Money politics

Money politics

Posted: Monday, December 24, 2012 7:00 pm

By DOUGLAS COHN
and ELEANOR CLIFT
WASHINGTON — Governor Rick Snyder, R-Mich., vetoed a bill that would have allowed gun owners to carry concealed weapons in schools, from elementary on up through college.
He said it was because the bill didn’t include an opt-out provision for school administrators who want to keep guns off campus, but he also conceded that the mass killing at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut influenced his decision.
Elected in 2010 as a moderate Republican, Snyder must contend with an increasingly assertive state senate whose members receive financial backing from billionaire conservatives like the Koch brothers, and conservative groups like Americans for Prosperity.
The Republican-controlled state senate in Michigan actually lost seats in the November election, but that hasn’t deterred the GOP majority or its financial backers. The vote buying is so obvious that a Detroit Free Press editorial called it “Drinking the Kochs’ Kool Aid.” The newspaper documented the pressure placed on Republican lawmakers by groups funded by the Koch brothers.
Americans for Prosperity tops the list along with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group that creates and drafts model legislation for use across the country. The Detroit Free Press noted that ALEC’s model right-to-work legislation “mirrors the Michigan law word for word.” After signing controversial right-to-work legislation last week, Governor Snyder wisely backed off the gun bill.
It’s fair to ask exactly who’s in control here – our elected officials or anybody with a cause who has big bucks to spend? After the 2012 election with over a billion dollars spent on attack ads, voters have had enough, but until the Supreme Court revisits the issue of equating money with speech, the prevalence of money in political campaigns is likely to stay.
Voters took some comfort from the fact that the biggest spenders in this election cycle didn’t get much return for their money. Donors to Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS got about a 2 percent return on their money if you tote their win to loss ratio. And Las Vegas tycoon Sheldon Adelson might as well have scattered dollar bills across the landscape indiscriminately for all the difference he made.
But while Democrats were cheering GOP losses, the big money players were looking for other opportunities. Judging by what’s going on in Michigan and in other states where Republicans control the state houses and the legislatures, the moneymen are zeroing in where they can make a difference on the local level.
It’s important to note that all the spending is not on the conservative side. New York Mayor Bloomberg gave $240,000 to the campaign in Maryland to legalize same sex marriage. Bloomberg also used his considerable wealth to influence a campaign in California to defeat a pro-gun Democrat who was pitted against an anti-gun Democrat for a re-districted congressional seat.
Bloomberg is a co-founder along with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and the group’s financial support helped defeat NRA favorite, California Democrat Joe Baca. When the side you favor wins because of outside money, it’s natural to cheer, but whichever side you’re on, the prevalence of money in politics should give you pause.
The Supreme Court opened the door to unlimited funds for political campaigns with its Citizens United decision three years ago. Almost anything goes as long as there is no direct control by the candidate over the outside money. They should have called it the Robber Baron ruling because of the way it dramatically increases the power of money in politics. And so far there is no one with the stature of a trust-busting Teddy Roosevelt or even a Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who once fought big money in politics, but who like just about everybody else has resigned himself to the way it is. Published in The Messenger 12.24.12

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