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Wed, Aug 20, 2014

INSIDE THE ISSUES: Silence is golden to donors

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Here’s a slightly existential question for Independence Day week.

If you have enough guts to put your money where your mouth is, shouldn’t you have enough guts to put your mouth where your money is?

Advocates of no or minimal limits on political spending have long contended that money equals free speech. In other words, when you donate money to a political cause, you are voicing your support with your money.

This assertion seems to have been backed up by the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the landmark 2010 ruling that declared corporations and unions can give as much money as they like to groups that launch attack ads about candidates or issues.

Citizens United is the 10 ton albatross around the necks of activists for campaign finance reform. While the ruling does not affect limits on contributions made directly to candidates, it is fodder for the ongoing debate about the extent to which big money is polluting the electoral process.

The high court was asked to revisit its decision in the current session. But, on Monday, the justices announced their decision to let it stand.

So-called safeguards against monetary influence in American politics are about as sturdy as the New Orleans-area levees on the day Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. And, with campaigns awash in crony capitalism, we Americans are left to dogpaddle through the pollution, just as citizens of the Big Easy were left to tread water in a cesspool of oil, refuse and filth.

You might think the people who argued so mightily that their right to voice their political views with their checkbooks is absolute would have no reservations about explaining why they hold the views they hold.

However, they don’t seem to want to talk about their donations when approached by the media.

We mere mortal citizens proudly place relatively inexpensive signs in our yards and bumper stickers on our cars to indicate the candidates we support in local, state and national elections.

But the seven-figure savants who hide behind Citizens United can’t seem to do anything but gripe about all these journalists who want to know more.

Every contribution of $200 or more to a so-called “superPAC” has to be reported to the Federal Election Commission. That enables the public to know who is pumping big bucks into which coffers so they can make their own conclusions about influence peddling.

When reporters look at the names on the lists, they want to know what these donors want for their money.

NPR has been stiffed by every multimillion-dollar contributor the network approached to talk about political contributions for a series of reports titled “Million Dollar Donors.”

For these suddenly silent power players, money seems to have replaced speech altogether. I know people say “silence is golden,” but this is a really cowardly way to prove it.

So while you’re shooting off your bottle rockets during the holiday, take stock of who aren’t shooting off their mouths anymore – the people and companies trying to buy your country and sell it right out from under you.
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Inside the Issues
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FEC, Gina Logue, Politics, Supreme Court, Voices
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