On Super-PACs and Corporate Donations

Cartoon of Romney Super PAC

By Richardt Stormsgaard –

Some progressive politicians brag that they will run campaigns without accepting donations from Super-Pacs and major corporate donors. By doing this they buy into and accept the right-wing lie that Democrats are just as bad as Republicans because both receive campaign donations from very wealthy people. If these progressive candidates cannot draw a powerful distinction between very wealthy individuals donating money to progressive causes for the common good of all Americans and the Koch groups that are committed to destroying our social safety net, clean air and water regulations, and defunding our infrastructure purely for corporate gain, these candidates are on a wrong and a very dangerous track, in my opinion.

After the 2010 SCOTUS Citizens United decision, it is now an absolute fact corporations can give unlimited amounts of money. But changing that reality will mean Democrats need to become the dominant political party, and over time change the make-up of the Supreme Court. This is a process that will take many years because the SCOTUS judges are appointed for life. It took the Koch Brothers along with their allies a half century to pervert the political and judicial landscape enough to produce the Citizens United decision, and it may take just as much time to get corporate money out of politics, if ever.

Our unfortunate system of corporate donations to politicians is a scourge, but a reality nonetheless, and we will likely continue losing elections if our candidates fight with their hands tied behind their backs against conservatives with unlimited dark funding. Two more losses of state houses and Republicans can call for a Constitutional Convention. This is their stated agenda according to the 2016 Republican Party Platform:

  • Ban Abortion
  • Remove Birthright Citizenship
  • Reverse Marriage Equality
  • Restrict Voting Rights
  • Unlimited Permanent Corporate funding
  • Destroy Safety Net Programs

We cannot risk having our Constitution permanently redrawn to reflect right-wing values and must continue to warn our voters to be realistic about the threat we are under from the right wing. We should appreciate and thank progressive mega-donors like Warren Buffett, Tom Steyer and George Soros, just to name a few. George Soros began as a huge donor to Eastern European countries when they established their various democracies after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but in 2004 he began concentrating more on the US, realizing the current threat to our very democracy

4 Comments on “On Super-PACs and Corporate Donations”

  1. I think this is a discussion worth having. We do not want our politicians beholden to certain industries that are destroying the air we breath and the water we drink. We do not want Wall Street deciding economic policy. We do not want the pharmaceutical companies deciding healthcare policy. So what to do? Campaigns cost money. Is there a way we could come to some consensus on which dollars would be acceptable?

  2. Richard, even though I am a staunch proponent of a Constitutional amendment that makes clear that political spending is different from the free speech of persons and that corporate speech is not protected by the First Amendment, I agree with you. Requiring our Democratic candidates for office to refuse campaign donations from wealthy donors or PACs is wrongheaded. To restrict acceptance of political donations that are permitted by our current laws puts our candidates at a disadvantage we cannot afford. Our Party must be pragmatic sometimes, and this is one of them. There is no inconsistency between working to enact laws that fairly restrict political donations and accepting whatever donations are allowed by today’s laws. Our Party and our candidates must be up-front and unapologetic in making this case.

  3. Donations to the party from relatively disinterested elite liberals like Soros are not the real problem, and I think you know, or should know that. The problem is corporate control of the political agenda of both parties via lobbying, the revolving door, and targeted donations for individual campaigns, the latter being the quid for the pro quo. The major corporate donors to the Democrats come from from Wall Street, Big Pharma and Big Tech, whereas the Republicans, by industry, are controlled by Big Oil, Big Ag and the weapons manufacturers. Obviously there is much cross-over, but that is the big picture, according to the data.

    It is 100% obvious to progressives that the reason we don’t have single payer health care is the power of the Big Pharma, or more properly, the medical industrial complex, to control key Democrats, like Feinstein, Pelosi, Daschle, and so many more. So it is also 100% critical that we support candidates who do not take these legalized bribes, because it is obviously inescapable, that once you do, you are expected to act in the interests of your donors, and therefore against the public interest, just as each centrist Democrat who votes against progressive change repeatedly does.

