Tuesday, August 4, 2015

'I do hope that doggie's for sale'

One would say that the good outweighed the bad for Ted Cruz last week, and the bad was horrid.

In the Senate, he was openly scorned by fellow Republicans for his routine and rash showboating. That included calling Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar.

Cruz. blazing a culinary trail this week with "machine-gun bacon," was excluded from the conference committee on the defense appropriations bill, a veritable mackerel across the face.

Ah, but on the other hand -- the hand that makes the bacon -- Cruz got by nicely.

Texas fracking moguls Farris and Dan Wilks think more highly of Cruz than Republican respondents in the most recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. It shows Cruz at 9 percent. The Wilks brothers donated a staggering $15 million to Cruz's super PAC.

This is a means of saying that while getting accustomed to the presence of Donald Trump for a good long while, so should establishment Republicans expect the Baconator to be around on the presidential trail for a while.

In today's political climate, staying power is more important than popularity. And money is staying power.

Combine the fracking brothers' booty with $11.1 million from hedge fund manager Robert Mercer, and Cruz now has staying power.

What might these big donors want for their offerings? Maybe a pronouncement that earthquakes in Oklahoma and North Texas are good for the economy?

"How much is that doggie in the window? The one with the waggly tail?"

It's a precious rite: buying one's own pet presidential candidate.

The influence of individual mega-donors has never been more acute. Right now more than half the money in the presidential race is from donors who have given at least $100,000.

Oh, and most likely what will be done with that money is absolutely illegal. The law prohibits a candidate from "directly or indirectly" coordinating the spending of a super PAC.

Fred Wertheimer, former president of Common Cause and now president of Democracy 21, points out that the law in question could be enforced if the Federal Elections Commission were not a "dysfunctional, paralyzed agency."

In the infamous Citizens United ruling of 2010, the Supreme Court ruled "outside groups" like these to be benign.

Federal Judge Richard Posner stated the obvious, however, when he said that "from a corruption standpoint," there is no difference between funds to a super PAC associated with a candidate and direct donations to him or her.

Jimmy Carter had it right the other day when he called this the era of a "new oligarchy with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nomination for president."

I've heard people say that making rules about how much people can donate, and how candidates can spend their money, is a violation of basic freedoms.

They say it's the Wilkses' right to plunge their petrodollars into an odds-on flameout like Cruz, and the rest of us should bug out.

Sorry, but elections are a communal act. They have rules. Having rules that limit individual and corporate donations not only are reasonable but imperative -- if we are to vest power in the hands of people other than billionaires.

This is not an outlandish presumption. A New York Times/CBS News poll found that 85 percent of respondents – almost nine of 10 -- believe that fundamental changes are needed in the way campaigns are financed.

A bill before Congress effectively would shut down the super PACs that allow a few to buy their way into the making of public policy with unlimited donations.

This may be the biggest policy decision facing our lawmakers, and they are looking the other way.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.


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