America A.T. – Part Three

The following is the third installment in a series of undetermined duration and frequency about life in America after Trump (A.T.).

Today I’d like to deal with two things that need to be changed. Both existed before Trump. One we knew was a problem, the other we never thought would be because in the past we never simultaneously had a criminal president and a sufficiently complicit Congress. Let’s explore.

Especially in view of some recent Supreme Court decisions, most prominent among them Citizens United, the role of dark money in American politics has reached a critical level. While I’d like to see only public financing of shortened political campaigns or at least limits on spending/contributions I understand some of the arguments from the other side of the debate. Limiting political contributions is by some considered to be limiting free speech which flies in the face of the First Amendment. An argument can also be made that it is unfair to “penalize” an American because they are wealthy. I’ll save the debate on those topics for another day. My point for today is that I want full disclosure of the core source of the funds.

I want hidden money of any sort strictly prohibited in American elections. That does not infringe on any citizen’s rights or penalize anyone on account of their good financial fortune. If we are going to allow corporations to donate (which I am against) I want full disclosure. Corporations profit from the patronage of individuals. If a corporation is donating money to a candidate(s) that works against my interests why should I help fund that? I am very open that I personally either don’t do business with certain entities or keep my business with them to a bare minimum specifically because I don’t want them to use my money against me, my family and America.

When I make a political donation I make it in my name and it is a matter of public record (if they are large enough to hit the very low disclosure thresholds). I don’t launder it through a PAC or more specifically through a series of entities in order to hide my identity. Simply put I want to know where the money is coming from. I am not a wealthy man and I think the largest political donation I have ever made was $200.00. That is not going to influence a public official. When we get into the seven figure neighborhood I doubt that holds true. Am I the only one who finds it interesting that Dr. Miriam Adelson (current wife of Sheldon Adelson) received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Donald Trump after the couple donated millions to the 2016 Trump campaign? Awards aside, Trump-era executive branch regulations and enforcement favored Sheldon’s business positions. You connect those dots.

There are many regulations in place that limit what an individual may give as an individual but not through a simple series of maneuvers that hide the source. My real bottom line is that at a minimum I want to know where the money came from.

Back during the Watergate era the Justice Department issued an internal memo outlining a policy saying that they would not seek indictment of a sitting president for criminal conduct. That is still Justice Department policy and they control the initiation of indictments for federal crimes. This policy played a central role in Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russiagate. While I disagree with the policy and question whether it would hold up in the courts, I can see some of the reasoning behind it. Pending criminal charges would serve as a distraction to a sitting president who presumably is a very busy person who deals with critical matters. Also the Constitution has a remedy for significant presidential misconduct – it is called impeachment.

Most federal crimes have a statute of limitations of five years. The problem is that in the case of a sitting president who is “immune” from indictment they run simultaneously and the clock can run out while the president is “untouchable”. In my opinion in order to maintain the American principle that no person is above the law it is one or the other but certainly not both.

A popular argument is that a term is only four years and the American people certainly wouldn’t reelect a bad and/or criminal president. I will offer three examples from just my lifetime of bad and/or criminal presidents who were elected to a second term: Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.  Many people will argue with me on Reagan, a few on W., but Nixon?

Well, that is enough for today. After Trump America needs to come to grips with its dark money in elections problem as well as the “presidential criminal immunity issue”. The needed reforms are simple enough. The questions are whether our elected officials have the requisite courage and the American people will demand the changes loudly enough.

Note: If you want to learn more about dark money in American politics I strongly recommend you read Jane Mayer’s book entitled Dark Money.

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