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High Court lets Romney stay on the money train

The partisan-oriented ruling faction of the U.S. Supreme Court took a chance to undo its Citizens United ruling and flung it out to the trash heap.
Chief Justice John Roberts

Chief Justice John Roberts U.S. government/via Wikimedia Commons

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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Comments:

Posted Tue, Jun 26, 6:16 a.m. Inappropriate

This story is as unbalanced as a two legged stool. If only the those evil Republicans would stop fund raising and let the Democrats continue to use foreign nationals, unions and Wall Street as their personal campaign funding sources, everything would be alright. Is that about it Floyd?

Cameron

Posted Tue, Jun 26, 6:42 a.m. Inappropriate

I also would have preferred that the Citizens United decision be overturned. Gushers of money have contnued flowing into politics.
But the money, we should remember, flows to both parties and to both presidential candidates---or in support of them, through so-called
independent committees which are less accountable than the official campaigns. Obama's greatest source of 2008 campaign dollars was Wall Street, McCain's defense contractors. When limits are lifted, the Golden Rule is fully applied. That is, those with the gold rule.

Posted Tue, Jun 26, 7:50 a.m. Inappropriate

If corporations are people then are unions also people who can spend unlimited funds on campaigns?? Yes, they can!!

animalal

Posted Tue, Jun 26, 8:14 a.m. Inappropriate

Floyd McKay once again goes from "journalist" to partisan hack.

Posted Tue, Jun 26, 8:59 a.m. Inappropriate

There have been Super PACs buying bad government policies and corrupting public officials in this state and region for years. Too bad the author ignores those.

Here’s one example. In 2007 Sound Transit put its first abusive ST2 ordinance on the ballot. Unlike the way any peer finances light rail, ST2 relied on a massive sales tax hike for decades as security for a pile of long-term bonds. That is a financing technique designed to harm the poorest segment of our communities, and it is a reprehensible transit financing scheme in light of how high sales taxes already are stacked in this neck of the woods. The primary beneficiaries of ST2 are rich property developers, multinational companies and Goldman Sachs (along with its local enablers in the bond selling).

Here are just the largest couple of dozen contributors to that Super PAC (called "Keep Washington Rolling"):

$250,000.00 WASHINGTON ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS
$200,000.00 MICROSOFT CORPORATION
$175,000.00 THE BOEING COMPANY
$100,000.00 BALLMER STEVEN A.
$100,000.00 GATES III WILLIAM H.
$100,000.00 MICROSOFT CORPORATION
$100,000.00 WA MUTUAL INC
$75,000.00 SEATTLE MARINERS
$50,000.00 CARRIX INC.
$50,000.00 INT'L UNION OF OPERATING ENGINEERS
$50,000.00 IUOE LOCAL 302
$50,000.00 LABORERS' POLITICAL LEAGUE EDUCATION FUND
$50,000.00 MASTER BUILDERS ASSOC. OF KING & SNO. CO.
$50,000.00 PUYALLUP TRIBE
$50,000.00 WA ASSN OF REALTORS
$50,000.00 WEYERHAEUSER
$40,000.00 NAIOP WA PAC
$40,000.00 PORT BLAKELY TREE FARMS LP
$40,000.00 PREMERA BLUE CROSS
$40,000.00 PUGET SOUND ENERGY
$40,000.00 WASHINGTON ASPHALT PAVEMENT ASSOCIATION
$35,000.00 ACEC WASHINGTON
$35,000.00 AECOM TECHNOLOGY CORPORATION
$35,000.00 LABORERS' NORTHWEST COOPERATION FUND
$35,000.00 THE TULALIP TRIBES OF WASHINGTON
$33,000.00 WA ST BUILDING & CONSTRUCTION TRADES COUNCIL
$30,000.00 AGC OF WASHINGTON
$30,000.00 DAVID EVANS & ASSOCIATES INC.
$30,000.00 GORDON THOMAS HONEYWELL LLP
$30,000.00 HDR ENGINEERING INC.
$30,000.00 HNTB CORPORATION
$30,000.00 IUOE LOCAL 612
$30,000.00 PB AMERICAS INC.
$30,000.00 TOTEM OCEAN TRAILER EXPRESS INC.
$30,000.00 WEYERHAEUSER WILLIAM T.
$25,000.00 CADMAN
$25,000.00 CH2M HILL INC.
$25,000.00 CH2M HILL INC.
$25,000.00 CITY INVESTORS LLC
$25,000.00 CLARK CONSTRUCTION GROUP LLC
$25,000.00 GLACIER NORTHWEST
$25,000.00 HATCH MOTT MACDONALD
$25,000.00 INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS
$25,000.00 KIEWIT PACIFIC CO.
$25,000.00 MASTER BUILDERS ASSOC. OF KING & SNO. CO.
$25,000.00 PEMCO
$25,000.00 PEMCO
$25,000.00 RINKER MATERIALS CORPORATION
$25,000.00 SAFECO CORPORATION
$25,000.00 SAFECO CORPORATION
$25,000.00 VULCAN INC.
$25,000.00 WA AGGREGATES & CONCRETE ASSOC. PAC
$25,000.00 WALECET
$25,000.00 WASHINGTON TEAMSTERS LEGISLATIVE LEAGUE
$25,000.00 WILDER CONSTRUCTION COMPANY
$20,000.00 AGC OF WASHINGTON
$20,000.00 BUILD
$20,000.00 CARTER & BURGESS INC.
$20,000.00 PACIFIC NW REG. COUNCIL OF CARPENTERS
$20,000.00 PARAMETRIX INC.
$20,000.00 PERTEET INC.
$20,000.00 PUGET SOUND ENERGY

