April 02, 2014

Democracy just died a little more in America

In a ruling that rank and file Tea Partiers, like their rich overlords, are likely surely celebrating, the Supreme Court has ruled, in McCutcheon vs. Federal Elections Commission, that aggregate donation limits on donations are unconstitutional.

The Chief, John Roberts, took a very narrow view of what was at stake to justify this ruling:
"The government has a strong interest, no less critical to our democratic system, in combatting corruption and its appearance," Roberts wrote. "We have, however, held that this interest must be limited to a specific kind of corruption — quid pro quo corruption — in order to ensure that the government's efforts do not have the effect of restricting the First Amendment right of citizens to choose who shall govern them."
The story also notes that, per the SCOTUS' post-ruling stance on Citizens United, this could also invalidate state laws that have in-state caps on total campaign donations.

Ahh, Citizens' United. The case that brought the flood of money, and the idea that money = democracy, and that money = speech, to a new low. Citizens United — the case that most cleanly and clearly ripped the mask off Glenn Greenwald in his claim that he's a liberal and not a libertarian.

Speaking of libertarians, and Greenwald's claim that he's never influenced by his current employer, I will head over to The Intercept later, and see what he has written, and if he's interviewed Pierre Omidyar about this or not. I'll also see if anybody else there has written — or not written — anything. (Twenty-four hours and counting, and bupkis. And I have now tweeted two of the better known non-Greenwald writers there, Marcy Wheeler and Dan Froomkin, to ask if anybody at The Intercept is going to write about this, at all. And, yes, in a week or so, I'll do a separate blog post about the silence. I'll also rhetorically ask if this doesn't affect Greenwald's claim to not be subservient to his employers, since by a loophole, he's simply found one that congenial to him.)

That said, so far, Glenn and friends, contrary to what it says in its "about" section:
Our long-term mission is to produce fearless, adversarial journalism across a wide range of issues. The editorial independence of our journalists will be guaranteed. They will be encouraged to pursue their passions, cultivate a unique voice, and publish stories without regard to whom they might anger or alienate. We believe the prime value of journalism is its power to impose transparency, and thus accountability, on the most powerful governmental and corporate bodies, and our journalists will be provided the full resources and support required to do this.
Has written about nothing other than NSA-related issues and snarking on Obama. My emphasis added on the block quote. The Intercept's parent body, First Read, promises:
Coming Soon
We'll cover the world, from sports and entertainment to politics and business.
So far, that hasn't happened yet, either. (And Froomkin and Wheeler are on the clock, too.)

For background, Greenwald embraced Citizens United and the "money = speech" idea behind it. He also showed his usual high level of disingenuousness when he claimed that we should always separate legal rulings from their outcomes, no matter how likely said outcomes will be. More on how that idea is wrong, here. That includes the wrongness of his statements that because this also frees up union and advocacy nonprofits, Citizens United was a level playing field. Bull. Unions don't have as much money as Apple, and Glenn's beloved board-gagging ACLU certainly doesn't. And he knows that.

Contra one Twitter correspondent, this isn't an obsession, at least not on my part. Glenn has, in the opinion of many people beyond me, shown himself to be more libertarian than liberal, as I have blogged, even a second time, and issues like this illustrate it. (Glenn knows this, and if he wants to prove me wrong, next time he's at a youth socialism conference, he can talk about things like a living wage, higher minimum wage, strengthening the NLRB, and similar issues, not just privacy rights.)


The New York Times, again, tries to find a "bright side" on an issue where there really is none. It notes that this could divert more donations away from the super PACs that Citizens United helped and toward donations to individual candidates. Money in politics is highly fungible; the "no linkage" rules on campaign ad details between super PACs and candidates are already regularly ignored and twisted.

Related? After all the talk about tweaking its rules about Internet neutrality, in response to a plea by Netflix to, well, to actually follow through, the Federal Communications Commission officially said pay-for-access issues aren't part of Net neutrality.

Well, then, what the hell is?

So, rich people can contribute even more to adulterate our election process, and telecommunications companies can then charge extra for anybody wanting to discuss what's bad about that, among other things. As in eXXXon, which has indicated that possible future climate change regulations should be damned to hell. McCutcheon makes it a lot easier to buy Congresscritters who will do their bidding.

As this MSNBC review of Thomas Piketty's "Capital in the Twenty-First Century" makes clear, rising income inequality threatens democracy. And, ever-more-unfettered campaign contributions is likely to only increase income inequality. Especially since, per the NYT, this could be the start of even more, and since, arguably (contra Glenn elsewhere), this kicked stare decisis in the ass on Buckley v Valero:
The next case may arrive soon. At their private conference on Friday, the justices are scheduled to consider whether to hear Iowa Right to Life Committee v. Tooker, No. 13-407, a petition from James Bopp Jr., one of the lawyers on the winning side in the McCutcheon case. It challenges an Iowa law that bans contributions from corporations but allows them from unions.

Mr. Bopp said he had scoured Chief Justice Roberts’s controlling opinion in the McCutcheon case for hints and clues. “I didn’t see any real blatant signals about what they would entertain in the future,” he said. “On the other side, this is the latest in a series of cases from a five-member majority that is very friendly to the First Amendment.”
There you go.

