given the extreme concentration of wealth and extreme malevolence of many who have it, means that the White House has now joined Congress on the auction block – for sale to the highest bidder.
But don't take my word for it. Here's NPR's Peter Overby again (see above): "Since April, more than 825,000 presidential campaign ads have been broadcast in the battleground states. Oddly, the dominant Republican voice on TV hasn't been that of nominee Mitt Romney. The big advertisers are four heavily funded SuperPacs and tax-exempt groups." Actually, 27 in all, but four massive 501(c)(4) groups (Restore our Future, Crossroads GPS, American Crossroads, and Americans for Prosperity) account for well over half of all the money these groups have poured into the effort to defeat Obama. Four who are using a loophole in the law to subvert the process of free and fair elections and thus undermine the foundations of representative government in this country.
Four, in a nation of 314,584,027.
Four, in a country where 131 million voters turned out in the last presidential election.
Four tax-exempt groups, 825,000 presidential campaign ads.
Four faceless groups in a country that calls itself a democracy, a form of government distinguished for its insistence on accountability and transparency.
Now do you see the problem? To repeat: if Romney gets elected president it means that the extreme right with the extreme resources can put anybody in the White House. Anybody. And if that doesn't scare you, go refresh your memory about the role of ideologues, demagogues, and tyrants in the history of the previous century (the bloodiest ever) because you're not thinking clearly.
If we want this government to work again we have to go back to basics. That means taking back our elections (which cannot happen so long as Citizens United is allowed to stand). It means turning incumbents out of office until majority rule is re-established both in our elections and in the US Congress (the filibuster, for example, is an abomination). It means getting more and more eligible voters registered (in 2008, for example, only 71% of voting-age citizens were registered to vote and only 64% actually voted; low voter turnout is the enemy of reform).
Bottom line: if we fail to restore the integrity of the electoral process, the government will be owned and operated by the same cast of characters who presently own nearly everything else in this country.