Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Has the SCOTUS Completely Lost It? - Updated 4/4/14

by: Les Carpenter
Rational Nation USA
Purveyor of Truth

Putting all political, ideological, and social issues aside for the moment, and turning to the issue of money in politics, just how in the hell the SCOTUS ruled to strike down aggregate limits on federal campaign contributions escapes all logic. Aside from the fact that pull peddlers, and make no mistake about the fact that the more money contributed the greater the pull, will undoubtedly spend greater suns of money to influence politicians (think Koch and Unions) our counties long term rational self inters will increasingly be on sale to the highest bidder.

Essentially, America is now on sale to the biggest and deepest pockets of corporate American and labor unions. Everyone should take a long pause and consider the ramifications of this ruling. Especially since it will likely be followed by a complete elimination of ALL campaign contribution limits.

Frankly the thought of our nation's elected representatives and senators being influenced by, and our nation ultimately governed by the interests of the highest bidders should scare the hell out of every patriotic constitutional conservative, libertarian, and liberal in America.

The American Prospect - We need to start asking the question now, because if the Supreme Court strikes down all contribution limits, disclosure will be the justification.

There is going to be a lot of speculation about how the Supreme Court's decision in McCutcheon v. FEC to eliminate the aggregate limits on campaign contributions will affect the influence of big money in politics. That's because it serves to make an already complex system a little more complex, and there are multiple ways the decision could matter; on the other hand, it might make no difference at all. For the moment, I want to consider the role of disclosure, because I think it's going to become increasingly important in the near future, particularly if the Court goes all the way and eliminates all contribution limits. It should be said that in this case, they could have done that, but decided not to (only Clarence Thomas, in a concurring opinion, advocated eliminating all limits). But there is some reason to believe that the conservatives on the Court will go there eventually. And if they do, disclosure is going to be their justification: that as long as we know who's giving money to candidates, the risk of corruption will be small. That might strike you as reasonable, or it might strike you as absurd (you think the banks aren't getting their money's worth when they donate to every member of the committees that oversee them?), but it will be an argument that conservatives are likely to be making with increasing frequency in the coming years as they try to remove the last bricks from the crumbling edifice of campaign finance restrictions.

In his dissent in McCutcheon, Stephen Breyer wrote that "in the absence of limits on aggregate political contributions, donors can and likely will find ways to channel millions of dollars to parties and to individual candidates." He then ran through some scenarios—perfectly legal, if a little complicated—by which they could do that...

If you place the interests of the average middle class American, the interests of our nation's citizenry, regardless of economic strata they inhabit, and the long term economic health of our nation you will be VERY concerned with this ruling and what is quite likely to follow.

Read the rest of the article BELOW THE FOLD.

More information HERE, HERE, and HERE

Via: Memeorandum

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Update 04/04/14 - Via The Hill

“This case represents yet another missed opportunity to right the course of our campaign finance jurisprudence by restoring a standard that is faithful to the First Amendment. Until we undertake that reexamination, we remain in a ‘halfway house’ of our own design.” - Clarence Thomas

Justice Clarence Thomas is a man for whom I have a great deal of respect. As a black conservative it is undoubtedly arguable that he has occupied a minority slot in the black community. His unapologetic posture in the pursuit of his conservative constitutional principles is admirable. Respecting a man for his principled consistent beliefs however doesn't mean one must always agree with his positions.

Justice Thomas's position is absolutely correct, if considered ONLY from a purely philosophical viewpoint. If all individuals had the same wherewithal to contribute in equal sums to political campaigns (as well as exerting equal influence by lobbying legislators) I would be the first standing up in support of Justice Thomas's view that all campaign limits ought to be eliminated.

However, as the above conditions have never existed, nor will they ever exist, elimination of gall campaign limits, a road Justice Thomas and presumably the court (by the natural extension of the recent court decision) is contemplating, would he a huge mistake. Why? Because it tilts the paying field in the direction of the interests of monied individuals and corporate interests.

That's my take. What's yours?

Complete article BELOW THE FOLD

Via: Memorandum


  1. America: Land of the monied free, home of the monied brave, and the best government money can buy.

  2. I'm with ya' all the way here, Les.

    With this now so, it's hard to say what the actual impact of this will be. Wealthy donors made a lot of Dutch bets in 2010 and 2012, as far as where they'll put there money this time around, and next. With the current individual cap, a person could spread $2,262,000 throughout an entire congressional cycle. Money being always fungible, this means multimillionaires and billionaires, with interests completely alien to vast majority of districts they are engaging, will have an even greater influence on the national scale. Much of our fate, it would seem, lies in the balance of liberal/conservative very rich people. From a historical perspective, this probably doesn't bode well. If anything good could come of this, it's that some of the more urbane money may have the effect of softening the culture a little, which we could use at this time in our history.


