04/13/2014 09:37 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

If 'Money Shouts,' How Can Democracy Lower the Decibel Level So Both Sides Are Heard?


By: Mark Green


David (47 percent) Corn debates Ron (not NJ's) Christie about the constitutional and political aspects of McCutcheon. Since the Roberts Court believes that money is more important than voting, how can pro-democracy advocates pursue the slogan, "Money Out/Voter In"? Con Amendment? Term Limits for Justices? Replace one of Roberts Five? Legislation on campaign finance and disclosure?

On McCutcheon. David blasts the McCutcheon and Citizens United decisions for elevating "the .00001 percent over the 100 percent by expanding the power of money which tilts the system" to the super rich -- i.e., their money affects our wallets and health when it comes to minimum wage, unemployment compensation, jobs, climate...

Ron is asked if he's bothered by decisions that to take us back to the Gilded Age of "The Senator from Standard Oil". "Absolutely not," he replies, seeing the cases through the prism of money=speech. He adds that labor unions too give lots of money and, like Roberts, thinks that if the First Amendment tolerates repugnant speech like flag-burning and Nazi parades, surely it should tolerate a large volume of paid speech by people like the Kochs.

Host: Of course this assumes that the majority sincerely cares about promoting political speech rather than the ascendency of wealth. Recall in this context J.P. Morgan, who once said: "A man always has two reasons for doing anything: a good reason and the real reason"

So I ask Ron if he'd be ok if Soros spent $5 billion to win the presidency...if it's fine to limit speech at 120 decibels at midnight in residential neighborhoods, why not limit the "decibels" of billionaires drowning out actual human speech...if he agrees that it's one thing for more money to buy stuff in Capitalism but a problem if private wealth leeches into public Democracy where 1 person-1 vote is the rule? Nope. Ron sticks to the metaphor and analysis of the Roberts Five.

After Citizens United and now McCutcheon, what should campaign finance reformers do? A Constitutional Amendment permitting the regulation of the volume of speech (which attracts 70%+ when up for local, non-binding resolutions)? Term Limits for Justices (see @rickhertzberg) since it's absurd that the head of Executive Branch can't serve more than 8 years but head of Judicial Branch can go 30? Run counter-ads exposing how the Kochs's money is buying democracy and hurting voters? Push legislation like Government By the People Act, Ginsberg-Bauer Voting Reforms, Disclosure legislation? Replace one of the Roberts Five when there's a vacancy?


The two doubt the effectiveness of anti-Koch ads and the feasibility of either a Con Amendment or Term Limits. (Ron: "The Founders wanted life-time tenure for a good reason"). Both favor disclosure of all political spending online although the current congressional GOP won't let that happen. Ditto campaign finance and voter reforms (which may have to wait until and if Democrats win the White House, Senate and House in 2016).

Last, given mortality, will a) one of the Roberts Five be off the bench in next 1-10 years and a Dem POTUS replace him with a Dem Justice and then b) a newly constituted Court reverse the money-is-speech metaphor? David believes that while conservative justices have recently been little concerned with upholding precedents (guns, money, voting rights etc.), liberal justice will probably be.

(Host Esq. disagrees! Why should a reality-based new justice accede to Roberts's absurd assertion that it's not corrupting if a candidate feels "gratitude" for donors' gifts and Kennedy's monumental conjecture that "the appearance of influence or access will not cause the electorate to lose faith in this democracy." These are comments from ideological jurists people who have never run for or held elective office.

On illegal immigration being an"act of love" Did Jeb Bush commit a suicidal heresy or, as both Lawrence O'Donnell and Bill O'Reilly think, shrewdly take a stand he believes in and then see if it sinks or buoys him?

There's a consensus that either way it imperils a possible candidacy given how the party's very right-wing base regards this issue in early primaries (see Rick Perry) but that Jeb had little choice since a) that's what he thinks, b) he's married for over three decades to a women from Mexico and c) "self-deportation" didn't go over well in a General Election.

As for Bush45 v. Clinton 45, David points out that however wearying such a match-up, it would mean a Democratic victory "since our dynastic brand is way better than their dynastic brand."

On Rumsfeld's self-love. Donald Rumsfeld was a successful wrestler in school -- is he as good at verbal wrestling in Errol Morris's doc "Known Unknowns"? David says he was amazed at how shallow Rummy was and either deceptive or delusional when he maintained that the Bush crowd never implied that Saddam was behind 9/11.

Ron explains that it's more likely Rumsfeld was being either "inartful" when he explained that it wasn't the Bush Administration that okayed torture but his Department of Justice and that he was essentially trying to put a happier face on painful events.

On Eich and Eichmann. Gay protests against Mozilla and (now former ) CEO Brandan Eich spur criticism of "goose-stepping fascism." Thoughts?

David concludes that the folks on Fox and elsewhere who say that "are simply nuts". There's no way to compare the Eich contretemps -- he gave money to an anti-equal marriage group and then was forced out of his CEO post by his Board -- with governments that killed millions of Jews, gays and communists. In any event, since conservatives value free markets, what's wrong with gay critics and Eich each "speaking" their minds and then allow a private Board to decide that keeping him as CEO would hurt their bottom line?

Ron's having none of that. He tears into the "liberal thought police" that values first amendment rights unless they disagree with the articulated position. He won't answer David' hypothetical -- ok, what would you do if you're on a Board and the CEO gave money to a white supremacist organization?

On Letterman-Colbert. Turns out that both panelists agree that Letterman was a breakout talent for his hipness, irony and use of face to convey a joke. And Colbert is an inspired choice given his hipness and skills...though neither knows who exactly Colbert is behind the comedic mask he wears on The Colbert Report. Limbaugh's accusation that CBS was "a liberal slap in the face of America" is given no credence.

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now.

You can follow him on Twitter @markjgreen

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