Posted by Patrick McWhortor on August 13, 2015 at 2:51 PM
Who is buying our democracy?
The plan is in place. The coffers are full. And the money will soon begin flowing.
Whose plan is this? What money are we talking about?
For years, the burden of raising money for politics has fallen on politicians. They spend too much of their time dialing for dollars. And we the people worry that politicians care more about the people who write them big checks than the citizens they are elected to represent.
But today, less and less time is required to dial for dollars because a shrinking number of rich special interests are putting up most of the money for elections.
Well, we the people still need to worry: unless you are worth billions, the chance that you are going to influence most of today’s elected officials is dwindling. If you are worth billions, you can join the small club that is planning to spend a large sum in 2016 to buy as many elections as it can.
Who are these billionaires? Well, see that’s the problem. They would rather not tell us who they are. They don’t want us to know that they are spending this money. While in the public sphere, we expect politicians to be transparent and show us all their cards, the people who are now buying our elections don’t believe they have to live by this standard.
Even an organization supposedly fighting against special interest influence in government is opposed to transparency.
Laurie Roberts reported on this perspective in her column earlier this week, describing how the Goldwater Institute in Arizona is fighting against proposals to require “dark money” donations to be reported publicly. The Goldwater Institute, purveyor of lobbying and lawsuits designed to erode the power of government and fight against special interest advantages in public policy, appears to be endorsing the idea that individuals, no matter how rich and no matter what interest they have, should not be required to disclose the advantages they seek in government through political spending.
What a curious position for an organization that touts freedom from special interests.
Even the U.S. Supreme Court, which has been no friend of campaign finance reform, is on record, stating that disclosure and transparency of political spending is important in our democracy. Justice Anthony Kennedy, in the Citizens United opinion, refers to the importance of “prompt disclosure of expenditures.” He goes on: "The First Amendment protects political speech; and disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way. This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages."
But the Goldwater Institute does not appear to value this perspective in the Court’s opinion. Rather, it wants to protect the billionaires who it depends upon for support, and whose Citizens United-inspired spending spree is buying elections across the nation.
At Open Primaries, we know the power of dark money, as we witnessed millions of dollars in undisclosed donations from out-of-state billionaires pour into Arizona to oppose reform in 2012. And we expect to see another flood of dark money in the next year.
So these billionaires want to protect themselves against reform that is demanded by the people of Arizona.
We are taking poll after poll of Arizonans which tell us they want to change our elections and preserve democracy for the people. They want to fight against attempts by special interests to buy elections and write the rules of elections through the power of political parties captured by those same special interests.
So the people, who still have the votes, must be vigilant. They must not let the billionaires buy our elections in 2016. It is time for the people to stand up and preserve democracy for all citizens.
We implore the people of Arizona: do not let special interests buy the election. Fight to hold on to your democracy.