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Even the NYTimes Objects

Maybe this is too parochial, but... even the NYTimes thinks the Sheldon Adelson Republican primary is a shocking travesty...though their news columns didn't seem to pay much attention.

Here, from the Editorial Page Editor's Blog (who knew?) is David Firestone's comment under the headline: "The Line to Kiss Sheldon Adelson's Boots."  Well you know what they mean but it's not fit to print.

"It’s hard to imagine a political spectacle more loathsome than the parade of Republican presidential candidates who spent the last few days bowing and scraping before the mighty bank account of the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. One by one, they stood at a microphone in Mr. Adelson’s Venetian hotel in Las Vegas and spoke to the Republican Jewish Coalition (also a wholly owned subsidiary of Mr. Adelson), hoping to sound sufficiently pro-Israel and pro-interventionist and philo-Semitic to win a portion of Mr. Adelson’s billions for their campaigns."  And it gets better: NYTimes

About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.



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It's probably even too sensitive for a Jimmy fallon, but perhasp Colbert or John Stewart will "report" it,

John Stewart has. Apparently last night (March 31); haven't watched it yet.

Jimmie Fallon is a sweet kid, but emotionally he seems about eight years old.  I wish Seth Meyers were in that time spot..

Still just sipping my first cup of coffee:  But, I understand that SCOTUS has again struck down limits on all the dirty money in political campaigns.  It is SCOTUS that has enabled these twisted billionaire trolls to be interlopers in our elections.

No one would pay any attention to Sheldon Adelson - who gets most of his fortune from casino companies in Asia - if he didn't have $billions stached away in that motorized scooter he rides around in these days, and if he wasn't prepared to throw obscene amounts of money at any wacky Republican shills - or is the better descriptive prostitutes? 

Forget about Adelson - he has the worst political judgement ever:  he backed Newt last time?!?  All the money in the world will never rescue that lost Zionist dream of uniting "biblical Israel."  The Palestinians aren't going anywhere.  Besides, Palestinians are just making babies at a rate the Israelis can never compete with.  Most Israelis have accepted that fact, and want peace.

Isn't it time that if SCOTUS doesn't have an epiphany about the damaging effects of its corporate rulings on campaign financing, Americans should take to constitutional remedies?  

Yes, we need to amend the Constitution.  If Obama can rescue the ACA from its "death spiral" then he could certainly politically engineer a massive face-lift for SCOTUS - after the mid-terms.  Hilary could position herself really well with the left-wing if she called for a revolution on SCOTUS.

I usually think term limits are a really limp way to go, but Scalia,Thomas and Alito are insufferable.  Kennedy should be sent into retirement at Stanford's Hoover Institute.  Roberts most likely could probably find some cushy job with his corporate elite masters.

If Nancy Pelosi can ever reclaim the Speakership, the prospect of impeachment hearings should convince the gang of five that retirement would be the better course for them personally.  If any member of SCOTUS voted to elect Dubyah president or voted for Citizen United, they should be history - just go home.  

[Please, no hysterical comments about politicizing SCOTUS.  Let's all stipulate that the justices of SCOTUS are just politicians in black robes - at least that is the way they've been acting for a generation now.]

PS:  Jimmie Fallon is doing his job well of sending his audience to bed with a laugh and a smile - his comedy is not about political satire.  Besides, Seth Meyers is pretentious and NOT funny.

Yes, this morning's decision feeds the conspiratorial view that at least some of the Justices have lost their common sense/and or minds/and or are in the pay of very rich people.

And how do we characterize those who line up at the trough of the Trial lawyers association or the UAW for political contributions. Or those who seek out George Soros? Is objectivity now considered a character defect?

If the media attended such events as you describe, perhaps we'd have cannon fodder. But probably such fund raising is face-to-face between one candidate and one rich person in an office with the blinds drawn.

The media attention to the Las Vegas event stemmed from its character as an audition before several millionaires and billionaires held in a casino. It featured several of the potential Republican candidates speaking to these rich people not about their own platforms but about what the rich people expect if these guys get elected. It was sponsored by the Republican Jewish Caucus (nothing wrong with that), but the host, Sheldon Adelson has made it clear that his primary and perhaps only interest in the candidates has to do with their unstinting support for Israel and its occupation of the West Bank. Dare we simply call this man an Israeli firster?  Then too, the media seems to have been there, invited or not, I don't know.

The role of money in our political campaigns is ever more noxious (witness the SC decision today). This event was a characature of that dismal situation. The media would have been less than objective had it failed to report. And why shouldn't we citizens discuss it as well?