Is that reality too uncomfortable for you to report on, Floyd? It seems like you have a big double standard. Is there perhaps something about this behavior by local rich entities and the government policies they back that makes you want to focus only on campaign spending on the national level?

crossrip

Posted Tue, Jun 26, 9:10 a.m. Inappropriate

In 2008 Mr. Obama raised $780 M for his presidential campaign. He outspent his adversary by two to one ($11 per vote as opposed to McCain's $6 per vote..Wikipedia). Mr. Obama declined the public finance option in 2008 for the reason that it would have limited his campaign expenditures. Did Mr. McKay perceive a challenge to our democratic form of government then? if he reads this he can tell us.

kieth

Posted Tue, Jun 26, 9:36 a.m. Inappropriate

In addition to Keith's comments above, it should be noted that many of Obama's contributors made serial contributions under the reporting limit due to the miracle of internet marketing. But what the Citizen's United decision recognizes is that there is no way that you can have freedom-restricting election laws in a free society. All that is needed is openness. Let anyone contribute as much as they want to any campaign, but require the recipient to disclose the donor and the amount before the money is spent. That would remedy the abuses of both the 2008 Obama campaign and the 2012 Romney campaign, and it would keep the rabid partisans busy during the election cycle poring over the disclosures.


Of course, the author's contention that the Citizens United decision enables the "buying" of elections reveals his conceit that the average American is a slave to advertising. Once you pass the milestone of establishing brand recognition, additional advertising has little impact. In fact, over-advertising can turn potential customers away. But this revelation is heresy to many on the left, who believe (as the author apparently does) that people can and should be manipulated... But only to achieve the left's vision of a utopian society.

dbreneman

Posted Tue, Jun 26, 9:53 a.m. Inappropriate

I wonder how many mantra-chanting minions Floyd turned out over his career in "higher education".

BlueLight

Posted Tue, Jun 26, 12:19 p.m. Inappropriate

Not to downplay the huge impact of the catastrophic Citizens United ruling, but if Scotus overturns the Affordable Care Act or any substantial part of it like the mandate, that will represent a tremendously significant setback for Congress' ability to address issues of major national importance and could lead to a gradual rollback of key federal powers in other areas. See Simon Lazarus' excellent analysis of this:
http://www.acslaw.org/sites/default/files/lazarus_-_health_reform_lawsuits_0.pdf
And I see TVD engages in more false equivalence in his comments above, as if Democrats under Citizens United are going to be able to come anywhere near matching the Republicans' undisclosed corporate and billionaire contributions.

Posted Tue, Jun 26, 12:33 p.m. Inappropriate

"If corporations are people then are unions also people who can spend unlimited funds on campaigns?? Yes, they can!!"

If this is supposed to demonstrate some kind of "equality" between unions, corporations, and the super rich (the 0.1%), its way off base.

