Saturday, January 14, 2012

back to the robber barons?

NYTimes | With federal campaigns already knee-deep in a new era of laissez-faire money, the Republican National Committee has brazenly proposed the ultimate step — that the 105-year-old ban on direct corporation contributions to candidates and parties be scrapped as unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court’s misguided Citizens United decision did damage enough to fair elections by freeing corporations to make unlimited donations to supposedly independent campaign expenditure groups. But the court said nothing about the basic 1907 reform law — enacted after the robber baron scandals — that bans corporate donors from wooing candidates directly with largess.

The R.N.C., in a brief filed in federal court in Virginia, would effectively spike that law by freeing candidates to solicit what could amount to a million-dollar-plus donation from any corporation seeking clout. The result would dash the anticorruption restrictions on candidates’ money seeking under the McCain-Feingold law, inviting a blizzard of money and favors directly between donors and politicians.

Republicans argue that the logic of Citizens United points toward scrapping the ban on direct corporate giving. This was the muddled reasoning of a federal district judge who overreached last year from the Supreme Court decision. The R.N.C. aimed to keep that possibility alive in the current appeal by filing a brief in opposition to the Justice Department’s defense of corporate restrictions.

Crucial to the R.N.C. position is having its own coffers keep pace with the new boom in corporate donations to “independent” so-called super PACs unleashed by Citizens United that do the candidates’ dirty work. “Traditional political parties and candidate committees are in danger of having their voices drowned out,” the R.N.C. wailed.


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