The import of the Supreme Court’s drastic over-reach in the Citizens United case is coming painfully clear. Tens of millions of dollars in anonymous campaign contributions are pouring in to groups free to spend on this election with absolutely no accountability for where the money came from. Groups with innocuous names like The American Future Fund are bankrolling attack ads, mostly against Democrats. Who is behind the AFF? according to todays’ New York Times, the group was started with seed money from one Bruce Rastetter, chief exec of one of the country’s largest ethanol companies. The fund’s targets? Primarily politicians on legislative committees with interests in ethanol subsidies. There is no way of knowing how much Rastetter and his colleagues in the industry have contributed, since AFF doesn’t have to report its funding sources. And AFF is just one of dozens of groups active in this year’s election.
Before someone jumps in and names George Soros and unions on the Democratic side, let me point out two things. One, I’m talking about the anonymity of contributions; I don’t care who is putting up the money; the lack of transparency is an outrage. Second, by all accounts, the largest portion of the money being spent this year is from conservative groups with, we assume, ties to corporate entities with vested interests in the outcome. As of the first of this month, the amount spend on Republican candidates totaled $74.6 million, compared to $39.7 for Democrats–almost twice as much. The activist Roberts Court certainly anticipated this outcome when it brazenly decided that corporations possess the same free speech rights as people. The Court knew that the Republican party would be the big winner, and the money is flowing like oil from the Deep Water Horizon spill–with no relief well in sight. It’s not just the money inequality that should disturb us, although that alone should trouble us all; it’s that so much of it is secret. Congress attempted to address this issue with the Disclose Act, but it was filibustered to death by–you guessed it–Republicans. How can we possibly know what we are really voting for when we don’t know who is bankrolling candidates? This is, in my humble opinion, nothing short of a disaster for free and fair democratic elections in this country.