    To belittle the principled position of not taking corporate cash, as so many centrists do, as an idealistically unreasonable purity test, is to pretend not to recognize what the 90% of the US public recognizes: that corporations have too much control over government.

    The move to the right to play ball with corporate America had some success in the 90s. but has become an utter failure, particularly during Obama’s presidency, as the loss of a 1,000 offices, the entire Federal Government, the Supreme Court and 2/3 of legislatures demonstrates.

    The idea that we should continue to operate in exactly the same way in the future,playing it “safe” with middle of the road candidates that receive the donors’ blessings, borders on insanity. It will not work in the long run, as 2016 proved. Clinton outspent Trump, with all that corporate cash, and she still lost.

    Sure we might go another round with another disappointing centrist in 2020, if the DNC manages to outmanoever the most popular politician in the country (60% of public, 80% of Democrats), who I hope will run again…you know the one the mainstream media still almost never mentions despite being the actual leader of the revolution and resistance. Bernie’s agenda is exactly what the American public wants, it is only the centrists who cannot admit this because their donors would be unpleased with: Medicare for all, free college, $15 minimum wage, supporting unionization, green energy and infrastructure public works, taxing the ultrarich.
    Ouch, you can here each one of those policies stepping on the toes of the big donors, and this has crushed the imagination of so many Democrats that they believe these policies to be unthinkable. Clinton went so far as to say Medicare for All will “never happen”. This kind of thinking is deeply uninspiring, and given that millennials overwhelmingly favor progressives over centrists, is a losing strategy, in the long run.

    So this is why not taking corporate cash is central, essential, uncompromisable, to the progressive agenda. It is not some wishful thinking or a mere identity badge to distinguish them from centrists. It is the key.

  4. Response to Janine Rickard

    The last half century the Democratic Party has been trashed by an increasingly right-wing Republican Party specifically on the issue that it was too socialistic.
    American voters beginning with the Reagan Democrats and the Southern Democrats during a time when they were by far the wealthiest in the world began voting for Republicans on the false promise that trickle-down economics and free enterprise would give them even more wealth and freedom. True American liberty for all.

    We are currently 2 states away from having a new Constitution redrawn by right-wing extremists and there may no longer be the opportunity for millennials to have any say in our future because we will have an oligarchy supported by extreme wealth and the strongest military in the world.

    Your wish list that you attribute to Bernie Sanders has been shot down again and again, decade after decade, in various forms by American voters, and you left out some of the most important ones like affordable subsidized child-care, permanent affordable subsidized nursing-home and assisted living care, and paid family leave that would have a much broader appeal than just to so-called millennials. These are all standard in Western and Northern European countries in one form or another.

    It is not the Democratic Party that has abandoned progressive values through the last many decades. It is the American voters, and Democratic leaders have done the best to stem the right-wing ascendancy. When Republicans successfully began appealing to latent racism with the “welfare queen” and “Willie Horton” false narratives they found an important key to success with large voter groups, but I for one am proud as a Democrat that Democrats have been steadfast in protecting the civil rights and voting rights of black Americans even though it bears partial responsibility for having brought us close to the abyss as a democracy.

    There are now strong indications that the tide is turning. Moderates are realizing the depth of right-wing depravity with their attacks on various minorities and the commitment to destroy our social safety net, along with clean air and water, but if we stray way off message with ideas that clearly are socialistic it will give the right-wing the opportunity to divert the attention of voters away the core issues I mentioned above. They will turn the next elections into referendums on whether the US should remain the “America We All Love and Cherish” or should we become “One of Those Socialistic Northern and Western Countries”, and avoid being held responsible for their attacks on the social safety net, our civil and voting rights, and our democracy in general. And I am quite certain that a huge number of voters that you believe are Bernie Sanders supporters will vote for the former and not the latter.

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