Citizens United v. the citizens

Campaign finance has long been a system of legalized bribery. Thanks to the Republican majority on the Supreme Court, it’s now a secret system of legalized bribery.

Campaign finance has long been a system of legalized bribery. Thanks to the Republican majority on the Supreme Court, it’s now a secret system of legalized bribery.

Oh, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce still won’t let us look at the books to determine how much money from Saudi and Chinese and Russian firms went into its $75 million attack-ad campaign.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

16 thoughts on “Citizens United v. the citizens”

  1. I hate conspiracy theories. But is it a coincidence that, just after the 2006 and 2008 cycles, when Democrats demonstrated a clear and growing advantage over Republicans in terms of online organising and fundraising, the Supreme Court changes the rules of the game to the benefit of Republicans?

  2. Extortion, Mark. The term is "extortion". I swear, you could watch an armed robbery in progress, and see a man bribing somebody to not shoot him. And even where it's bribery, who bribes an honest man? Where are all the honest Congressmen cooperating in bribery sting operations?

    And, have you any interest AT ALL in the fact that your guy had the security checks on his credit card clearing software disabled, so that names didn't have to match card numbers, and foreign donations would breeze on through? Yeah, yeah, I know, he said they'd check all that after the fact, which even if true, would merely convert illegal donations into illegal loans.

    But, did he? Do you have any interest AT ALL in whether he did?

    Lame, Mark. Your desperation is showing.

  3. Brett,

    I'd like to better understand your distinction between extortion and bribery. I assume that bribery occurs when a campaign contributor says to an elected official, "I'll agree to give you money if you agree to support legislation I want or to oppose legislation I do not want." Extortion occurs when an elected official says, "If you don't give me money, then I'll support legislation you do not want, or oppose legislation you want."

    Now, isn't it likely that both of the above occur? On what basis do you believe that only extortion occurs, or even that it occurs more often than bribery? Is it possible that politicians and campaign contributors work so well together that the distinction between extortion and bribery has faded into meaninglessness, and it's just how business is done? It's "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours," and neither side feels indebted or coerced.

  4. Anyone who didn't see this coming, raise their hand…raise 'em high…anyone? No one. Good. Now, anyone who expected the Dem majority to pass legislation to fix this raise their hand…anyone? No one? Good. Now…

  5. Those poor oil and gas producers, forced – extorted, really – to pay assorted congressmen and senators huge amounts of cash, above and below the table, just so a blocking minority in the US congress would continue to ignore the overwhelming global scientific and (except in the US) political consensus for immediate, substantive action to address climate change. And on top of that, political operatives forced them to funnel yet more piles of cash into attack ads against politicians who, being supporters of immediate, substantive action against climate change, might not be as likely to extort them this way. I hope the FBI gets to the bottom of this, and soon, or else the oil and gas producers might be extorted of every last cent.

  6. Yes, I'm sure politicians love the fact that they have to spend so much of their time raising money and making promises to lobbyists just so all the money can be poured into idiotic television and radio campaigns. Meg Whitman has spent $100 million of her own money for the chance to be governor of CA. I'm sure she's thrilled.

  7. Brett,

    If what we are seeing were nearly always, or even mostly, extortion, wouldn't the 'victims' have a rather large incentive to do something about it? Or are you asserting that multibillion dollar companies are powerless or uncreative?

    Add to that the fact that the 'extortion' takes the form of, "gimme X or I won't tilt concessions or increase the costs on your competitors with values of many multiples of X", and the apparent desire for secrecy, and I think most sane people see something at least akin to a partnership.

  8. Brett spreads an all too common conservative fantasy of government holding successful businessmen up. Sometimes it happens. But far more often successful businessmen use government to give themselves special privileges that the rest of us do not have. The strongest force historically for political centralization in this country is business, and the conservative/libertarian argument to the contrary is bad history and bad logic. A single market is easier to address when you are big that 50 little ones, and a single point of gaming the system is easier to monopolize if you are big than 50 separate ones.