  3. Sometimes I am glad that I am old.

  4. Ah, RN, I remember our first real blogging battle, it was over the SCOTUS decision in Citizens United. You criticized the decision then when you found out that CATO supported the decision you switched your opinion. Oh, how the years go by.

    In 10 years, with the Citizens United decision, this current decision, and then the obvious decision SCOTUS will make in the pending Hobby Lobby case, you no longer will recognize the words/ideals of our Founders, as expressed in the Constitution/Federalist Papers, in our government.

    1. Um, no. Cato had s**t to do with anything. But whatever. Let's just say like the President you are enamored with my views on this matter have evolved.

      You have a good day now ya hear?

    2. Tao: Before "Citizens United", it was OK for the government to harass and persecute individuals who dared to criticize those in power. This was an outrage which shredded a core idea in the "Constitution/Federalist Papers". This is what the decision was all about. This basic freedom of dissent was restored with the decision. I agree with RN that "Citizens United" went too far, but this part of the decision I strongly agree with.

      We need to take care of the problem that RN has correctly identified in this post. However, we need to do so (as Silver has warned) without any sort of censorship.

      As for "Hobby Lobby", it does appear that you fail to recognize the core of the problem: a poorly designed and always-destructive law which forces Hobby Lobby to fire people and cut pay in order to divert resources into a type of compensation that the company can't afford and the employees may or may not need.

    3. "Before "Citizens United", it was OK for the government to harass and persecute individuals who dared to criticize those in power."

      Alright, I'll bite. What the hell are you talking about now, dmarks?

      Hobby Lobby is a bunch of typical Christian phonies. Turns out their 401K, that they've put millions into, contains investments in the very companies making the drugs these guys selectively don't want to cover. Phonies, sleazy scumbags.

      If Hobby Lobby had been honest, they should have simply asked, why does any private business provide health coverage, why is it incumbent on employers at all?


    4. Jersey: you'll bite? OK. Some Americans were harassed by the government for making a film critical of a sitting US senator. This harassment was ugly, purely ill intentioned, and quite fascistic. Surely you know that. I'm in favor of campaign finance reform (strongly, so, in fact), but not censorship, thank you.

      If you are one of those who think the government should harass and persecute filmmakers for daring to have political content (a very sleazy view), then our disagreement will always be very strong.

      The government should be entirely neutral in regards to the motion picture industry. This means don't criminalize moviemakers for criticizing those in power. It also means no pure-waste Federal arts endowments to make connected filmmakers rich.

    5. "This harassment was ugly, purely ill intentioned, and quite fascistic." And that was one of the nicer things said about that film.

      I, for one, don't care what filmmakers do in regards to all this. The fact is that there is only a small audience for that sort of silliness and they're already on the silly farm.

      What concerns me, and concerns any decent ethical moral person with some knowledge of all this, is the big moneyed, often anonymous and tax deducted, legalized bribery or blackmailing of our elected officials.

      We need to do something about this. Your silliness about the silly political faux-documentaries by d-list conservative wannabe-filmmakers is almost completely irrelevant here.


    6. There's nothing silly about the government harassing people for making movies, even if you seem to imply that it might be justified due your not liking the movie. Yeah, I have heard it all before.

      I strongly agree with your third paragraph. However, when this was last attempted, McCain-Feingold, it ended up censoring criticism and it made that movie a crime. Even if it was, as you, say inferior filmmakers. (Always so odd that people like you justify the government persecuting its critics based on some film criticism standard!)

      So it is not silly to mention this, and it is completely relevant. It is central to this issue, due to overstepping in the past Any new reform should not make this mistake again.

      I'm on board with strong campaign...bribery reform... as long as it doesn't include such outrages.

    7. Other than local and state governments enforcing generally recognized and accepted standards of decency I, like jmj, could not care less what filmmakers produce.

      Government at any level has zero business censoring political views regardless how offensive they may be found by some.

      Okay, a case can be made that calling for the overthrow of our DULY elected government is something the government we elect should be concerned with. Reasons are self evident, IMNHO.

  5. Buy yourself a president and get yourself appointed to SCOTUS? Tis what democracy is all about,
    right? :(

    1. Um, well no, not exactly. But who is paying attention anyway.

      Distractions do serve a purpose after all don"t they? Politics have become a distraction of late. Perhaps it has always been so. Of course there is the little fact of the complicit media.

      Moving along now, it's such a game... isn't it?

  6. No. They haven't.

    Here's some counterbalance to the hysterical hand-wringing.

