Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Greenwald on the Citizens United Ruling

Glenn Greenwald does his usual brilliant job of analyzing the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United. He punctures, as I attempted to do, the astonishingly overwrought arguments being used against the decision about how this is the coming of corporate fascism and now big business will have unlimited influence in politics — as if they didn’t already.

Here he makes essentially the same argument I made, only much more eloquently:

I’m also quite skeptical of the apocalyptic claims about how this decision will radically transform and subvert our democracy by empowering corporate control over the political process. My skepticism is due to one principal fact: I really don’t see how things can get much worse in that regard. The reality is that our political institutions are already completely beholden to and controlled by large corporate interests (Dick Durbin: “banks own” the Congress). Corporations find endless ways to circumvent current restrictions — their armies of PACs, lobbyists, media control, and revolving-door rewards flood Washington and currently ensure their stranglehold — and while this decision will make things marginally worse, I can’t imagine how it could worsen fundamentally. All of the hand-wringing sounds to me like someone expressing serious worry that a new law in North Korea will make the country more tyrannical. There’s not much room for our corporatist political system to get more corporatist. Does anyone believe that the ability of corporations to influence our political process was meaningfully limited before yesterday’s issuance of this ruling?

If you did believe that corporate influence was limited in any meaningful way earlier this week before this ruling, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. Does anyone really think that Monsanto or Dow Chemical or General Dynamics sat around during last year’s election thinking, “Boy, we’d really like to spend millions of dollars to influence this election and make sure that candidates that will do our bidding get elected, but it’s just so much trouble to set up a PAC or a 527 or give money to a chamber of commerce or an industry trade group, none of which have any limits on how much they can spend?”

Of course not. They did spend those millions of dollars on behalf of those candidates that will do their bidding, they just did it through a 527 called Americans for Clean Water and Fluffy Bunnies or Patriots for American Values. Bear in mind that all of those pro-corporate bills that passed during the Clinton and Bush years took place with all of those alleged restrictions in place.

The fact is that those laws were never intended to protect our legislators against the influence of corporate money; why in the world would those legislators who benefit from that money voluntarily kill the golden goose? No, those laws were only intended to give the illusion that Congress was preventing the influence of corporate money. It was a con from the start.

He also debunks the pragmatic political argument:

I’m even more unpersuaded by the argument — seen in today’s New York Times Editorial — that this decision will “ensure that Republican candidates will be at an enormous advantage in future elections.” What evidence is there for that? Over the past five years, corporate money has poured far more into the coffers of the Democratic Party than the GOP — and far more into Obama’s campaign coffers than McCain’s (especially from Wall Street). If anything, unlimited corporate money will be far more likely to strengthen incumbents than either of the two parties (and unlimited union spending, though dwarfed by corporate spending, will obviously benefit Democrats more).

Exactly right.