    For an interesting example, see the effort by big business to centralize under Washington's control what can be called "organic food." And then they immediately tried to game it.

    I used to be a conservative and later a libertarian, but intellectual honesty and a sense of political integrity moved me away from that fantasy.

  9. Brett,

    Do you have a cite for this claim regarding Obama’s fund-raising? If you have any factual basis for this claim you should present it since you have accused someone of a very serious crime. Some evidence, please!

  10. As I understand this, it clearly is illegal for foreign interests to influence elections. However, it now is impossible for anyone to find out if the law is being followed, or broken. Therefore, the law against foreign influence of elections is unenforceable, with respect to financing of campaign ads. Perhaps the law should be rewritten, making it explicitly permissible for foreign interests to finance campaign ads.

  11. Brett cites, as evidence for his assertions, three websites consisting of wingnut screechings. The man is a comedy genius! Next up, Brett links to Orly Taitz to prove that Obama is Kenyan and to Chief Editor Korir to prove the existence of the Whitey Tape.

  12. So, what do you want before you'll admit there's an issue here? Obama's own Justice Department launching an investigation?

    Is that the standard you'd apply to a Republican administration?

    It's an unquestioned fact that the Obama campagn disabled standard checks on their online donation system. The name you gave didn't have to match the one the card was issued to. Ditto for the address. The card could be issued by a foreign bank. It could even be the sort of Visa gift card you can buy with cash, allowing you do make arbitrary numbers of totally untraceable donations adding up to far beyond the legal limit. The Obama campaign made a deliberate choice, (DEFAULT settins were over-ridden.) to not collect the information necessary to comply with campaign finance laws.

    There is no question at all that the Obama campaign collected illegal donations from overseas, and did so as a result of deliberate decisions it made to make such donations easy.

    And what was Obama complaining about in the case of the Chamber of Commerce? That a fraction of a percent of their total budget comes from overseas, so, money being fungible, a tiny fraction of their political spending might be from foreigners.

    People who live in glass houses spider webbed with cracks should not throw bricks. This is not an issue Obama should have even THOUGHT about raising.

    And if you care about overseas money getting into American politics, you've got some hard questions to ask your own guy.

  13. Comedy God Brett asks,

    what do you want before you’ll admit there’s an issue here?

    Umm, evidence from an at least marginally reliable source. I would have thought that obvious, but apparently it's not obvious enough for you. Malkin, WND and the fag-ends and leavings of Buckley's pro-Jim Crow, pro-Franco vanity project aren't reliable sources. IWHTTO, too, but again, AINOEFY.

    You know, when the Citizens United decision came down, Brett was all "Aiyeee! Obama would have Banned Books! But the Highly Principled Supreme Court has now Saved FREEDOM!!!11!" But now everything is, somehow, Different.

    It's disheartening, really. I used to think Brett a man of principles. Ugly, stupid, contemptible principles, to be sure, but principles nonetheless. I wish I could say I am surprised to see that he is, after all, just enough another cant-chanting IOKIYAR hack. But if I did I'd be lying.

  14. No, what you want is a confession. You don't want to listen to anything from a source which might WANT to report something bad about Obama. It's not like the links I provided are evidence free. They're just coming from people you don't want to listen to.

    This "I don't like the source!" whining is pathetic. You don't like the people Looking through FEC records, so what they find doesn't matter.

  15. One thing I noticed. You link says, "Thanks to the Republican majority on the Supreme Court, it’s now a secret system of legalized bribery." However, the article you link to states that this is a provision in the tax code which makes anonymous contributions possible (the American Future Fund which the article is about is a 501c4), and the only relation to Citizens United is that they were also a 501c4 group, and thus the decision related to them (oh and the dissent of the Democratic judges concurred in the opinion to sustain BRAC disclosure provisions).

    The solution is obviously to amend the tax code; do you think Democrats are going to support that? They could do this; they could have done this; they didn't.

    Let's face it, whether a group is conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, they do not want to disclose their donors and will lobby their representatives to prevent the tax code from requiring that.

    This partisan bs bugs the crap out of me.

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