    John Roberts didn't eviscerate Campaign Finance Laws

    Any libertarian worth anything should rethink his position when this many progressives agree with him.

    1. Having read the link to Roberts vis a vis campaign finance, we note that the author of the article had filed a Friend Of Court brief in the case in favor of unlimited funding; furthermore,
      the author is from the Institute For Justice which was founded with Koch money a few years back. So, when RN noted above "think Koch and unions" the topic threaded a logical circle:
      the Kochs have apparently unlimited funds to spend and some of those funds were spent
      to ensure they have a free hand in the matter. For them, IMO, blatant surpasses subtle.

    2. Argumentum ad hominem fallacy. Just because he's affiliated with the Koch's he's full of it? By that same token, anyone aligned against them is also disqualified. Now we have no speech, no debate, a perfect situation for progressive statists.

    3. Oh the BS. Anyone can make the same argument(s) on either side, the usual tit for tat, as we continue down the road to one kind of serfdom or another while nobody notices or even gives a sh*t. But... we have our inside the box thinking working PERFECTLY.

      I am really glad I'm getting older, it is likely a blessing of sorts. And I'm not even religious.

  7. We're not talking about John Roberts CJ SCOTUS, I'm talking about the reality of this recent decision and its natural extension.

    Perhaps a libertarian worth anything should rethink their position. Especially if they lean Koch or corporate America. Or even SEIU.

    1. A libertarian's first concern is not government ability to achieve some end, not the hive collective, but individual liberty and the marketplace of ideas.

      And not that it bears on what's right or wrong, but you do know that the Koch's fund CATO?

      Btw, since I'm scatting links around today, here's another one. Lefties who are ate up with hatred and rage won't read it, but perhaps you will?

      I present it not as absolute truth, but rather one man's rebuttal of the attacks against him and his philosophy.

  8. David Bernstein at Volkh cuts through the crap, and rebuts Justice Breyer's progressive attack on individual liberties:

    The danger of this argument is that analogous reasoning could be used to censor major media corporations such as the New York Times, Hollywood, and so on, to wit: ”When Hollywood spends billions of dollars each year advancing a liberal agenda, the general public will not be heard. Instead of a free marketplace of ideas, we get a marketplace in which major Hollywood moguls have hundreds of thousands of times the ‘speech power’ of the average American.” And given that almost everyone deems it appropriate to regulate the economic marketplace to counter inefficiencies and unfairness, why should the much-less-efficient (because it’s much more costly for an individual to make an error in his economic life than to have a mistaken ideology) marketplace of ideas be exempt from harsh regulation?

    In short, once one adopts the Progressive view of freedom of speech as only going so far as to protect the public interest in a well-functioning marketplace of ideas, there is no obvious reason to limit reduced scrutiny of government “public interest” regulation of speech to campaign finance regulations. Nor is it obvious why the Court should give strict scrutiny to speech restrictions that don’t directly affect the marketplace of ideas, instead of just using a malleable test balancing “speech interests” versus other interests.
    Source: Breyer's Dangerous Dissent

    As I rebutted Jersey at WH, big money doesn't always achieve desired outcomes. No one likes outsiders rolling in and telling them how to vote. Colorado is a recent example.

    New York progressive Mikhail Bloombergovich laid out millions here in Colorado for his gun-grabber initiatives.

    The result? We fired two liberal democrap gun-grabbers and scared a third one into resigning so the corrupt democraps could appoint another dem to her seat instead of seeing a third liberty-loving republican elected in her place.

    Yes, there was big money on the other side as well, so, at best, it was a wash, but the liberty-hating progressives lost, and they hate a level playing field, and that is what this is really all about. Progressives do not trust people with their liberties and they don't trust us to think for ourselves.

  9. Cutting through the hyerbole and BS... Money corrupts, unlimited money has the possibility of corrupting absolutely.

    Campaign reform is needed. Level the playing field. Dismember the beast. Limit aggregate contributions to $500 or less. Anybody attempting to contribute more a $100,000 fine first offense. Second offense, $1,000,000 and 10 years in the slammer. Corporate execs or shoe shiners. Oh, and cut the legs off lobbyists.

    Instead we'll continue to move to a Kochutlpia or a Corporatutopoa.

    1. I'll see you on that RN, and raise you. I'd bring back drawing and quartering!

  10. Les: Perhaps something needs to be done, but the progressive 'remedy' leads to tyranny, as all their 'solutions' ultimately do.

    What if someone published a fiction book or makes a movie that could be interpreted as political speech by the state?

    The statist progressive line of reasoning is wrong and dangerous and a threat to our individual liberties.

