Saturday, January 29, 2011

Privatizing Elections: A Republican Wet Dream

Last week I reported that House Republicans intended to end the Presidential Election Campaign Fund, the Watergate-era law that created a role for public financing of elections. This latest effort to give the wealthy ever more control over our democratic institutions passed an important hurdle on Wednesday by a 239-160 vote margin. As with virtually all substantive legislation, the vote fell sharply on party lines.

Republican leaders never fail to give reason for loathing. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor claimed the bill was a "no-brainer." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, introduced the bill into the Senate, claiming, “In a time of exploding deficits and record debt, the last thing the American people want right now is to provide what amounts to welfare for politicians.”

These, of course, are the same people who continue to vote for various corporate subsidies, allow corporations to avoid taxes through sweetheart legislation, happily line their pockets with corporate donations, oversee the monstrous and lucrative defense contracts that put billions of taxpayers' dollars into corporate coffers, and voted to extend tax cuts to America's richest.

What the budget deficit does is allow Republicans to chip away at any number of programs, however valuable, in the guise of attacking the deficit. The actual budgetary impact of many of the programs they insist must end is quite modest; $20 million here, $50 million there. Seems like a lot until you realize the total amount doesn't pay for a single B-1 bomber.

Republican presidential candidates know they personally will have no trouble raising huge sums of cash for future elections because they do corporate America's bidding. Progressive politicians who try to rein in the march to oligarchy will have a much tougher time raising money. And that disproportionate impact is why Republicans would love to end public financing. Obama's great fund-raising success in 2008, which did not rely on public funds, will be tough to repeat, and thanks to Citizens United, will likely be overshadowed as corporations and the super-wealthy reassert and extend their traditional dominance.

The bill still has to pass the Senate, which seems unlikely, and then be signed into law by the President, which is even more unlikely. I would feel better about this were it not for the Democrats' proven ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. 

See BusinessWeek for more details.

No comments:

Post a Comment