On January 31, 1994, the acronym C.R.E.A.M. was unleashed upon the world by the Wu Tang Clan. Hailed by Time Magazine as one of the All-Time 100 Songs since the beginning of the magazine, millions of people are familiar with the chorus from which the acronym originates, “Cash rules everything around me, C.R.E.A.M. Get the money, dolla dolla bill y’all.” Well, this week, the Supreme Court one-upped the Wu Tang Clan with their own acronym. For those who didn’t already know, the SCOTUS made it abundantly clear that C.R.A.P. (Cash Rules American Politics) is how things are done in America, and nothing or nobody will change that anytime soon.
In McClutcheon v FEC, the SCOTUS has continued down the pathway that money equals speech. I don’t care how you try to frame it, money is not speech. Money can buy you a huge megaphone to blast your opinion, but it is not, in and of itself, free speech. In his reasoning, Chief Justice Roberts offers this in his opinion on pages 3-4.
The aggregate limits do not further the permissible governmental interest in preventing quid pro quo corruption or its appearance.
This Court has identified only one legitimate governmental interest for restricting campaign finances: preventing corruption or the appearance of corruption. Moreover, the only type of corruption that Congress may target is quid pro quo corruption. Spending large sums of money in connection with elections, but not in connection with an effort to control the exercise of an officeholder’s official duties, does not give rise to quid pro quo corruption. Nor does the possibility that an individual who spends large sums may garner “influence over or access to” elected officials or political parties. The line between quid pro quo corruption and general influence must be respected in order to safeguard basic First Amendment rights, and the court must “err on the side of protecting political speech rather than suppressing it.”
I guess that, in Chief Justice Robert’s mind, all these billionaires are lining up to spend money just for sh*ts and giggles. Why would people go through the trouble of trying to hide donations if they didn’t expect something in return? It doesn’t matter which party or candidate is on the receiving end of the money either. Nobody spends millions of dollars just for the hell of it. Does anybody honestly expect any officeholder funded by Sheldon Adelson to green light internet or offshore gambling? What officeholder funded by Wall Street is going to enact a transaction tax or reform laws to try to avoid another financial meltdown?
Quid pro quo is not the only form of political corruption out there. Check out the stories behind the mayor of Charlotte, the governor of Georgia, or even look at Chris Christie’s issues. Corruption comes in many forms, and in most cases, the bait or trigger is usually a financial one. When you think about it, it’s a win-win for deep pocketed donors. You make campaigning ridiculously expensive for the average politician, and then you offer him the necessary money to maintain his office. Of course, he’s going to “look out” for you as he’s going to need that financing once again when his next election comes up. Anybody who doesn’t see that is either naive or simply trying to fool themselves.
I’ve been a big believer in public financing of elections, but I find it harder and harder to see that happening here for one reason and one reason only. “Cash Rules American Politics, C.R.A.P. Get the money, dolla dolla bill y’all.”