Now that the party primaries are mostly behind us with only a few July 31 runoffs standing between voters and the November elections, there is ample cause for concern for a political landscape that has been radically altered by the Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case. The ruling that corporations have the same free speech rights as individuals would have confounded the Founding Fathers, even in a time before such massive wealth was concentrated in so few hands.
In a revealing exchange back when he still engaged with ordinary voters on the campaign trail, Mitt Romney proclaimed, “Corporations are people too, my friend.” Under the new rules, they are also anonymous people who can inject unlimited amounts of money into huge political action committees called Super PACS and operate with impunity while the candidate on whose behalf the vitriol is spread can pretend ignorance. Of course, during one of the interminable GOP presidential debates where a rival upbraided Romney for a Super PAC attack leveled on his behalf, this political fiction was unmasked when Romney at first played dumb and pretended he hadn’t seen the spot only to deliver a ringing defense of the contents of the spot he supposedly had never seen less than a minute later.
A recent article in a national magazine profiled 16 right-wing billionaires who are backing Romney – and details what they expect in return for their secret investments. At the top of the list are the Koch Brothers who despise the EPA believing that enforcing environmental laws is an unnecessary impediment to their many businesses.Why does this matter? In this election cycle, it is predicted that spending linked to the Koch network will total more than the $370 million that John McCain raised for his entire presidential campaign four years ago.
As Texas industrialist Harold Simmons recently bragged to The Wall Street Journal, “I have lots of money, and can give it legally now – just never to Democrats.” He wants to store radioactive waste from 36 states in an underground dump in Texas – without oversight by the EPA. Simmons spent a lot of money in 2004 on the Swift Boat attacks on John Kerry, as did another Texas financier, homebuilder Bob Perry.
Perry – no relation to Gov. Rick Perry, except as major campaign donor – doesn’t like it when ordinary people go to court to seek justice from, say, a shoddy homebuilder. His group Texans for Lawsuit Reform swings a big stick in political races in an effort to block the path to the courthouse door. Ask Tuffy Hamilton. When he stood up for the people of Bridge City after Hurricane Ike and refused to thwart their right to legal counsel, Perry, Perry and TLR struck back and financed a massive attack campaign that resulted in Hamilton’s defeat after a decade as a reliable conservative in the House. He did not survive the vicious attack by the Billionaire Noise Club. You saw it – and it should be a warning to us all.
Except for Tuffy. It’s too late for him.