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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Free Speech for Billionaires

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If corporations are people, my friend, why can’t we incarcerate the entire corporation of General Motors for covering up a deadly automobile safety defect for more than a decade that killed 13 people?

And even if money is speech, can’t we at least make it against the law for billionaires to shout “More tax cuts for me!!” in a crowded theater?

The U.S. Supreme Court continues to make it virtually impossible for any laws to be passed to try to prevent millionaires and billionaires from buying as many elections as they want.

That’s why the Chicago-based Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ gutting of Wisconsin’s campaign finance regulations was totally predictable. The law of the land for now is that rich people are completely above any campaign regulations.

Remember when Wisconsin Democratic U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold partnered with Arizona Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain in a bipartisan attempt to reduce the tsunami of dirty money in politics from shady, anonymous donors?

Ever since the McCain-Feingold reforms passed in 2002, the conservative Supreme Court majority has destroyed them piece by piece to restore the unlimited buying of elections by the richest people in America.

Of course, they can’t actually say that out loud. But it’s hilarious what they do say out loud to justify unleashing obscene amounts of money to corrupt elections all across America.

Get this: They’re protecting the free speech of billionaires.

If there is any class in the country whose voices are heard loud and clear in our politics, it is those of millionaires and billionaires. It’s all the rest of us who need our free speech protected to keep from being drowned out by the thunderous roar of the richest 1%.

For decades, Republicans skipped right over the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment protecting free speech. They always thought the Second Amendment promoting guns was No. 1.

At the end of World War I, Milwaukee socialist newspaper publisher Victor Berger was sentenced to 20 years in prison for publishing anti-war editorials. Federal Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, later baseball’s first commissioner, said he only regretted he couldn’t have Berger “lined up against the wall and shot.”

During Vietnam, Republicans advocated having anyone opposed to the war deported to the Soviet Union.

But if anyone tries to prevent billionaires from expressing their political opinions by contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to Republican campaigns, Republicans are suddenly ready to join the American Civil Liberties Union.

Even more preposterous than money being re-defined as speech is the Supreme Court’s ludicrous definition of corporations as people. That grants corporations the right to make unlimited campaign contributions to politicians who are supposed to regulate them.

The actual rule should always be phrased in the campaign words of Mitt Romney: “Corporations are people, my friend.” That has just the right tone of arrogant condescension toward all the rest of us who are considered lesser people, more like “people-lite.”

We’ve already seen the disastrous effects of backroom collaboration between politicians and the corporations that buy them. It was the second worst economic collapse in American history.

Despite blatant criminal activity in banking and finance, which threw millions of Americans out of work and millions more out of their foreclosed homes, the perpetrators walk free. They were considered “too big to jail.”

It’s too bad all the black and brown poor people serving long prison terms for robbing filling stations or suffering from drug addictions didn’t commit bigger crimes. It turns out little people whose crimes don’t hurt millions of people are just the right size to jail.

 

Wealthy Don’t Want To Be Investigated

Despite seldom going to prison for their crimes, wealthy, right-wing political groups in Wisconsin don’t think they should even have to go through the bother of being investigated for possible criminal activity.

The Wisconsin Club for Growth filed a federal lawsuit to shut down a John Doe investigation conducted by five district attorneys, Republican and Democratic. Prosecutors are looking into possible illegal activity by right-wing organizations that apparently coordinated with the recall campaigns of Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislators.

Those under investigation have a friend in U.S. Judge Rudolph Randa, whose bizarre decisions have blocked prosecutors and even ordered evidence destroyed.

Ultimately, it’s hard to believe higher courts would prevent prosecutors from conducting investigations to find out whether crimes have been committed.

Grossly distorting the First Amendment, the Wisconsin Club for Growth argues the mere act of being investigated “chills” their freedom of speech and association.

Of course, that’s why John Doe investigations and grand juries are conducted in secret. But the Wisconsin Club for Growth and its friends intentionally destroyed that for themselves by leaking information to The Wall Street Journal and other news outlets.

Freedom of speech is supposed to protect everyone’s voice, especially minority views or unpopular ideas that can be easily overwhelmed by the louder, more powerful voices of a privileged few.

Millionaires and billionaires already have the most deafening, most overwhelming voices in American politics.