McCutcheon: Another Nail in the Coffin

The Corporatocracy Strikes Again


The recent Supreme Court decision in the McCutcheon case really should come as no surprise at this point. It is clear that the branch of government that is least accountable to the public should take the lead in securing the so called rights of the corporate elite. This is one more nail in the coffin of democratic governance. What is surprising is that Americans, for the most part, really don’t recognize the Supreme Court, at least its five conservative members, as the enemies of democracy that they are.

McCutcheon eliminated the limits on the amount contributors can make to candidates and parties for campaigns. Implicit in this decision is that the wealthy have no real limits. The vast majority of Americans have de facto limits considering that we have to eat and pay our mortgages and such.

As pointed out by Mike Ludwig at Truthout, “Campaign finance watchdogs now estimate that a single wealthy donor could spread up to $3.6 million among candidates, party committees and some political action groups affiliated with a single party during a single election cycle. A single donor could theoretically spend twice that amount by supporting candidates and committees from both parties…” As we know, corporations and corporate owners like to hedge their bets by buying both sides of the debate.

The justification for this plutocratic decision is in the supposed right to free speech which is equated with the ability to spend money. However, any valuation of rights must take into account the extent and limits of said rights even if the premise money=speech is to be taken seriously, which it isn’t. All ethical arguments with regard to rights agree that one’s rights end where another’s rights begin. Your right to shake your fist ends at my face! The potential of big money to drown out any other less lucrative form of “speech” must be taken into account by any ethical decision maker.

An analysis of rights always requires a distinction to be made between what constitutes a “right” and what constitutes “a power.” This is revealed in Roberts’ claim that the government cannot regulate how much money someone can spend on elections any more than it can tell a newspaper how many candidates it can endorse. The ability to spend money is not a right, any more than is the ability to own a newspaper. These are powers conferred through social processes of status and access to resources. I may have a right, as an individual to speak, but if I owned a newspaper, I would have the power to have my voice heard before a larger audience. I do not, as an individual, have a right to my own newspaper. A newspaper is something I can acquire if I have the resources to do so. The same holds true with spending money. Rights are universal; power is reserved for those who can acquire it. That’s the whole point of a society based on rights, to protect the common man and woman from trespasses of power. The creation of the concept of rights is an acknowledgement that abuses of power constitute an injustice and are destabilizing characteristics of society. This ethical and moral implication of rights is ignored, consistently, by the corporate apparatchiks on the Supreme Court.

And there’s the rub. The five conservative members of the Supreme Court are not ethical decision makers. They are cronies of the corporate establishment. We should not expect “justice” or “ethics” to shape their decisions. The very purpose of the Supreme Court is to distort the constitution enough to fit the narrow worldview of the corporate elite, to further empower the powerful at the expense of the Demos. That’s the only explanation for such ludicrous concepts coming off the high bench as “corporate personhood” or “money is speech” or “government speech.” These concepts are not in the Constitution. They are not even inferred regardless of the particular lens of the reader. These are inventions of the corporate elite which have become the dogma of the right wing.


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