Taking partisanship out of the equation, without a doubt the influence of money is the biggest problem in American politics. Simply put, it is un-democratic and it just got a lot worse!
Like most Americans, I believe in one person, one vote. Because of the quirks of our system, it is impossible to completely achieve but it should be our goal. Uncorrupted by money we actually can come amazingly close to achieving that goal.
Enter Leonard Leo. Leo is the leader of the Federalist Society and in his history has a direct link to the Fascist Five (Samuel Alito, Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas) and John Roberts. It isn’t much of a stretch to say that without Leo none of them would be on the Supreme Court.
Theoretically we have three co-equal branches of government at the federal level; the executive, the legislative and the judicial. The pinnacle of the judicial is the Supreme Court. If you have been paying attention for the past decade or so the Court has reigned supreme (no pun intended) among them. If you are an average American this has been very, very bad for you!
Monday the New York Times broke the story that Leo had formed a new 501(c) (4) called the Marble Freedom Trust after having secured a $1.6 billion donation. Marble, for all intents and purposes is an unregulated dark money group that can influence politics in any way it chooses with no regard for the truth or need to disclose its activities. You ask: How can this be in America? The answer is the Supreme Court has enabled it.
You have to dig a little (very, very little) to establish the Leo links to Alito, Roberts and Thomas; but the links to the other three are as obvious as the nose on your face. Leo gave Donald Trump the list of potential nominees he campaigned on in 2016 and selected Barrett, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh from.
Others cover the details better, but in large part the American taxpayer paid for the donation. A wealthy right wing donor sold his company and through a series of somewhat opaque transaction the total proceeds of the sale ($1.6 billion) ended up at Marble. That legally avoided $440 million in taxes, money your government needs to run and you’ll have to kick in eventually.
Let’s take a mythical look at the impact $1.6 billion can have. Distributed optimally you have to control 269 Congressional seats to control both chambers. $1.6 billion is 1,600 $1 million dollar donations. In reality many of the 269 are almost locks for either party – trust me Leo won’t be bankrolling any Democrats! – therefore many fewer seats need the extra money. A few seven or eight figure donations late in the campaign can flip many close contests. It’s not that far fetched to see Marble buying control of both chambers over a cycle or two. (Especially if the Republicans stop running ridiculous candidates that legitimate conservative Republican voters can’t stomach voting for.) History tells us that Leo has already bought the Court with far fewer dollars.
As the dollar reigns increasingly impactful your vote, small donation, volunteer hours or combination of those three means less and less. That is not democracy! For the radical right who perceives the masses as useful idiots the theme is really: one dollar, one vote and that is simply un-American.
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