Paul Adair is a 21-year Germantown resident, retired scientist, writer, and lecturer.
The Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary are no longer all that important in selecting our next President. Much more important are the "Adelson Primary" and the "Koch Caucus", in which potential contenders must grovel before billionaire donors in hopes of being anointed with essentially unlimited campaign funds. The usurpation of our democracy by the ultra-rich, while bad before Citizens United, is orders of magnitude worse in its aftermath.
In 2010, the activist majority on the Supreme Court drastically changed the face of US political campaigns. Their 5-4 Citizens United decision stated that corporations have the same legal rights as people (corporations are people) and that spending on political campaigns is equivalent to free speech (money is speech). The decision opened up a Pandora's Box of unlimited cash from anonymous donors flowing into uncontrolled Super-PACS.
The incredible and unprecedented power that Citizens United has given to the ultra-rich has turned our country (and most states) into a plutocracy. Politicians now put the dictates of their largest donors far above the wishes of their constituents. As a hypothetical example, let's say the Governor of a fictional Midwestern state had to make a decision on whether to allow a new Indian casino. There would be an inordinate amount of pressure on that hypothetical Governor to reject the casino in order to curry favor with a hypothetical Vegas-based casino-mogul billionaire donor.
Similarly, there would be an oversized influence by hypothetical Kansas-based billionaire donors who have an inherent hatred of Americans having access to heathcare. Such high-rolling donors would naturally support obedient governors who reject Medicaid expansion in their state. They would be happy to bankroll a hypothetical subservient Governor who violated common-sense economics, spending hundreds of millions more in taxpayer funds to insure many fewer people.
In case after case, from immigration reform, to common sense gun safety, to minimum wage increases, to environmental regulation, the views of a few billionaire donors are holding way more influence over our politicians than do the desires of the millions of citizens they claim to represent. This must change. Citizens United must be overturned. We need to institute new limits on campaign financing. We, the people, must get our government back.
Incredible amounts of untraceable cash has flowed into campaigns since Citizens United. In just the 2014 North Carolina Senate race alone, a mind boggling $111 million dollars was spent, equal to $16 dollars per voter. The fossil fuel industry spent an estimated $721 million during the 2014 election cycle. In the 2016 elections, the Koch political network plans to spend $889 million. This is clearly getting out of hand. Some sort of limits must be made on this wholesale purchase of our government.
There are two ways to return America to political control by its people. Neither way is quick or easy. The Supreme Court could rethink and overturn their earlier decision, but that is unlikely based on the make-up of the current court. We will have to wait for court openings that Presidents Obama and Clinton can fill with new Justices who are not corporately-owned. On the other hand, the country can go through the herculean chore of amending the US Constitution, requiring approval by 2/3 of each house of Congress and 3/4 of state legislatures.
In order to amend the Constitution, we must strongly convince elected officials that ending our nation's take-over by the monied elite is an issue important to voters. Poll results consistently show overwhelming support for overturning CU by Constitutional amendment. As of September of last year, sixteen states and about 600 communities had voiced support for such a move.
What is happening in Wisconsin? In 2013, State Rep. Chris Taylor and State Sen. Dave Hansen introduced a resolution calling for a statewide referendum on Citizens United for the November 2014 ballot. Unfortunately, this proposal was bottled-up in committee by GOP state legislators. Guess that they simply did not want you to voice your opinion on this important issue.
Undeterred, Sen. Hansen and State Rep. Lisa Subeck introduced a similar resolution last month. We certainly hope that this resolution does not meet the same fate as the last one. The referendum question would ask voters whether they approve of a call for our congressional delegation and state legislature to support an amendment to the US Constitution stating that:
Clearly, the American people, and Wisconsin citizens, believe that uncontrolled and unlimited campaign cash is not healthy for American democracy. We are faced with a government for sale to the highest bidder. We have seen the wholesale purchase of our political system by the ultra-wealthy. We must return control to "We, the People". We must overturn the Citizen's United decision.