Despite optimism from the House of Representatives we are never going to rid ourselves of the influence of big money in politics. In America big money is politics. No matter what we do to reform the campaign finance system little will change because there are too many ways to get the word out. That isn’t stopping Democrats from trying to overrule the Supreme Court with a sweeping liberal juggernaut to address politically-motivated threats of a big money plutocracy.
Instead of worrying about Republican dark money they should be concerned about what does the real damage. False words are the real problem. Voters can’t make an informed decision when they don’t know the truth.
Big money plutocracy: it’s the words, not the dollars
Is it honest and ethical to tell the American people that nullifying an eight-year old Supreme Court decision will take the money out of politics?
That depends on who is doing the telling. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) pushed his “Democracy for All Amendment” at the beginning of the year to “restore democratic power to the American people” because:
As hundreds of millions of dollars in dark money are spent by CEOs in the name of their unwitting shareholders, we are seeing what Court-ordered plutocracy looks like.1
If we believe McGovern, big money didn’t rule our politics before January 21, 2010.
Does anyone capable of voting believe that?
Democrats offer the people words, not power
The new House is excited about its opportunity to get rid of dark money’s influence and give power back to citizens while protecting politicians running for office. McGovern warns:
With elected officials spending more and more of their time raising millions of dollars to defend themselves from multi-million dollar smear campaigns from outside groups, it has become harder for everyday Americans living on a budget to be heard in the post-Citizens United era.2
The election of outrageous rabble rousers like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is proof that there are voices not silenced by big money or Citizens United. If McGovern is correct then dark money-backed Republicans would have kept the House and Democrats would never win a seat.
That’s not what is happening.
Truth vs. propaganda
The buzzwords are familiar: smear campaigns, Citizens United, misinformation.3
We’re so concerned about where big money comes from that we don’t pay attention to what it allows people to do: sway opinion and actions with carefully veiled propaganda politicians can’t and won’t be held accountable for. If the words are honest, money should not make a difference because voters are acting on the truth.
Does money matter if people know they are hearing the truth?
Trump, Schumer, Pelosi show that words are cheap
On Tuesday night President Trump and his chief Democratic nemeses used national television to fight over whether to spend upwards of $5 billion on a campaign promise.
Open border Democrats Schumer and Pelosi told us that they wanted border security and then Pelosi tricked us by immediately removing women and children from the equation as a “humanitarian challenge.”
Trump spoke of crimes and threats in a poorly-envisioned diatribe that sounded like the fear-mongering Dems warned us about. We heard a smattering of anecdotes about violence that undercut a justifiable argument that’s all about the numbers.
This is propaganda politics that has nothing to do with big money.
How do the people know what to believe?
Honesty and a simple graphic from Homeland Security would have told the truth on Tuesday. The people didn’t get that. Instead we got one Republican and two Democrats and opposing views that didn’t come from dark money, big money, or the kind of ethics that no House or Senate bill will ever address.
H.R. 1 transparency won’t create truth
Be very suspicious when you hear about a bill that claims to be for the people. Transparency and ethics for the masses are two of the most opaque scams in the congressional playbook.
Can a partisan bill that attacks a president be ethical?
H.R. 1 turns transparency into a liberal vs. conservative pursuit. The John Sarbanes’ (D-MD) juggernaut is designed:
To expand Americans’ access to the ballot box, reduce the influence of big money in politics, and strengthen ethics rules for public servants, and for other purposes
Supporting remarks delivered by House Speaker Pelosi are vague and no more revealing:
we are introducing H.R. 1: legislation to clean up elections and restore integrity to government.4
The phrase “big money in politics” is especially ironic. Democrats who won seats in the House last November wouldn’t be there if they didn’t have the influence of big money behind them.
H.R. 1’s massive length extends to nearly 600 pages and still isn’t available on Congress.gov ten days after its January 3, 2019 introduction. Even the 223 Democratic lawmakers who cosponsored probably won’t take the time to study this democracy overhaul line by line.
That’s why we have partisan bill summaries.
This is what a bill summary really is
The 22-page summary of H.R. 1 starts with this:
This November, the American people went to the polls and resoundingly rejected the culture of corruption in Washington. They elected an historic Democratic House majority built on candidates who promised to restore our broken democracy, and restore openness, transparency and unity to Congress.5
… and ends with a brazen attack:
Requires sitting Presidents and Vice Presidents, as well as candidates for the Presidency and Vice-Presidency, to release their tax returns.6
Consider H.R. 1’s nakedly partisan reforms:
H.R. 1 fights back against Republicans’ assault on voting rights by committing Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act; prohibiting voter roll purges like those seen in Ohio, Georgia and elsewhere; and ensuring that discriminatory voter ID laws do not prevent Americans [sic] citizens from exercising their rights.7
Auteur Sarbanes claims “H.R. 1 Would Help Restore the Promise of Our Democracy.”8 The problem is that it’s a Democratic Party version of democracy based on shamefully obvious propaganda. Elizabeth Warren attacks the same big money with her propaganda-laden effort on behalf of a DOA Senate bill to battle Republicans in the name of ending corruption.
If we eliminated every dime from politics we would still have words. Words do the most damage and every politician worth a vote knows that if you tell enough lies, some will eventually be believed.
1. “Bipartisan Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United Introduced.” Jamie Raskin. January 4, 2019. https://raskin.house.gov/media/press-releases/bipartisan-constitutional-amendment-overturn-citizens-united-introduced, retrieved January 11, 2019.
2. “On First Day of New Congress, McGovern Introduces Bipartisan Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United.” Jim McGovern. January 4, 2019. https://mcgovern.house.gov/uploadedfiles/116th_democracy_for_all_amendment_background.pdf, retrieved January 8, 2019.
3. “Schumer, Pelosi Joint Statement on the President’s Tuesday Evening Address.” Senate Democrats. January 7, 2019. https://www.democrats.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/schumer-pelosi-joint-statement-on-the-presidents-tuesday-evening-address, retrieved January 9, 2019.
4. “Pelosi Remarks at Press Event on Introduction of H.R. 1, For The People Act.” Nancy Pelosi. January 4, 2019. https://www.speaker.gov/newsroom/1419-5/, retrieved January 9, 2019.
5. “221 House Democrats Co-Sponsor H.R. 1, the For the People Act.” John Sarbanes. January 10, 2019. https://democracyreform-sarbanes.house.gov/sites/democracyreformtaskforce.house.gov/files/H.R.%201%20Section-by-Section_FINAL.pdf, retrieved January 10, 2019.
6. Ibid., p. 22.
7. “H.R. 1, the For the People Act, Will Clean Up Corruption in Washington, Make It Easier to Vote, and Give Everyday Americans More Power in Our Democracy.” Committee on House Administration. January 4, 2019. https://cha.house.gov/press-release/lofgren-and-new-house-democratic-majority-introduce-historic-anti-corruption-and-fair, retrieved January 7, 2019.
8. “H.R. 1 Would Help Restore the Promise of Our Democracy.” John Sarbanes. January 8, 2019. https://sarbanes.house.gov/media-center/in-the-news/hr-1-would-help-restore-the-promise-of-our-democracy, retrieved January 10, 2019.
9. “Southwest Border Migration FY 2019.” U.S. Customs and Border Protection.” https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/stats/sw-border-migration, retrieved January 12, 2019.
Author’s note: broken link removed April 3, 2020. No other changes made.