July 10, 2012
The Citizens United Trap for Republicans
By Stephen Crockett
Article covers how Citizens United and massive corporate spending might be used against Republicans in November. It examines how the issue is provoking numerous reform movements, how it can divide the Republican coalition and will likely become a personal political risk for Republican officeholders.
Republicans have been cheering loudly for the unleashing of corporate and billionaire spending that have been flooding the campaign coffers of Republicans all over the United States. It has mostly been a huge plus for a political party that has little else going for them. However, the ruling might not be so great for Republicans in the long run and might even backfire on them by November or over the coming years.
The public hates the Citizens United ruling and wants corporate money completely out of our elections. Public opinion polling margins against corporations and billionaires having the ability to buy elections with essentially unlimited spending is massive among both independents and Democrats. Even most Republicans are against it. And these are not "soft" opinions. The passion is in favor of strict campaign donation limits and zero corporate spending on politics.
If Democrats run campaigns that make the case in enough races that the Republican Party has been "corrupted and sold to corporations and billionaires," it is likely that the Democrats will capture huge majorities of the key independent vote in November. They are likely to make huge gains in the Senate, the House and in state races using this tactic as part of a "fairness in government" theme.
Having Romney as the Republican nominee will certainly make a "fairness" theme resonate with the public. Obama can point out that he has released all his tax returns for every year as far back as 2000 while Romney has released only one year so far. The "what is Romney hiding" issue is already burning up the Internet. It is starting to generate articles in the mainstream media. By the November elections, this issue will be huge even if it is not played up by the Obama campaign. The American people are sick of excessive secrecy and corruption in government.
If Romney releases his tax returns, then the ways in which he made his massive fortune will be exposed. There will be issues about possible tax evasion or avoidance combined with the ever present "fairness" issue to overcome. This brings us back to the corporate spending unleashed by Citizens United.
The biggest campaign question for 2012 will be "what do corporations and billionaires expect to get in return for all this money they are spending to elect Republicans?" The public can take a look at the actions of Romney in his private sector career and combine it with things from his public office career like the hard drives that his staff took away when he left as Governor of Massachusetts. They will look at his strange bias toward secrecy in both his private business and public office careers. This is going to be a huge "trust problem" for Romney and Republicans to overcome.
Voters will take a look at Republican Governors and state legislators and find massive "trust problems" everywhere. In Florida, Governor Rick Scott has shown terrible judgment in terms of ethics and conflicts of interest especially in regards to the healthcare industry where he made his own massive fortune. Governor Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania along with the Republican state legislature has some serious problems in trying to justify to voters their sweetheart deals with the oil and gas industries. These include a provision in a recent law that doctors may have access to information about the health impacts of natural gas "fracking" but legally prevent the doctors from informing their patients about any dangers the discover. In Pennsylvania, thanks to Republicans, the oil and gas industries will reap billions of dollars in profits that should have paid for schools, roads, senior services, healthcare and more. Because of this kind of essentially corrupt legislation, the corporate campaign cash keeping flowing to Republicans in both states" and pretty much all the other states.
Of course, Republican officeholders are aware of the potential voter backlash. This is why they are making voting and voter registration as difficult as possible for poor and working class Americans in as many states as possible. Pennsylvania and Florida are good examples but Texas, Tennessee, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and dozens of others have or are facing strong Republican efforts to reduce the number of voters who would most strongly object to corporate control of government and the corrupting influence of big, big money in government. The Republican voter suppression efforts are energizing the opposition just like the massive spending by corporation and billionaires to elect Republicans.
The Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling and the resulting are producing some serious backlash that is likely to do long term damage to both corporate and Republican political power. These include four major reform efforts:
(1) a state based effort to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban corporate political spending and make campaign finance laws explicitly Constitutional that has already seen success in New Mexico, Vermont, Rhode Island, Maryland, California and Hawaii legislatures,
(2) a growing movement to strip corporations of their "corporate personhood" status under the law or at least restrict all the political citizenship rights that the Roberts Supreme Court Five Justices claims go with it,
(3) a strong shareholder movement that would require explicit shareholder direct approval of any political spending which would take the decision to spend shareholder money out of the hands of corporate executives or other corporate employees
(4) and finally a movement to Impeach the Roberts Supreme Court Five (see Facebook group athttp://www.facebook.com/stephen.s.crockett?ref=tn_tnmn#!/groups/459884114022586/
) of Justices Alito, Thomas, Scalia, Kennedy and Chief Justice Roberts for bad behavior, lying to Congress during confirmation hearings and/or ethical lapses.
If all these efforts fail and the voters do not rise up against Republican officeholders over the next few election cycles, the Republicans are still facing a corporate and billionaire political spending trap. The massive spending of corporations and billionaires can still be turned against individual Republicans at any time. Corporations and the Super Wealthy have conflicts among themselves over legislation, government spending and public policy.
Any individual Republican officeholder can do a favor for one wealthy campaign donor or corporation and anger a different one or group of them. The Republican politician in this case instead of benefitting from the corrupt campaign spending system can instead become the victim. Republican officeholders will never be secure in their positions because of the political spending system they helped create.
Finally, the billionaire and corporate political spending is going to fray over time the Republican activist base. In the long run, neither the Christian Right nor the Tea Party is going to be happy with their reduced influence in Republican politics. How is the Christian Right going to explain to their people that the largest corporate donor to Republicans so far in 2012 is a casino gambling empire controlled by one of their largest billionaire individual contributors? Will grassroots Tea Party activists have any influence on policy or politics compared to these corporations or billionaires? Will these voters remain parts of the Republican coalition under those conditions?
Clearly, the Citizens United ruling unleashing massive corporate and billionaire political spending on behalf of Republicans may end up being a trap Republicans have sprung on themselves. We can only hope it does not completely destroy American democracy in the process.