Buying elections, and all the rest

A small group of 11 hedge-fund billionaires, entrepreneurs, media bosses – and a casino mogul – have put $1 billion into PACs, or one fifth of the $4.5 billion collected for political purposes, since the Supreme Court ruled on the Citizens United case in 2010. Candidates and parties rely increasingly on these donors, who themselves are political players. The Adelsons, husband and wife, have given $287 million to conservative super-PACs, and were no doubt gratified that Trump realised for them their greatest wish – the move of the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Two donors, George Soros and Tom Steyer are positioning themselves for runs at the Presidency.

Technically speaking, super-paks are prohibited from coordinating with campaigns and party committees, but what they are increasingly doing is running advertising campaigns, conducting research, polling and encouraging voter turnout on behalf of favoured candidates, thus helping the latter hugely and allowing candidatesto concentrate on the message instead of the other aspects of campaigning. The excuse for this exercise in oligarchic power is that super-paks “help political donors exercise their right to free speech”.

Steven Law, president of the Senate Leadership Fund, which supports Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is quoted as saying he “could not speculate on what motivates individual donors”.
Let me try, then. Quid pro quos can include:

– Buying support for a run for office, not necessarily for President. See Trump’s Cabinet!
– Special treatment, e.g contracts, from the US Government for their own businesses
– Tax breaks for the “deserving” rich.
– An open door to numerous Congressmen, who would be delighted to write something useful into law that will encourage continued giving.
– Hob-nobbing with the President and other movers and shakers.

One could go on…………….

Citizens United, which espoused the corrosive and corrupting idea that “money is speech”. was arguably the beginning of the downward path for American politics, opening the door to the creation of an oligarchy, a small group of super-rich who effectively run the country and get what they want, manipulating the effete and incompeteant Congressmen, whose only priority is keeping (their) jobs, their good incomes, fancy houses, excellent healthcare and great pensions. This dismal situation was brought on by ….the Supreme Court of the United States, now solidly and safely right-wing and a reliable ally of the oligarchy. Some think the Justices will hold the oligarchs accountable. I don’t.

One finds it hard to summon up Epicurean peace of mind as we see the hollowing out of democracy. Either the creators of the oligarchy don’t realise what damage they have wrought, or are too selfish and power-mad to care. But, short of unacceptable violence, what can be done to stop this small gang and its hangers-on from permanently running the country for their own enrichment?

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