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Pearl Korn

Pearl Korn

Posted: October 22, 2010 12:50 PM

Ever since the Supreme Court handed over to corporations the right to anonymously pump unlimited amounts of money into influencing elections, we no longer know who is behind those nasty attack ads flooding the airways these days.

Shadowy corporate front groups using patriotic sounding names like Karl Rove's and former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie's "American Crossroads" and the billionaire Koch Brothers' "Americans For Prosperity," along with dozens of others like them, are funneling hundreds of millions of dollars from unidentified donors into ads against candidates and elected officials who could throw a monkey wrench into their extremist agenda.

Leading the progressive counterattack nationally is Public Citizen, which was created by Ralph Nader some forty years ago and is still watching our backs and best interests, oftentimes taking issues right up to the Supreme Court -- and winning. Hundreds of thousands of supporters are now on board for a Constitutional Amendment to take back our democracy, including a petition out there now to Senators to step up to the plate against the Citizens United ruling, which threw the keys to our government over to those secret special interest donors. Public Citizen reports that only 10% of groups running ads in the primaries in favor of Republicans have revealed their donors, while 50% of Democrats' supporters have. In 2004, disclosure was at 100%.

The FEC, meanwhile, has been moribund, unwilling to enforce the law or even clarify its own regulations, according to Public Citizen, who added: "Republican members of the FEC have interpreted the disclosure law into oblivion and have deadlocked the agency against taking any further action."

As a result, so long as these special interest groups do not do anything formally attached to a candidate's campaign, anything goes, with no spending limits and disclosure requirements ignored by a feckless FEC . And because of the Supreme Court decision, no longer is there a difference between a live human being and a corporate entity with regard to political spending, allowing corporations to throw their money into influencing elections without limits. Personhood granted to corporations closed the gap between them and the influence of ordinary citizens and the small-donor, people power that swept the Republicans out in '06 and '08. Anyone with an ounce of brains knows corporations are not people, yet this concept appears to have eluded the conservative majority on the Supreme Court.

On the same day the DISCLOSE ACT (mandating disclosure of funders behind attack ads) was defeated in the Senate, the House Administration Committee passed the FAIR ELECTIONS NOW ACT with wide support -- a major step in moving towards a public financing system in campaigns. This issue cannot die and must be pressed forward with renewed energy, regardless of the results on November 2.

Returning the voting process to all Americans is an imperative, because elections are ours and belong to us, not Big Oil or the health insurance companies or investment banks. Have we forgotten that in a democracy it is the people who rule? And so, to neutralize Citizens United, we must have a Constitutional Amendment to retake our democracy.

Public financing and a Constitutional Amendment won't be an easy fight, but it is a fight worth having, as our democracy depends on it. Nothing else will change in our politics until these two issues are resolved, once and for all.

A major victory occurred a few days ago with the announcement that Senator Max Baucus, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, contacted the I.R.S., requesting a full investigation of not only Karl Rove's "American Crossroads," but of all groups improperly using tax exempt status to manipulate
elections.

Thanks to Kevin Zeese, Executive Director of the prosperityagenda.us, for lighting the fire with six thousand letters to Congress as a part of its American Crossroads watch. Zeese, along with Public Citizen, has sent a letter to the FEC to investigate. With the foxes guarding that henhouse, however, a next stop at the Justice Department to investigate criminal activity by these front groups is more prudent. The case is strong.