Friday, October 15, 2010

Intended Consequences

Tim Rutten's latest column is (as usual) well worth the read. He points out that following the money in this election cycle has become difficult, if not downright impossible.

To an extent not seen in generations, companies and wealthy investors with a naked economic interest in influencing election results are pouring money into races.

Big money's reassertion of its interests is the result of two recent game-changing events. One was the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, which overturned provisions of the bipartisan McCain-Feingold campaign finance act that prohibited corporations and unions from making supposedly independent, third-party expenditures to influence the outcome of electoral contests.

The other was emendation of the tax code to allow creation of so-called 501(c)(4) political action committees to which donors can contribute anonymously. Such organizations are supposed to make less than half of their expenditures for political purposes. But the definition of "educational" activity is extremely squishy, and organizations are able to lump a lot of things that look like blatant politicking under that umbrella.
[Emphasis added]

Rutten does a nice job in sussing out the results of these two "game-changing events," but he then makes a rather curious statement:

The law of unintended consequences operates as surely in politics as it does everywhere else, and the drafters of legislation establishing 501(c)(4) organizations may have thought they were promoting philanthropy as surely as the five conservative justices on the Roberts court who struck down that crucial provision of McCain-Feingold believed they were upholding the 1st Amendment.

Unintended consequences?

Oh, please.

Either Tim Rutten has become a master at snark (and that certainly is possible) or he is even more naive than I am (and that's saying something). Sure, the money is flowing to Republicans this season, just as it flowed to Democrats the last time around. When it comes to big money, party affiliation is irrelevant, as we have seen the last two years during which the Democrats held the White House and Congress. The banks, Wall Street, and insurance companies made out like the bandits they are. The rest of us are unemployed or underemployed, working more and earning less in terms of actual purchasing power, homeless or one paycheck or medical emergency away from that state.

No, I don't think those consequences were unintended. Our owners got just what they wanted from the people they had purchased.

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