By Meghan Cleary
Opponents of a constitutional amendment to regulate campaign spending had plenty to say during Tuesday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the proposal. But they were all but silent on one of the central issues: the dangers of very wealthy people buying our elections.
You'd think that Republican leaders like Sens. Mitch McConnell ("The Darth Vader of campaign finance reform") and Ted Cruz would want to respond to and nullify such allegations. But in hours of hyperbolic and alarmist rhetoric (I'm looking at you, Sen. Cruz), they didn't. Why? Most likely because even they can't deny that such undemocratic "elections" already are happening.
On the pro-amendment side, North Carolina assemblyman Floyd McKissick's testimony included a story almost too outrageous to be true. He described how a single businessman bankrolled three-quarters of the outside spending in elections that in 2012 gave North Carolina its first Republican governor in 20 years and first GOP legislature in more than 100. Once elected, the new governor made that donor his budget director, the first cabinet appointee of the new administration. That man is Art Pope, and he is North Carolina's personal version of the Koch Brothers.
The Pope-funded shift in North Carolina's legislature aims to transform a state which McKissick described as "formerly centrist" into a right-wing bastion. Early voting and same day registration were slashed and voter ID laws enacted. Corporate income taxes and taxes on the wealthiest were cut while long term unemployment was eliminated, public education funding reduced drastically and Medicaid access restricted. At the same time, the legislature repealed North Carolina's popular public judicial election financing system, "Voter Owned Elections" and made it easier for major political donors to hide their spending. As McKissick observed, Pope "could afford to spend lavishly, and he certainly got his money's worth."
Sadly North Carolina's regression isn't unique. A handful of people with big money are drowning out the voices of everyone else. The best way to stop it is to amend the Constitution by giving Congress the power to limit political spending. Tell your Senator that you support S.J. Res. 19 to #GetMoneyOut.
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: Money in Politics
Tags: Citizens United