On Sunday, Tea Party “darling” and Texas Senator Ted Cruz told a group of supporters in New Hampshire that his new plan to save America is to eliminate the limits on direct campaign contributions, allowing corporations and billionaires to completely purchase our political system, because he thinks corporate money equals free speech:
I believe in free speech and the First Amendment, which means everyone here has a right to speak out in politics as effectively as possible. To speak out and make your views known, whether that is standing on a street corner on a soap box, whether that is printing out a yard sign, whether that is spending money to run a radio ad or a TV ad, effectively communicating……Money absolutely can be speech from Day One. [Source]
Let’s be clear, what Cruz was really saying is that he wants the insanely wealthy one percent to be able to drown out the rest of the country by pouring as much money as they want into the political process to buy politicians and influence policy.
It would be Citizens United on steroids. He is seeing money signs and pretending to care about “freedom” — when all he wants to do is fill his own campaign coffers.
When the Supreme Court handed down their Citizens United ruling and called corporations people, Democrats knew that it was the beginning of the end of fair elections and we weren’t wrong. Since the ruling there has been an unprecedented amount of money being pumped into super-PACs. The PACs then bombard television and radio with their messages, effectively buying the elections.
In 2012, President Obama saw the writing on the wall and called for a constitutional amendment to overturn the SCOTUS ruling:
Over the longer term, I think we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United (assuming the Supreme Court doesn’t revisit it)….Money has always been a factor in politics, but we are seeing something new in the no-holds barred flow of seven and eight figure checks, most undisclosed, into super-PACs; they fundamentally threaten to overwhelm the political process over the long run and drown out the voices of ordinary citizen. [Source]
In September 2014, 54 Democrats and Independents in the Senate voted to overturn Citizens United and restore the political process but Republicans stopped them. They knew, just like Obama that the ruling would lead to exactly what ended up happening in the 2014 election: big donors drowning out the little guys.
OpenSecrets.org called 2014 “the year that the small donor got left behind” because outside groups did exactly what Obama and Democrats said they would do. These super-PACs donated at least $480 million to campigns compared to the 2010 midterms, which occurred 9 months after the ruling, where they contributed $309 million. However, only 666,773 individual donors contributed $200 or more to candidates in 2014 (with 6 days to go before the elections) compared to 2010’s 817,464 individual donors. As a matter of fact, outside groups outspent candidates themselves in 28 races.
Last month President Obama called for a constitutional amendment again:
I would love to see some constitutional process that would allow us to actually regulate campaign spending the way we used to, and maybe even improve it.
With Republicans now in control of both the House and the Senate we have a geater chance of snow in Southern Florida in July than that happening.
Cruz and his fellow Republicans want your voices to go unheard. If limits on direct donations were eliminated, that wouldn’t benefit the American PEOPLE — who do not have unlimited funds and can only donate a couple hundred dollars. The only “people” this would benefit are one percenters and billionaires; it would be even worse on our already corrupt system of democracy — because candidates would know exactly who was buying them and could influence legislation accordingly.
That’s right. Ted Cruz and the Republican Party’s version of “freedom” is allowing the wealthy elite and multinational corporations to completely purchase our government.
Thanks, but no thanks, Ted.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.