Add in that the Federal Election Commission is already deliberately gridlocked by its GOP members, who will now only dig in further, and the story is complete.

And, hence, Greenwald's idea that we should segregate likely, even highly likely, legal outcomes from actual legal rulings is a crock of shit. Apply that logic to, oh, say Plessy v Ferguson. Or keep living in Brazil while continuing to ignore the favelas.

At the least, have the balls to try to defend McCutcheon.


Anonymous said...

Greenwald isn't a
liberal/progressive by any stretch of the imagination. Nevermind the Koch/Tea Party Ron Paul shilling, have a look, folks:

"At a talk given the day after the 2010 election — one that was a disaster for Democrats — “progressive” writer and civil liberties lawyer Glenn Greenwald gave a talk at the University of Wisconsin, and expressed the hope that Democrats might suffer the same fate in 2012.

Greenwald’s speech mainly focused on civil liberties and terrorism policy “in the age of Obama.” But it was his approach to politics that got members of the Young Americans for Liberty — a Paulite Libertarian group that co-sponsored the event — excited:

'The speech was stellar with too many good points to touch on in a single blog post. I would like to point out that in the Q&A at 38:00 Greenwald specifically addresses a possible alliance between progressives and Ron Paul libertarians. He also mentions Gary Johnson as a unique candidate with possibly the best chance of bringing this coalition together in a 2012 run for president.'"


Greenwald's Koch connection: http://exiledonline.com/glenn-greenwald-of-the-libertarian-cato-institute-posts-his-defense-of-joshua-foust-the-exiled-responds-to-greenwald/

I could go on... but space is limited. What mre does one need to understand that Greenwald isn't "of the left" - he's your standard deranged Libertarian.

Anonymous said...

NSA hysteria: Mark Ames (smart boy): "Found: Libertarians' 'Lying To Liberals' Guide Book"

"All of that is stunning enough—and something to keep in mind if you find yourself getting all dewy-eyed as you take your place on the bottom of the "strange bedfellows" at the StopWatching.us [NSA] rally, topped by such rancid libertarian outfits as FreedomWorks, the Kochs’ climate denial front Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Kochs’ new anti-Obamacare Astroturf front Generation Opportunity, Students For Liberty (funded by CIA/NSA contractor Peter Thiel), Ron Paul’s Young Americans For Liberty, the Libertarian Party..."

Funny, that, since it was Libertarian Cato Institute that wrote the legal justifications for everything Libertarian Glenn Greenwald of Koch-sponsored Cato Institute is now faux raging about:

Fact: The Cato Institute’s actual record during the Bush administration years was anything but principled and far from heroic.

John Yoo, author of the notorious “torture memo,” served on the Cato editorial board for Cato Supreme Court Review during the Bush presidency. At the same time, Yoo was writing the Bush administration’s legal justifications for waterboarding, Guantánamo, warrantless wiretapping and more. Yoo also contributed articles to Cato Supreme Court Review and a chapter to a Cato book titled The Rule of Law in the Wake of Clinton criticizing President Clinton’s “imperial presidency.”

The “Cato Policy Report” attacked progressive critics of Bush’s “War on Terror” as “Terrorism’s Fellow Travelers“ in its November/December 2001 issue. Former Vice President of Research Brink Lindsey wrote, “Most of the America haters flushed out by September 11 are huddled on the left wing of the conventional political spectrum.”

Another Cato executive, Ted Galen Carpenter, former VP for defense and foreign policy studies, enthusiastically supported Bush’s “war on terror” and called on Bush to invade Pakistan.

The Cato Institute advised the 2002–04 Republican-dominated Congress to commence military strikes in Pakistan in its Cato Handbook for Congress arguing, “Ultimately, Afghanistan becomes less important as a place to conduct military operations in the war on terrorism and more important as a place from which to launch military operations. And those operations should be directed across the border into neighboring Pakistan.”

Another Cato Institute executive, Roger Pilon, vigorously supported Bush’s attacks on civil liberties. Pilon, Cato’s VP for legal affairs and founding director of the Cato Institute’s “Center for Constitutional Studies,” supported expanded FBI wiretapping in 2002 and called on Congress to reauthorize the Patriot Act as late as 2008."

Simon said...

I must admit I like Glenn on the NSA stuff but I haven't seen his take on other subjects. But one thing I have learned is that few people -if anyone- is 100% consistent on everything. I like what Bill Maher says on some subjects but is too US and Israel centric on others. Similar with James Howard Kunstler.
I've had FB debates with people who I thought were rational and even handed on one subject but went ape-shit on another. Human nature I guess.

Gadfly said...

Agreed with Simon in that I don't throw out the baby with the bathwater on Glenn. But, his worries about the NSA are relatively small potatoes as Big Biz takes over US elections more and more.

As for his claim at the time of Citizens United that this gave the same "freedom" to unions and nonprofit advocacy groups as Big Biz, Glenn knows that statement is a caricature. Unions don't have Big Biz money. And his own precious ACLU which, under Anthony Romero's watch, has a history of gagging its own board members and such, certainly doesn't have that kind of money.