Mitt Romney had a cookout for about 800 of the wealthiest Americans over the weekend, and you can bet several toasts were raised to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Republican majority and the infamous Citizens United decision allowing unfettered cash donations to political candidates.
As if to drive the stake into the heart of campaign-finance regulation, the following day (Monday, June 25) the court’s five-justice ruling bloc reaffirmed Citizens by summarily dismissing a case from Montana that would have allowed the court to reconsider what has to be one of the worst decisions for the nation’s democratic system since women and minorities were prevented from voting.
Public attention this week is focused on the High Court’s health-care ruling, expected on Thursday; like an employer delivering “pink slips” on Friday afternoon, the court will announce its ruling on the last day of the term and then get out of Dodge.
Citizens United will, in the long run, better define this court than any ruling it makes on health care, immigration, or any other subject. Citizens United is empowering the buying of the White House, and perhaps Congress, for years to come.
Cases in point (among many): Citizen Romney’s private barbecue this past weekend at a pricey Utah resort; and the continuing largesse poured into presidential politics already this year by Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson, money covered with the inevitable sleaze of professional gambling.
Romney’s cookout was closed to media (of course) but The Washington Post’s Phillip Rucker talked to enough high-rollers to get the picture. Rucker came up with the figure of 800 guests, “who each contributed $50,000 or raised at least $100,000 for the campaign.” The Campaign Finance Institute has noted that 60 percent of Romney’s money in the primaries came from these folks who gave the maximum legal amount of $2,500.
Few of the 800 were likely to have been from Washington state, where President Barack Obama still has a lead with the high-tech crowd. But as The Seattle Times reported, that advantage in our state is a “pittance compared with the big money being hauled in by the so-called Super PACs that can spend unlimited amounts on a candidate’s behalf.”
The Super PACs and so-called nonprofit organizations, which serve as a cover for massive contributions that are not legally required to be disclosed, will give Romney and Republicans a monetary advantage in this campaign that will dwarf any previous election cycle.
Citizens United opened the doors for both methods of unlimited donations. The upcoming nomination of Mitt Romney completes the perfect storm.
Romney is in every way one of the wealthy elite; fellow members of the club are comfortable with him in ways they never were with any Republican nominee in recent history, including both Bushes, Ronald Reagan, and John McCain.
Rucker, in the Post, found an Idaho entrepreneur and venture capitalist, Travis B. Hawkes, to sum up the affinity for Romney. "[Hawkes] said Romney, unlike past presidents, ‘knows what it’s like to lay awake at night worrying about your cash flow and meeting payroll.' " One assumes that side of the presidential job will be jobbed out to the folks at the weekend barbecue or, more likely, their minions. Other jobs such as worrying about poor, uneducated, and sick Americans without health care, not to mention wars and climate change, might require other skills.
Romney will not need to worry about money as he moves ahead toward the GOP convention and fall campaigning. He likes Citizens United, and so do most top Republicans in Congress. Sen. Mitch McConnell filed a brief urging the Supreme Court not to hear the Montana case, and he cited Monday’s ruling as a victory for free speech.
Sen. John McCain broke from the GOP pack when Citizens United was handed down; he had written some of the overturned federal laws. McCain, in a blunt and angry denunciation of Citizens United, recently told the PBS News Hour’s Judy Woodruff the decision was “the most misguided, naive, uninformed, egregious decision of the United States Supreme Court I think in the 21st century.” McCain noted that none of the justices “had ever run for sheriff” or anything else, giving them an unrealistic view of the role of money in politics.
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