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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Money for nothing

One of the many crazy things about politics in America is that politicians get to accept "campaign contributions," even when they're not running for anything, or even when they're running unopposed. Guys like Earl the Pearl and Gatsby Wyden sit on hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they'll never have a formidable opponent. So what do they do with that money? Give it to other politicians' campaigns and thereby gain power, we suppose.

Here's an example of the looni-tude: The other day Phil Knight made a $10,000 "campaign contribution" to John Kitzhaber. Kitz can't possibly be planning to run for re-election, can he? Surely he'll retire -- again -- and Cylvia can cut up his food for him. And even if he did run, his race wouldn't be for nearly another three years.

The U.S. Supreme Court tells us, rightly or wrongly, that giving money to political campaigns is the equivalent of speech, protected by the Constitution. It would be great if somehow that principle could be limited to people who are actually running for something, and the donations could be restricted to some reasonable time period around their actual election. Otherwise, it just looks like a bribe.

Comments (18)

We know these people are all on the take (both the donaters and donatees) at all times so it is our fault for even pretending the system is legitimate by wasting our time voting. You are much more likely to die in a car (or bike, streetcar, MAX, walking) accident on the way to the polls than voting in an election that is tied or has a one vote difference. Send a real message by refusing to participate in the rigged carnival game.

It doesn't "...just look like a bribe...", it is a bribe.

And when the state pols are allowed to convert the campaign funds to their own personal use under state law when they "retire" and leave politics, the "its a bribe" nature of the transaction is underscored.

It is amazing that most of us know it is a bribe. But we do nothing about it. When will we, the politicians won't?

Maybe it will have to be like the citizens of Clackamas Co. They are doing it because the politicians won't.

That certainly sounds like the right ingredients for a thoroughly corrupt political environment. It sounds as if a politician can be completely in the pocket of some large corporation, legally!

You may have answered how the mayor was able to get his mortgage sorted out.

Earl does use his contributions to gain power by supporting other candidates, just like you have said here.

Remember this? Randy Leonard uses campaign contribution money to pay his parking expenses downtown. And, didn't he give some to Sam for his mayoral election?

There Oughtta Be A Law
It should be illegal for a candidate or PAC to give money from one campaign fund to another.
This is unfair to the donor who contributed money to a political campaign with the intent that the money be used for that campaign. As it is currently, once contributed, money can go to any other campaign committee without the consent of the donor.

It should be illegal for money contributed to a political campaign to be converted to a politician's personal use at the end of the campaign.
This is unfair to the donor who gave money with the intent that it would be expended for the campaign's political needs. Unused funds can go to the state like other unclaimed funds. Is this money even taxed by the IRS?

To convert money from a campaign fund to ANY other purpose than to directly support the campaign to which it is given should be considered fraudulent behavior. In business, this practice would land a person in prison. The problem lies with who writes campaign laws.

If businesses got to write the laws that apply to them, Bernie Madoff wouldn't be in prison.

Nolo -

If you think that the federal courts decisions under the First Amendment flowing from Buckley v. Valejo are bad regarding the money equals speech theory, think a bit about the farcical situation Justice Hans Linde of the Oregon Supreme Court created with his naalysis of Article I, section 8 of the Oregon Constitution.

There "oughta be a law", but until and unlessthe Oregon Constitution is amended, and Buckley is over ruled, there won't be, as any and every entity have a "free speech" right to give money to any pol or committee.

Setting aside where the money comes from for now, it should only be used for the stated purpose of the campaign to which it was given.

Free speech is free speech, but elections and the election process is not free speech.

Therefore, there should be NO election related activity occurring no more than 120 days prior to the actual election. That means no election campaign, no committee, no fund raising, no advertising. Nothing.

Anything that happens prior to 120 days is considered personal activity, so therefore if Phil Knight donated $10,000 he would be giving that money not to John Kitzhaber the candidate, but John Kitzhaber the person - and it would obviously be a bribe of some sort, since he would be obligated to report his income while holding a state office. Likewise, any advertising prior to 120 days would be a personal ad (and thus not subject to all of the rules related to elections ads...as in, a TV station could choose NOT to air it.)

How about this:

If you, a close relative or family member donates to a politician, that politician MUST recuse himself from ANY vote affecting you or your relatives or your company or related companies. FOREVER.


And when the state pols are allowed to convert the campaign funds to their own personal use under state law when they "retire" and leave politics, the "its a bribe" nature of the transaction is underscored.

They don't even have to wait until they retire and leave office, do they? I know Oregon legislators can double-dip by using campaign funds for motel rooms, food, gas, etc. while at the same time being reimbursed by taxpayers via their per diem, mileage expenses and the like. Talk about corrupt!

Ah, but the poor dears are so woefully underpaid. Just ask the crew at BlueOregon.

It all got started, basically, with a footnote in this case:


But, the scheme really got some lift after WWII, as explained in this recent article:

The Real History of 'Corporate Personhood': Meet the Man to Blame for Corporations Having More Rights Than You
The real history of today's excessive corporate power starts with a tobacco lawyer appointed to the Supreme Court.

IMO the whole "corporate personhood" argument is irrelevant and a ruse.

A "corporation" is simply a legal entity that exists independent of its members - people. It's a group of people that organize and register a new body. A corporation isn't necessary a business - after all there are "non-profit organizations" which are corporations, "municipal corporations" (government agencies)...

If one person has a freedom of speech, how does a collective of people have that freedom denied? The Constitution grants the right to peacefully assemble (to join together as a group) - is that not what a Corporation essentially is - a group of people that assemble; not necessarily in the physical sense that all of those people are in one physical location at one time, but they assemble their money and voices into a single corporation.

It is not the fault of corporations that America is filled with stupid voters that are so ignorant of the ability to act as individuals - we have MSNBC and Fox News, but there is nobody holding a gun telling you to pick one or the other (or both, or none). Corporations are in and of themselves not evil; corporations can certainly do evil things, just as a single person can. A group of organized people can do evil; just as an unruly mob of loosely organized individuals (see: Occupy Whatever) can. To suggest that the root of evil is in an otherwise unremarkable tax case brought before the Supreme Court...surely the Supreme Court can likewise overrule itself; and we have a Constitution that can override the Supreme Court. In 125 years, neither has happened. But 12 other Amendments have been ratified as part of the Constitution. Clearly, it isn't as big of a problem as though to be.

Sign seen at an OWS rally:

"I'll believe corporations are people when the State of Texas executes one."

With rights come responsibilities. Corporations enjoy the former without being burdened by much of the latter, as we ordinary humans are. Their only missive is to make money.

And yet people can't envision a problem with giving equal rights and virtually unlimited power to completely immoral and self-centered entities. What could possibly go wrong?

Erik H --

To suggest that the Supreme Court has never reversed itself isn't quite accurate. Happens relatively frequently.

The most prominent example is over ruling Plessy v. Ferguson (?1898?) in Brown v. Board of Education (1954.)

"The U.S. Supreme Court tells us ... that giving money to political campaigns is the equivalent of speech."

This is not an accurate statement, though I can hardly fault you, given how very common the mistake is.

The Court merely recognizes that money is an indispensible means for the exercise of political speech (any political speech, that is).

See http://www.thefreemanonline.org/featured/money-is-not-speech/ for a full argument that this conceptual distinction is vital.

The one mistake I won't make is arguing with you.

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