Could this SC decision reduce or at least alter the influence of the Adelsons of the political world?  This is former FEC commissioner Bradley A Smith, writing at National Review Online:

The practical results of this decision will be to make fundraising easier for party committees and candidates. That is almost certainly a good thing and should help ease concerns that “super PACS” are too influential with parties.

I've thought for some time that it is problematic that candidates and parties aren't permitted to exercise any control or influence over the super PAC message machines.  In my view, it would be better if candidates could be held responsible for the messaging and politicking done on their behalf.  If Sheldon Adelson wants to spend $50 million on a presidential election, I suppose there is no way to prevent it.  But it would be better for our civic culture if the GOP, or whoever will be the recipient of that bonanza, is held accountable for how it's spent and the messaging it generates.


JP: That might be one possible outcome. But if the big money goes to primary candidates doesn't that reduce the role of the party? And if that is so, big money controls who it is we vote for in the general election. Of course, big money could function like this for all candidates, irrespective of party, but still control the kind of representatives we get and the kind of political agenda such reps will advance.


It seems to me that the big clash here is between the Enlightenment assumption of the Founding Fathers that man is rational and, when citizens are offered facts through free speech, that the citizens will recognize what is true and opt for policies that are rational.  But twe contemporary citizens know that this is not true -- we know that we can be swayed by clever advertizing and by lies, paid for by those with money.  In other words, money is often the enemy of rationality and good democratic government.  There seems to be an implicit contradiction within the very Constitution itself.  How to fix that is anybody's guess.

Yes! It often seems our politics is the opposite of rational, to which the Supreme Court decision announced Monday contributes. Since it was on free speech grounds, you have to wonder if there is any limits--except shouting fire in a crowded theater. That's probably on its way out too.

Margaret - here in Illinois, we just witnessed a GOP gubernatorial primary in which one candidate, Bruce Rauner, is worth hundreds of millions of dollars.  He ran against three candidates who are career public servants - two state senators and the state treasurer, none of whom had personal fortunes to draw upon. Throughout the campaign, the rich guy was far ahead of the other three, mostly because he was the only one who could afford television ads.  He was so far ahead that he essentially dialed down his primary campaign, and started running television ads against the Democratic incumbent, several weeks before the actual primary vote.

But one of those other three guys closed fast in the waning days of the primary campaign.  He managed to separate himself from the other two and make the leader sweat by cutting a deal with public sector unions (somewhat unusual for a Republican), who threw their support behind him, sponsoring television ads against the rich guy and getting out the vote (Illinois, as you probably know, is an open-primary state, and apparently many teachers and other public-sector employees requested Republican ballots to vote against the rich guy).  The union-supported guy ended up losing but it was much closer than most observers had expected.  It's pretty clear that, without union support, he wouldn't have done nearly as well.

Thus, one candidate had a huge built-in advantage because he had millions of his own dollars at his disposal.  The only guy who made the race competitive did so with outside money - the equivalent of Sheldon Adelson money.

Which is preferable - to have a wealthy candidate, or to have a sponsored candidate?  Those may be the only two realistic options these days.  Could it be said that the outside money (in this case, union money) gave Illinois voters greater choice?  I don't know which is better or worse - I'm wondering what you think.


It seems to me that the big clash here is between the Enlightenment assumption of the Founding Fathers that man is rational and, when citizens are offered facts through free speech, that the citizens will recognize what is true and opt for policies that are rational.  But twe contemporary citizens know that this is not true -- we know that we can be swayed by clever advertizing and by lies, paid for by those with money. 

The Founding Fathers also recognized the importance of an engaged citizenry.  De Toqueville marvelled at the engagement of the American citizen.  This engagement is one form of this thing called social capital that I keep injecting into these discussions.  Our social capital has deteriorated over the last few decades, and political disengagement is one symptom of it.

I really think the antidote to the influence of money is citizen engagement.  The ability to engage and mobilize voters who don't typically vote in large numbers was the wonder of the Obama campaign in 2008.  The Religious Right in the 1980s and 90s, and the Tea Party the last five or six years, are other examples of successful voter mobilization.  Ultimately, the currency of democracy isn't money, it's votes.  If voters can be mobilized without large donations, then the influence of large donors can be at least somewhat neutralized.  Unions are important in elections because they are the biggest donors, but also because they can still mobilize votes, at least in some locales.  


JP: Citizen engagement: Lawrence Lessig, Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress--and a Plan to Stop It. This was written prior to the 2012 presidential election and did an excellent job of showing what money could buy and how. There is also a lot about money and lobbying in addiiton to money and political campaigns.

Lessig is a copyright lawyer, but is also involved in issues of election reform. He is a founder of Rootstrikers, an election reform group, describied here:

Will the Illinois Republican candidate for governor do a Scott Walker on you?

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