The Roberts Court, which brought us Citizens United, has now added that aggregate limits on contributions for elections violate a person's most fundamental First Amendment activities "without justification." I obviously disagree with this, as I disagreed with the 'corporations are people too' ruling that came with Citizens United.
My belief? People - the living, breathing kind - have 'speech' rights, but non-living, non-breathing entities do not.
My belief? Being able to spend unlimited amounts of money to 'speak to' politicians, is not what 'free speech' means.
My belief? I'd have a better chance of seeing Elvis perform live at the Weedsport Hotel than I have of getting a politician to take seriously what I say (on the phone, via email, via social media, in a survey, or in a face to face conversation) unless what I say comes with tens of thousands of dollars in strings attached.
My belief? Money is something that is used to pay for things. And I'm not alone:
- money: something (such as coins or bills) used as a way to pay for goods and services and to pay people for their work
- money: any article or substance used as a medium of exchange, measure of wealth, or means of payment...
- money: any object or record that is generally accepted as payment for goods and services and repayment of debts...
What does money buy, in politics? Money buys attention from politicians, or buys votes for politicians. Money 'speaks' to politicians in a way that mere words cannot. (Most politicians that is. Not Republicans or Andrew Cuomo or Bill Fitzpatrick, but 'regular' politicians.)
And what is the 'exchange' that politicians give in return for all this money, even the ones who are playing by the rules? What goods and services do these massive donations purchase?
- maybe it s a tasty little sentence or two that might go unnoticed in the middle of a huge bill, something that would provide a nice benefit to a donor
- maybe it's a helpful vote on legislation, such as stopping regulations that might make it harder for the donor to do business.
- maybe it's a package of tax breaks for companies within a specific business sector, or maybe it's tax breaks for the rich (who are the only ones who can make this level of contribution)
- maybe it's a job for a relative, or friend, or something fairly benign like that
- maybe it's ten, twenty, thirty, forty or more votes to repeal a law that donors don't like
Is there really no difference between money and words? Is that really how we want to run our political system?
Because if it is, I've got to get another job or two.