Why we fight money in politics [Opinion: The Arena]


Last week two political actions in downtown Louisville highlighted opposite sides of the same coin.  Heads was a protest put on by Occupy Louisville as part of the nationwide Occupy the Courts day of action marking the two year anniversary of the Supreme Court's Citizen United decision. This decision has turned the deluge of money pouring into the political process into a dam break. Tails was MoveOn's delivery of hundreds of thousands of petition signatures to President Obama (via the local headquarters of the Democratic Party on Barret Avenue) begging him not to sign away the Justice Department's right to investigate or prosecute criminal misconduct committed by the finance and banking industry... which donated $42 million to his 2008 campaign.

Without a doubt, the highlight of both actions was the mock wedding staged by Occupy Louisville, in which the relationship between Corporate America and The Government was legalized, as the "judge" declared, after having been consummated long ago. At least, it would have been made legal except that when the people were given the option of objecting now or forever holding their peace, everyone in attendance chose to object.

The connecting thread between the two protests isn't their subject matter, but the mistrust over the motives of our elected officials. Lurking behind both the Tea Party movement and the Occupy Movement is the suspicion, to say the least, that corporations and moneyed interests have rigged the system, and that the government of and by the people is no longer for the people. Given the finances involved, and years of punishing legislative decisions that cannot be explained any other way, it is of no surprise that the population is very concerned.

After the 2008 election, it was widely reported that America had gone through its first billion dollar election. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the Obama and McCain campaigns raised a combined $1.1 billion. On top of that, there was another $500 million raised by other candidates like Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, John Edwards, etc. And... on top of that, there was another $215 million spent by political action committees and still more by the now infamous "527" organizations.  Altogether, the 2008 election ran closer to $2 billion.

That $2 billion in 2008 dwarfed the previous election in 2004, which in turn dwarfed the election before that in 2000. And that $2 billion is before the dam burst of Citizens United.