For starters, the Supremes just ruled that before unions can spend money on political campaigns, their members must "opt-in." Does anyone honestly think that this Supreme Court would apply the same principle to corporations and require the positive assent of stockholders before spending money on political campaigns?

And then there's the matter of where the money is. Remember, this country has the greatest income and wealth distribution inequality of any developed nation in the world. Remember all those charts and graphs of how most wealth in the US is concentrated in the top 10% of households? So when the law equates money with "speech," guess who has the loudest voice?

And as for those who say that that political advertising paid for by those with the best funded "voices" doesn't work, why do you think that? Really, it defies logic, common sense, and experience. Political campaigns, toothpaste and and dog food all advertise for the simple reason that it works. Remember: advertising works and is growing increasingly sophisticated in terms of targeting discrete groups of people with refined messages. Ordinary people don't usually have "estates," so let's call it the "death tax." Let's try out the meme of "death panels" and see if that takes off. Repeat a message or name often enough and you define the thing. Remember: war is peace. Money is speech. Speech is free. Therefore, money is free.

Steve E.

Posted Tue, Jun 26, 4:52 p.m. Inappropriate


I always appreciate thoughtful feedback on my writing. Setting aside the name-calling, critics point to items in my article that raise questions for them. Let me attempt to respond:
Crossrip accuses me of a double standard for not commenting on the 2007 Sound Transit measure. I wasn’t writing for Crosscut in 2007 and have not informed myself on ST2; others are more qualified to comment on that measure. I do believe states should be able to regulate campaign finance, a view the Court rejected in its Montana ruling.
kieth asks if I believe Obama’s ability to outspend McCain was a threat to democracy. I don’t believe so, nor do I believe Bush, Clinton, Reagan et al posed a threat to democracy by outspending opponents. There were limitations and disclosure; the Court changed the rules and we now have no limits and a loophole to avoid disclosure.
dbrenneman asks if I believe the average American is “a slave to advertising.” I don’t believe in slavery, but I do believe advertising influences elections and if it didn’t the candidates would not spend outrageous amounts on it. Of course, people can be manipulated—the advertising industry has been doing it since Madison Avenue was a gravel road. Liberals are as susceptible as conservatives.
Interesting to me, nowhere in responses thus far has anyone actually defended the Citizens United ruling; at best, respondents seem to find it inevitable. But I haven’t seen a defense of the idea that corporations are people for the purpose of campaign donations, or that contributions cannot be limited and contributors in some cases can remain anonymous. In all of those areas, I agree with John McCain that we are setting ourselves up for a scandal of massive proportions; I hope it is not this year.

Posted Wed, Jun 27, 8 a.m. Inappropriate

I will defend the CU ruling. Prior to it, indian tribes enjoyed an exemption from campaign finance laws enacted under McCain-Feingold. The "tribal loophole" as it is called was exploited to great power and profit. In that sense, the CU ruling leveled the playing field. I see so much of the hand-wringing due to one side's loss of advantage.

BlueLight

Posted Tue, Jun 26, 9:45 p.m. Inappropriate

Floyd:
I will defend it. Corporations are owned by people and people have rights. To argue whether corporations are people or not is ridiculous. Of course corporations are not people, they are corporations! That's why we have two different words.

A corporation is an association of people with similar interests. Specifically, the interest is the business of the corporation. It is no different than a neighborhood association. The neighbors join together to promote policies that they think are good for their neighborhood.

In summary, corporations are associations of people. People have rights and when people associate themselves in one way or another then that association has rights, whether it is a corporation, a union, a neighborhood association or whatever.

And by rights I mean the right to spend their own money as they see fit. As in freedom of speech, which is one our rights.

taupe

Posted Wed, Jun 27, 10:04 a.m. Inappropriate

Yeah, what taupe said. :-)

dbreneman

Posted Wed, Jun 27, 8:24 a.m. Inappropriate

The problem with that defense, it seems to me, is that although individual persons each have a voice, they retain that voice but then multiply it with each corporation they hold stock in; and owners of those corporations expect thier voice to be multiplied by the number of shareholders they have. This will hugely overshadow the lone individual voice, until the only voice heard is the aggregate voice of the corporation, and the opposite and ever shrinking aggragate voice of the labor union. Moreover, the corporate interest is, primarily, ever-growing profits. This is over and above national interest, as can be graphically seen by the increased off-shoring of jobs in the interest of profits. This is natural and defensible in a corporation, but not in a person (see the part-owner of Facebook, who is giving up his American citizenship in favor of Singaporean citizenship, where there is no individual income tax, when Facebook went public & he was due a massive windfall profit. He was rightly excoriated, but corporations like GE do that all the time to avoid US taxes). As I have seen posted elsewhere, I will think of a corporation as "people" when it is willing to sacrifice it's life in the defense if it's country.