    If someone can make a cogent case for getting a handle on this while also keeping the constitution and our individual liberties intact, I'm all ears.

  11. Does the constitution speak of campaign contributions?

    Perhaps something needs to be done. Bulls**t! Absolutely something needs to be done. Extract the money, dismember the pull peddlers (lobbyists), reduce campaigns to three months. August, September, and October. limit the amount a candidate can spend on his campaign, subject everyone to the same restrictions, and call it a day.

    Maybe that way you, I, and anybody else nuts enough to run for federal office would stand a chance. Our entire system has been corrupted by special interest money, both corporate and union. If the founders could roll over in their graves they would. Oh, and very likely they would be neither a modern day republican or Koch brother supporters.

    1. RN said: "Does the constitution speak of campaign contributions? Perhaps something needs to be done. Bulls**t! Absolutely something needs to be done"

      Good question. It says absolutely nothing about campaign contributions...

  12. PS: It's time to get beyond the progressive, conservative, libertarian, socialist, Marxist, fascist BS and start thinking with our heads instead of our as**s.

  13. PPS: It would do our founders proud if we were able to do so.

  14. We need a constitutional amendment to really deal with the institutional corruption of our elections. The problem is that our ethics and morality, as a people, have sunk so low, that while we fuss over gays getting married or women controlling their own bodies, bribery is apparently now just speech, to go along with greed being a good, and abstract corporate entities being human beings. I think there are enough good and decent people left to pass an election amendment, if such a movement could get going. If not, then all this won't matter because America will just be a third world shit-hole oligarchy soon enough.


    1. There has been some movement in that direction:
      example 1
      example 2
      At the state level, we note:
      'Oregon joins four other states – Delaware, Maine, West Virginia and Illinois – that have called for a constitutional amendment over just the past two months. All of the resolutions this year have passed with bipartisan support in at least one chamber. This is an issue that affects every American, regardless of political affiliation.

      The other states that have called for an amendment to overturn Citizens United are California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Vermont, Connecticut, Maryland, Colorado and Montana. The Washington, D.C., Council has called for an amendment as well.'
      As RN has noted, it isn't about politics, it is about constitutional interpretation; since SCOTUS
      answers to no one, the citizens, if in disagreement have the right and should use it.

    2. I don't see a constitutional way to resolve this nationally. We need an amendment.


    3. An amendment about campaign contributions, Jersey? I'm willing to consider that, for sure....

    4. dmarks, as to groups operating as tax free, anonymous political activists, that has to stop too. No tax free ride, and no anonymity. We don't need a constitutional amendment to fix that.


    5. Jersey: So, you would get the Soros's and Koch's operating completely in the open, and those in power getting a cut. Not sure how this really solves anything of the "big money in politics", bribery, lobbying, etc problem. Though I agree it would cause a bit of a chill (all without harming the First Amendment... a good thing), I doubt these reforms would change much.

    6. You'd have to explain your logic when it comes to "getting a cut" of income that should be taxed in the first place, but yes, everyone needs to be out in the open, and rapid pre-election redress for suffering libel and slander would help too.


  15. Yet another mindless smear by Jersey (and he still apparently can't get his nose out of Mother Jones and the HuffPo). a) It is the employees of the Hobby Lobby who choose which funds to invest in. b) The menu of investment choices is NOT provided by the Hobby Lobby but rather by a 401K plan administrator. c) Nobody is being FORCED to do a damn thing by the Hobby Lobby (as opposed to the federal government which is forcing its will on a good and decent company which treats its employees quite well). And d) the HuffPo and Mother Jones both fail to disclose the companies that THEIR employees are allowed to invest in (methinks that they've probably included some oil companies and defense contractors here and there) and so, yeah, I'm pretty sure there is more than enough "hypocrisy" to around.

  16. Jersey, a few points:

    1) Existing libel and slander laws are sufficient. It would be a significant turn for the worse to have differences of mere opinion over politicians become a matter for successful frivolous lawsuits.

    2) Anonymity has its positive aspects, as shown by organized campaigns to harass people when their donations are known. The fact that you want to get rid of anonymity in order to silence views you disagree with itself makes mean lean toward protecting it.

    3) Punishing individuals for speaking out by threatening to remove a tax deduction (i.e. increase taxes, increase the amount of money stolen from them by government) is itself a form of censorship.

    4) The overlooked problem here is that government is way too BIG. With deficit spending and unnecessary regulations that have nothing to do with the public interest, the government is easily able to act on the wishes of those that want to bribe it: from writing connected businesses a blank check (look at Obama's purely wasteful TARP and auto industry handouts) to crafting any useless and unconstitutional regulation it wants to in order to cripple the bribers' competitors.


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