In the post-McCutcheon world, the 0.1 percent are far more important than most candidates. The press needs to treat them that way and subject their views to scrutiny.
PETER BEINART APR 4 2014, 12:17 PM ET
Quick: Name a senator who served between the Civil War and World War I. Struggling? Now name a tycoon who bought senators during the same period. J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller … it’s easier.
And for good reason. The tycoons mattered more. Gilded Age industrialists—who had amassed levels of wealth unseen in American history—frequently dominated the politicians who enjoyed putative power to write the laws. In 1896, when corporations could give directly to political candidates, pro-corporate Republican presidential candidate William McKinley raised $16 million to populist Democrat William Jennings Bryan’s $600,000. “All questions in a democracy,” declared McKinley’s campaign manager, Mark Hanna, are “questions of money.”
The Roberts Court seems to agree. The astonishing concentration of wealth among America’s super-rich, combined with a Supreme Court determined to tear down the barriers between their millions and our elections, is once again shifting the balance of power between politicians and donors. You could see it during last weekend’s “Sheldon primary,” when four major presidential contenders flocked to Las Vegas to court one man. When Chris Christie, not known for backing down from a fight, used a phrase (“occupied territories”) that Adelson disliked, he quickly apologized. And with good reason. Adelson, who probably spent north of $100 million in the 2012 election, can single-handedly sustain a presidential candidacy, or wreck one. He’s certainly wields more influence over American politics than most members of the United States Senate.
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We need a Fourth Estate who actually does their job, and part of that job is MASSIVE AND UNRELENTING SCRUTINY of rich and powerful people whenever they choose to wield their wealth AS power over our public institutions and elected leaders.
"Big donors will likely fund all this publicity unpleasant. Most would rather shape public policy in private. But the press has an obligation to follow power, to explain how our political system actually works, not to hew to a civics-class fantasy that less and less resembles reality. Since the Roberts Court is dismantling the legal obstacles that prevent America’s 0.1 percent from purchasing politicians, the press should erect cultural obstacles in their place. Our best hope now is massive scrutiny, and, hopefully, some measure of shame."
Take action. Add your voice, and help move our political system back in our favor instead of those with lots of money.
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