Saturday April 12,2014 : MONEY AND POLITICS – A DANGEROUS MIX.
US Supreme Court confirms wealthy donors can give as much as they wish.
The online gambling industry has been served another example of the influence of big money in US politics recently with Sheldon Adelson's seriously well-funded jihad against the legalization of most forms of internet gambling in the United States, and a Supreme Court ruling on the subject this week is therefore all the more noteworthy.
The court ruled on the case of McCutcheon et al v. the Federal Election Commission decision, with Chief Justice John Roberts and his four learned colleagues declaring that under free speech provisions, individual Americans have the right to give as much money and support as they wish to federal politicians and their party election committees.
“Spending large sums of money in connection with elections, but not in connection with an effort to control the exercise of an officeholder’s official duties, does not give rise to such quid pro quo corruption,” Justice Roberts observed.
In criticising the decision in an op-ed piece, the publication Enterprise listed Sheldon Adelson's generous donations to the Republican Party and linked that with the land casino owner's preparedness to spend large sums of money in order to secure a federal ban on most types of online gambling, commenting:
"We know what the biggest of political donors want. They have their favorite parties, politicians and policies.
"Sheldon Adelson, leader of a global casino empire, wants to keep Internet gambling illegal because it competes with his financial interests. He wants to avoid federal prosecution for bribing Chinese officials, and he’s against a two-state solution in the Mideast.
“Adelson gave around $100 million to Republican political candidates in the last election. According to the New York Times, one such Republican, Sen. Lyndsey Graham of South Carolina, drafted legalization with Adelson’s lobbyist that would restrict online gambling, and then introduced it in Congress last month."
Giving another example of how the super-wealthy may seek to influence political decisions, Enterprise reports that hedge-fund billionaire and founder of the NextGen Super PAC (political action committee) Tom Steyer plans to give $100 million to mainly Democratic Party candidates in the next election.
"Everyone knows he cares about environmental issues. He has pledged to use his campaign clout to stop the Keystone XL pipeline and make climate change a focal point in American politics through negative ads and other tactics," Enterprise notes, suggesting that the Supreme Court's definition of corruption may be too narrow when it comes to the political clout such wealthy individuals can wield.
Enterprise argues its point by drawing a comparison with practice in the private sector, where the standard for conflict of interest is well-established.
"Training sessions required for employees typically ask whether a vendor offering tickets to a ballgame, or making a donation to your favorite charity, or offering to invest in an enterprise run by a friend of yours, would constitute a conflict of interest. The answer is always a clear yes, since the favor given by the vendor cannot be separated, in appearance or in realty, from your decision to do business with his company," the publication observes.
"[Chief Justice] Roberts assumes raising campaign funds and getting elected mean so little to candidates that they would never let those things influence the votes they make in Congress or the actions they take as public officials.
"He assumes there is no transaction in what looks, smells and feels like the trading of millions of dollars for government actions.
"The Roberts court’s complete disregard of political reality is disturbing. Everyone knows what Adelson, Steyer and fellow billionaires on both sides of the aisle want, and everyone knows they are trying to achieve those ends by purchasing the services of elected officials.
"By denying the appearance, let alone the reality, of conflict of interest, the court has helped to sell America to the highest bidder."