Forget super PACs. A modest proposal for legalizing bribery

Steven Pearlstein writes: Who says government can’t get anything right?

It was just two years ago that the Supreme Court, in a landmark decision, scraped away decades of barnacled case law obscuring our beloved Constitution and unequivocally established the right of corporations, unions and wealthy individuals to spend as much money as they want to influence the outcome of elections.

I doubt even Justice Anthony Kennedy could have imagined how splendidly things would have turned out when he crafted his tightly reasoned decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Without the money from casino magnates and private-equity managers, just think of how many voices, how many opinions, how many great ideas would never have reached the voters in the Republican presidential primary.

Thanks to Kennedy and his colleagues, the 1% has funneled tens of millions of dollars to the new campaign “super PACs,” those independent groups run by former campaign aides that are prohibited from “coordinating” their efforts with the official campaigns (wink, wink). Already, super-PAC fundraising and spending has exceeded that of the campaigns. By the time the 2012 election cycle is finished, don’t be surprised if super-PAC spending reaches into the billions.

And why not? The prospect of another four years of Barack Obama in the White House, or a return of Democratic control in Congress, could cost businesses and wealthy investors tens of billions of dollars in additional taxes or foregone profits due to job-killing regulation. Why not spend a couple of billion every election cycle to insure themselves against such catastrophe?

Justice Antonin Scalia said it best when he noted, in an earlier dissent, that the limits on corporate political spending have “muffled the voices that best represent the most significant segments of the economy.” God bless Nino. It’s heart-warming to know that somebody in Washington is willing to stand up for the powerless and the politically dispossessed!

This effort to finally allow corporations a voice in the public square began in 1976 when the high court ruled, in a suit brought by conservative N.Y. Sen. James Buckley, that there is no difference between money and speech, at least as far as the U.S. Constitution is concerned.

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