February 19, 2010
Over the course of a long career in journalism, I've covered this story of money in politics more than any other. From time to time, I've been hopeful about a change for the better, but truth is, it just keeps getting uglier every year.
Those who write the checks keep buying the results they want at the expense of the public. As a reputedly self-governing democracy, we desperately need to address the problems that we've created for ourselves, but money makes impossible the reforms that might save us.
Nothing in this country seems to be working to anyone's satisfaction except the wealth machine that rewards those who game the system. Unless we break their grip on our political institution, their power to buy the agenda they want no matter the cost to everyone else, we're finished as a functioning democracy.
In this I am sympathetic to the people who show up at tea party rallies asking what happened to their jobs, their pensions, their security the America they believed in. What's happened, says the political scientist Sheldon Wolin, is the increasing cohabitation of state and corporate power.
This is why I find the supreme court ruling so preposterous and ominous. Five radical judges have taken a giant step toward legitimating the corporate takeover of democracy. "One person, one vote" stop kidding yourself. As I once heard a very rich oilman tell congress after he paid $300,000 to the democratic party to get a moment of President Clinton's ear, "Money is a bit more than a vote." The huge sums of money that already flood our elections will now be multiplied many times over, most likely in secret.
Just this week, that indispensable journalistic website Talking Points Memo.com reported that an influential Washington lobbying firm is alerting corporate clients on how to use trade associations like the Chamber of Commerce as pass-throughs to dump unlimited amounts of cash directly into elections. They can specifically advocate or oppose a candidate right up to election day while keeping a low profile to prevent "public scrutiny" and negative press coverage. We'll never know what hit us, and like the titanic, we'll go down but with even fewer lifeboats.
That's it for the Journal. Next week: the two powerhouse lawyers who fought each other tooth and claw in Bush versus Gore are back in the courtroom, but this time they're fighting together to defeat California's ban on same sex marriage.
The right to marry is an individual right, it's not the state's right. It's not a governmental right. It's an individual right.
Because remember, if we recognize them as human, if we recognize them as full citizens, the Constitution guarantees that they have equal protection of the laws. They have the same rights as any heterosexual.
I'm Bill Moyers. See you next time.