alally

Posted Wed, Jun 27, 9:06 a.m. Inappropriate

I just began reading Crosscut this week in the hope that SOME media outlet in Seattle would provide at least nominally fair reportage of people and events (i.e., giving both sides of a story). Instead, I'm treated to this gem from Floyd McKay:

"The partisan-oriented ruling faction of the U.S. Supreme Court took a chance to undo its Citizens United ruling and flung it out to the trash heap."

Thanks, Floyd, for at least putting that in your subheader...saved me time wasted reading your actual write-up below it. I'm sure it's just as objective.

I'll do a little more looking around on this site, but it appears Crosscut is little different than the Times, P-I, Weekly and Stranger (or, for that matter, the National Review, Wall Street Journal or FOX News Channel). I don't know when legitimate journalism died, but I sure wish someone would've told us when it did.

Posted Wed, Jun 27, 9:45 a.m. Inappropriate

Keep watching Faux if you want unbiased right-wing spin, maaaaan.

Otherwise take the cotton out of your ears and put it in your mouth.

Rujax

Posted Wed, Jun 27, 9:44 a.m. Inappropriate

Reading Crosscut is a valuable option that no one is forced into. Just because an article doesn't appear to agree with my point of view is no reason not to read it. Someone so famous that I forget his name said to keep one's enemies very close still rings true, for without comparisons and actual examples, opinions are ambiguous and relatively meaningless. That's why reading a variety of sources on many subjects is desirable.

Anyone who doesn't know the difference between corporations and people is amazingly out of touch with reality. Of course corporations are run by people; people created them! But corporations do not have consciences like individual humans do. They are largely about generating profits, without much regard for jobs, impacts on the general public or environment. I have worked for corporations most of my life and am grateful for the employment, but would I want my employer to determine which candidate I vote for? The answer is heck no! Then, the idea of corporations as creatures of the globe ought to foster some concern, don't you think?

In this age of sic-fi, virtual reality, deceptive advertising, clever rhetoric and gross inequality in monetary means, is the idea of corporations actually being people credible? That is a question that is not partisan, so treat it that way!

jwatts

Posted Wed, Jun 27, 10:23 a.m. Inappropriate

alally,

Let me respond to your comments. First of all, corporations have the same number of shares regardless of the number of shareholders so a person cannot multiply his voice by holding shares of different corporations. The voices of many (whether people or corporations) will always overshadow the voice of one. That is how a democracy works.

You make it sound like profits are a bad thing. You actually state that "profits are above the national interest." Profits are a very good thing. Without profits there are no jobs. Without profits there is no innovation. Corporations produce three things: products, jobs, and hopefully, profits. If a company does not produce products and services that people desire, it will go out of business.

America has been experiencing extremely high unemployment for some time. The true number is about 15%. This is a huge problem and we need to do everything we can to encourage more employment. Jobs are created by growing and profitable companies. So if we want more jobs, we need more profitable and growing corporations. Companies that are shrinking or unprofitable do not hire additional workers.

We live in a very competitive world. If a business does not reduce its labor costs and its competitors do, that company will eventually go out of business. For example, try selling an American-made flat screen television for $3000 when the competition is selling televisions for $600. When American companies move a portion of their operations overseas, the American consumers benefit by getting less expensive products.

I agree that GE should pay a lot more in taxes. However, the problem is not GE but our ridiculous tax code. GE is just following the rules. Your comment about sacrificing one's life in defense of his country is an emotional and illogical comment. Corporations are not people, but they do have the freedom to express their opinions.

taupe

Posted Wed, Jun 27, 12:11 p.m. Inappropriate

Guiltybystander, the subheader is for those who are new to the site. After a while you see the name and move on.

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