Bob Franken

The Supremes Ponder Campaign Finance: A Supreme Waste of Time

Isn’t it fascinating that the Supreme Court is even considering whether to overturn prohibitions on corporate and union contributions to political campaigns?

Talk about a charade. Talk about a barn with a phony door. Corporations, along with organized labor have found so many ways to circumvent mealy-mouthed election laws that the so-called restrictions, are just that: “so called”.

This is a highly unusual rehash of a case. It was originally argued last March but the justices decided they hadn’t heard enough. By having simply scheduling a second set of arguments, they signal that they’re good and ready to reverse the court’s current precedents…Stare Decisis” in legal lingo. This is a strong indication they no longer wish to uphold the laws which prevented extreme right wing TV producer and Hillary Clinton hater David Bossie from televising his venomous “Hillary: The Movie” shown during her presidential primary run. It was ruled to be an illegal campaign ad…a 90 minute one.

While that’s the case at hand,the fundamental issue is the constitutionality of prohibitions against corporations, like those who back Bossie’s organization, directly financing efforts to influence campaigns. Do these restrictions, and even the Court’s precedents infringe upon companies’ and, also unions’ First Amendment rights?

It’s an intriguing event made even more so by the fact it will be the first proceeding for rookie Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, convening, just one day after she has taken her place on the bench. In our usual superficial way, we in the media will focus almost entirely on her every move and word, particularly since we’ll get to hear her ask her first questions when the audio tape is released later in the day.

Chances are, we’ll give short shrift to the debate itself, which is, at the same time, fascinating and superfluous. The law in question has done virtually nothing to prevent corporations and the wealthy from buying our government. The unions have also found ways to spread their largess but they are are puny compared to that of their enemies in big business.

Corporations, through their always creative use of loopholes and the full gamut of regulatory deficiencies, have been able to utilize PAC’s and other subterfuges to make contributions to the frightened people who desperately need their financial transfusions to get and stay in office. If the officeholder doesn’t play ball with them they can just as easily divert their money onto the pile of an opponent who is willing to sell his soul. And they do.

The result is a government the oligarchs have bought and paid for. Look no further than the major forces in the struggle over health care. Witness those to whom our political leaders pander. They would be the very corporations whose abusive practices and outright cheating need to be reformed.

Public option? Never mind that the insurance companies are despised for their massive misconduct. They can’t tolerate competition, so they’re lavishing contributions on the members of Congress who agree to oppose a public option. To make sure their their bloated profits are not endangered, they give major financial support to the groups who spread the distortions and outright lies that whip up the frenzy we watched last month.

How about the obvious need to curtail the business practices of the nihilists in the financial world who have taken advantage of the regulatory vacuum to accumulate obscene wealth for themselves. They’ve stolen from everyone else to fill their bottomless greed pits, and taken the world to the brink of disaster in the process.

It’s no surprise they would oppose tougher restrictions…ANY restrictions, for that matter. And no surprise that they are showering a tiny percentage of their ill gotten gains on those who might impose some.

They’re doing so legally, even with the laws in place that will be debated before the Supreme Court. Those examples and so many others explain why the hearing amounts to a charade, a discussion about laws that only pretend to restrict corporate control of our government and our lives. That’s a battle that’s already been fought. And lost.

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