Look who’s coming…yeah, look who’s back; who dropped the bombshell straight to the track? No, it’s not Powerman 5000 — it’s comedian-turned 21st-century GOP-killing-machine, Senator Al Franken. Even as the Senate (including the majority of Republicans) voted to advance a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens’ United, Franken burned them on the inside with a scorching indictment of this de facto money laundering scheme.
Of course, Republicans haven’t had much choice in voting for the amendment initially — with 80 percent of the population against Citizens’ United, and the Koch turning ever more toxic, they had to do something to advance the appearance of honesty and earnestness before this year’s crucial mid-term election. With control of the senate hanging on the knife edge of a few seats, Republicans need all the cover they can get.
But that may be all it is. Unlimited spending has benefited Republicans like nothing else in recent history — it’s WHY the Senate race is so close now. And they know it. For that reason, nevermind voting to advance the legislation — we’ll believe it when it becomes law.
You can find Franken’s speech, as written and straight from his site below. But we believe Powerman 5000 sums it up best, as spoken to the GOP’s corporate backers:
Now you want to save us and you want it all
And you want the transmit ’cause you want the call
And you were the one that made the worlds collide
But since that has happened you’ve grown twice in size.
Get up, get up, get up, drop the bombshell
Get up, get up, this is outta control
Get up, get up, get up, drop the bombshell
Get up, get up,
Yes, this entire article was framed as an excuse to post a P5K video on AATTP. There isn’t one of Franken’s speech available at the moment…but you can read it while you’re listening to Rob Zombie’s brother set the appropriate emotional tone. Plus, you could imagine the giant invading robots as the Koch Brothers, if you’re into metaphor. Or whatever.
M. President, I’m just gonna come out and say it: Citizens United was one of the worst decisions in the history of the Supreme Court. It was a disaster – a radical exercise of pro-corporate judicial activism. It was seriously flawed, both legally and factually.
Legally, the Court trampled its own precedents – cases like Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce and McConnell v. Federal Elections Commission, which had been on the books for years and stood for the obvious proposition that the people can enact reasonable limits on money in politics.
Factually, the Court rested its conclusions on the faultiest of premises – that unlimited campaign expenditures by outside groups, including corporations, do not give rise to corruption or even the appearance of corruption. That assessment is ridiculously disconnected from reality, and it is horribly out-of-touch with the sentiments of most Americans.
The Minnesota League of Women Voters issued a report in which it concluded that “the influence of money in politics represents a dangerous threat to the health of our democracy in Minnesota and nationally.” And I think that if you ask most people whether unlimited spending on campaigns has a corrupting effect, they’ll agree and say, yeah, of course it does – and I think they’d be right. But Citizens United was based on this unfounded – unbelievable – idea that we have no reason to be concerned about the effects of unlimited campaign spending.
So you have this 5-to-4 Supreme Court decision that ignores the law and invents the facts, and here’s what you end up with as a result: a campaign finance system in tatters – one in which deep-pocketed corporations, super-wealthy individuals, and well-funded special interests can flood our elections with money, drowning out the voices of middle-class Americans who don’t have the luxury of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars – or millions of dollars – or hundreds of millions of dollars – to influence the political process.
This is real, M. President: spending by outside groups more than tripled from the 2008 presidential election to the 2012 presidential election, when it topped a billion dollars – that’s billion with a “b.” What happened in the interim? Well Citizens United was decided in 2010 – the floodgates were opened.
And, worse still, the middle-class isn’t just being flooded; it’s being blindfolded, too – because these wealthy special interest groups often can spend the money anonymously, so voters have no idea who’s behind the endless attack ads that fill the airwaves. Here’s how it works: if you have millions of dollars that you want to spend, you can funnel it through back channels so that it ends up in the hands of a group – typically one with a generic and benign-sounding name – that uses the money to buy ads, often without disclosing the source of its funds.
This whole thing looks to me a lot like money laundering – except that it’s now perfectly legal. And, again, this is real: a study just came out which showed that, in the current election cycle alone, there’s already been over 150,000 ads run by groups that don’t have to disclose the source of their funding.
And get this: things are only getting worse. Earlier this year, in a case called McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court was at it again, recklessly doing away with a law that prohibited people from giving more than $123,000, in the aggregate, directly to candidates in an election cycle.
One-hundred-and-twenty-three-thousand-dollars. Who has that kind of money lying around to spend on elections? The super-rich, maybe. But the middle class sure doesn’t. The folks I meet with in Minnesota – who are trying to make ends meet, pay off their student loans, train for a new job, save some money to start a family – they sure don’t. And those are the folks who most need a voice here in Washington.
You know, in June, the Judiciary Committee held a hearing on this, and we heard from a witness whose presentation I found particularly persuasive. I’d suggest that my colleagues read his testimony. He was a state senator from North Carolina, and here’s what he said:
Quote, “Suddenly, no matter what the race was, money came flooding in. Even elected officials who had been in office for decades told me they’d never seen anything like it. We were barraged by television ads that were uglier and less honest than I would have thought possible. And they all seemed to be coming from groups with names we had never even heard of. But it was clear that corporations and individuals who could write giants checks had a new level of power in the state,” end quote.
He went on to explain that the vast majority of outside money that was spent on state races, including the governor’s race, came from one man – just one man who reportedly poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into state politics. Before the governor was even sworn into office, he announced who would write the state’s budget – that same big donor. Apparently, the donor got his money’s worth: the budget he drafted was loaded up with goodies for corporate interests and the super-rich – provided at the expense of the middle class and working folks.
I find this whole thing incredibly disturbing, M. President – this idea that a handful of super-wealthy corporate interests can, in effect, buy our democracy. That’s just not how it’s supposed to work. In our democracy, everyone is supposed to have an equal say, regardless of his or her wealth. The guy on the assembly line gets as many votes as the CEO – one. You don’t get extra influence just because you have extra money. The government has to be responsive to everyone, not just to the wealthiest among us.
So the way I see it is this: there are two ways that we can go from here. On the one hand, we can continue to let Citizens Untied be the law of the land. We can perpetuate the fallacy that corporations have a constitutional right to flood our elections with undisclosed money; we can let deep-pocketed special interests buy influence and access – and then set the agenda for the rest of the country.
Or … Or, we can say, enough is enough. We can restore the law to what it was before Citizens United was decided – and, more to the point, we can restore a voice for millions upon millions of everyday Americans who want nothing more than to see their government represent them.
That’s the choice we have before us this week, M. President. For those of us who believe that the measure of a democracy’s strength is in votes cast, not dollars spent – for us, I think it’s an easy choice. I’m going to vote to reverse Citizens United, and I urge my colleagues to do the same. Thank you.
Watch Franken on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell: