Dave Yost: A Frightening Supreme Court Decision
There are certain political events that tend be remembered as milestones of sorts that will impact all of us for years to come. We have witnessed a historical presidential election and a rise in power of the Democratic Party, both of which were largely a reaction to the perceived failed policies of the previous administration. We have seen a financial meltdown second only to the Great Depression, with repercussions still unfolding. Meanwhile, we hope that our representative form of government will eventually straighten things out. Given the recent decision by the Supreme Court, this may be wishful thinking.
President Obama campaigned on an argument that we must change the way we do business in America. His view, and it is one supported by a large number of citizens, is that big business has been getting its way for far too long. There were no major applications of antitrust action in the Bush Administration. Wall Street was able to do virtually anything they wanted to do since the end of the Clinton administration when protections put in place following the Great Depression were relaxed. Lobbyist groups established by the energy companies continue to block energy legislation. Even the president seems to be dependent on certain vested interests to get things done.
Democrats tend to view the big business bad guys in this fight as some of the major Wall Street financial firms, the major oil companies, the giants of the health insurance industry, and other industries dominated by a few big players. These firms are reaping enormous profits while continuing to fund an army of lobbyists for the sole purpose of keeping the status quo.
It can be argued that the representative party for many of these “bad guys” is the modern Republican Party. John Dean, a former Republican and legal counsel to President Nixon, wrote an excellent book on the subject titled “Broken Government: How Republican Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches.” He argues that, in recent years, there is a continuing effort to pad Congress, the courts, and even the presidency by using big money to elect candidates that will follow a rigid ideology. In turn, these big players are free to do what they want. They operate under the banner of the conservative movement, but their intent is much broader. It is not enough to get their candidate elected to the Senate. To really retain control and block everything that will get in their path, big money needs to garner control of all three branches of our government. Dean’s conclusions were written as the 2008 presidential race was just getting started.
Many citizens are optimistic that the sheer will of the people will prevail in these fights. After all, we almost passed health care reform. Next time, a better plan might actually prevail. The ability of millions to contribute funds to further a cause might actually lead to the election of some more moderate candidates.
All this came to a screeching halt last week. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Jan. 21 that any corporation or entity can contribute as much money as they want to a political cause, essentially guaranteeing that Congress and the presidency can continue to be bought. In an instant, major laws such as the 2002 McCain/Feingold campaign finance reform law were thrown out. This court even reversed prior decisions and went far beyond the scope of the case in hand. Big business, the majority argued, can operate just as freely as individuals and cannot be restrained under the First Amendment. The court still supported prohibitions against corporate donations to a particular candidate. What is the difference? Corporations and labor unions can now funnel millions of dollars at a campaign, even in the last few weeks.
If the big-money guys start to lose under the existing law of the land, they simply need to get the law changed. One way to do that is to lobby the Supreme Court for better rules. For anyone who feels this decision was made with sound constitutional basis and with the general interest of the country at heart, forget it. Big money prevailed again. How did they do it? Just ask John Dean.
Dave Yost lives in Silverthorne.
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