Koch Pledge Torpedoes Democracy, Mocks Citizens United
by Matthew Rothschild, Executive Director
January 27, 2015
With the revelation that the Koch brothers intend to spend $889 million on the 2016 elections, the idea that citizens have an equal voice in our democracy is now just a bad joke.
These two billionaire rightwing industrialists are intent on buying our elected officials, and pocketing our public policy.
They will be spending more than the Republican National Committee and its Congressional fundraising arms spent in 2012, and more than the Democratic National Committee and its Congressional fundraising arms spent.
The Koch brothers are torpedoing our democracy, but it was the U.S. Supreme Court that loaded the torpedoes when it ruled in 2010, in its infamous Citizens United decision, that corporations are persons, and money is speech, and any group can give unlimited amounts of money to elect candidates of their choosing so long as they don’t coordinate their activities with those candidates.
In Citizens United, it issued the two most naïve sentences ever written by the Supreme Court:
1. “Independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.”
2. “The appearance of influence or access, furthermore, will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy.”
But it’s hard not to lose faith in our democracy when two billionaires and a handful of their billionaire friends can get out their checkbooks and spend almost $1 billion to get their anti-union, anti-regulation candidates elected. You’d have to be an idiot or a fool to believe that once those candidates are elected, they won’t dance to the tune of their donors. For evidence, just look at how Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker drooled all over the phone when he thought he was talking to David Koch during the prank call made by journalist Ian Murphy.
And beware: The Koch brothers aren’t content to buy just the Presidency and the Congress. They want to buy governors’ mansions, state legislatures, and even the tiniest local boards. They spent $5.5 million in Wisconsin alone since the Citizens United decision, and some of that money went to knock off two pro-union school board members in Kenosha.
This is not democracy; this is plutocracy. It was cynically foisted upon us by a 5-4 conservative majority of the Supreme Court.
As Justice John Paul Stevens powerfully wrote in his dissent in Citizens United: “Starting today, corporations with large war chests to deploy on electioneering may find democratically elected bodies becoming much more attuned to their interests.” He added that the Court’s distorted “approach to the First Amendment may well promote corporate power at the cost of the individual and collective self-expression the Amendment was meant to serve. It will undoubtedly cripple the ability of ordinary citizens, Congress, and the States to adopt even limited measures to protect against corporate domination of the electoral process.”
And so it has.
The Koch brothers’ decision to spend nearly $1 billion on the 2016 elections should have one positive repercussion, though. It should spur on the burgeoning grassroots movement to overturn Citizens United by amending the U.S. Constitution to say, once and for all, that corporations aren’t persons, and money isn’t speech, and government has the right to regulate campaign spending.