“Supreme Court opinion notwithstanding, corporations are not defined as people under the Constitution, and free speech can hardly be called free when only the rich are heard.”
— Warren Rudman, late former U.S. Senator (R)
from New Hampshire (1980-1993)
In a hit piece targeting Move to Amend (MTA), a coalition comprised of hundreds of organizations, Rob Hager made a number of claims that were either absurd, stupid or just flat out false. Maybe that is his courtroom style, but there is no room for his deceitfulness on the road to liberation from the corporate dominance of America.
The following, then, is a paragraph by paragraph deconstruction of Hager’s article, “The problem of money in politics could not be more important” which was published on the blog Moneyed Politicians. Hager refused to reply to questions posed to him by the Gazette about his ignorant opinions of MTA and his misunderstanding of the Constitution.
But Move to Amend (MTA), a professional activist organization which raises money in support of a constitutional amendment against money in politics, and also the “corporate personhood” concept it claims is related, is nothing short of consumer fraud. The 14th amendment legal concept of corporate personhood is irrelevant to money in politics. An amendment is impossible in an already corrupted system, and is also unnecessary. Only the most irrational person would believe that in a Congress that cannot pass the most tepid, uselessly piecemeal reform like DISCLOSE or FENA, somehow 2/3 of both houses will propose an effective amendment. And that 38 similarly corrupted state legislatures will ratify. No amendment has been proposed and ratified since 1971.
First, who begins an argument with the word “But?” Were that the most egregious dysfunction of Hager’s criticism of Move to Amend, this rebuttal would not be worth the time. Notice that the hot link, “professional activist,” connects to OWS’ Statement of Autonomy. Why? It is not clear. They are leaderless, unpaid volunteers. Although MTA has paid staff, they are few; and the vast majority of those active with MTA are volunteers. Hager’s point seems pointless. Noting that MTA “raises money” is akin to noting that Hager’s law firm orders reams and reams of paper. So what? OWS raises money too. Not raising money to pay for necessary expenses would be almost as irresponsible as Hager’s ignorant opinions of MTA and the Constitution.
Hager’s more serious criticism is the claim that the “14th amendment legal concept of corporate personhood is irrelevant to money in politics.” Were it the case that MTA is making, he’d have a good point. No one in Move to Amend argues that the 14th Amendment is the relevant amendment that lurks throughout Kennedy’s opinion in the Citizens United case. (That is not true about the Court’s decision Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club v. Bennett.) For that matter, no one in Move to Amend was contacted by Hager. He seems to be pulling much of his case against MTA out of his rectum. (It was the corporate possession of the 1st Amendment right to free speech that was deepened, not added, by the Citizens United decision.)
He claims that an amendment is impossible, but he demonstrates no understanding of the history of amendments. Asking men to give women the right to vote was impossible for over 70 years, and then it happened. His ignorance of the amendment process is amplified when he noted that “no amendment has been proposed and ratified since 1971.” The 12th Amendment was ratified in 1804. There is no evidence that the 60 years that passed deterred President Lincoln from pushing for the 13th Amendment. Again, one has to ask, “so what?”
Hager’s most self-contradictory point in this first paragraph is that only “the most irrational person would believe that in a Congress that cannot pass the most tepid, uselessly piecemeal reform like DISCLOSE or FENA….” What makes him think, then that Congress would nevertheless pass comprehensive campaign reform that would invoke Article 3, Section 2 as he and his partner in constitutional ignorance, James Marc Leas, believe? (More on that later.)
Staunch reform advocate Senator Fritz Hollings proposed a better drafted constitutional amendment than MTA’s to get money out of politics. Hollings submitted his proposal in seven sessions of Congress from 1989-2001, without even getting close to success in just the Senate. Then Congress was far less corrupted than the current one is by the Supreme Court’s ongoing plutocracy construction project.
The hot link goes to a column that Hollings published in WaPo, but it does not include his “better drafted constitutional amendment.” Therefore we cannot evaluate Hager’s claim that it was “better” than MTA’s language. What Hager and Leas do not understand, and this is crucial, Hollings did understand, namely that we have to amend the Constitution to overturn Buckley v Valeo. Hollings wrote that his amendment got majority support, which is closer to success in the Senate than Hager would have you believe. What Hollings lacked was massive grassroots support which amendments to the Constitution require.
The very fact that the MTA amendment — unsupported by any strategic thought or justification why it can succeed where Hollings failed — continues to mislead people is a measure of how far we are from taking even the smallest first step toward engaging, in the words of F.D.Roosevelt, the “war for the survival of democracy” against the “royalists of the economic order.”
It’s clear from this paragraph that Hager has no clue what MTA’s strategic plan is. Again, he could not, apparenly, be bothered to make a phone call to the national office to ask MTA about their plans or justification for having a grassroots movement to use the horrible Citizens United decision to overturn Buckley and abolish corporate constitutional rights. The fact is Citizens United was a galvanizing event, and these often propel a movement. Did Hager never take Politics 101?
FDR advocated no constitutional amendment. Such advocacy is the problem, not the solution. Promoting a futile amendment as the only possibility dampens enthusiasm. It reinforces propaganda from the right that money in politics is inevitable. A plutocratic Court can and does interpret amendments however it likes.
The claim that promoting a “futile” amendment “dampens enthusiasm” would be laughable were it not so deceitful. FDR didn’t advocate for a constitutional amendment, but President Obama has spoken favorably about that possibility during the campaign for re-election. No, FDR wanted to pack the Court, and that did not turn out well in part because of adverse public opinion to the idea. What Hager fails to take note of is that every time Move to Amend’s ideas come before American voters on ballot initiatives, they pass with overwhelming majorities. Every month the number of MTA affiliates increases. So much for dampened enthusiasm.
The notion that the Court can “interpret amendments however it likes” completely ignores that fact that it does this now with legislation and with much more ease than they can misinterpret amendments.
Even with “money-stream media” propagating the Supreme Court’s surreally weak “money is speech” doctrine, still most Americans – by 55%-23% – do not believe that giving money to political candidates is first amendment free speech. That’s 57% of registered voters, 60% of Democrats, and 62% of college grads who refuse to drink the plutocrats’ cool aid that confuses property with democratic liberty. Even larger majorities think there is no violation of free speech in restricting aggregate individual contributions (this year’s Court- targeted campaign finance law), with 73% of the supposedly most conservative Americans, those over 65, agreeing individual plutocrats have no First Amendment right to spend as much as necessary to buy themselves a Congress.
As pointed out, Americans support an amendment that would overturn Buckley. Americans support MTA’s agenda by large numbers.
It is disturbing, however, that the youngest voters are the most likely to agree with the Supreme Court, indicating how effective three decades of plutocratic propaganda has been. This underlines the importance of not advocating strategies like MTA’s that cannot succeed anytime in the foreseeable future, and which distract people from effective – i.e. informed and intelligent – strategy for MTA’s political equivalent of breakfast cereal — all ad, no nutrition.
Young people tend not to vote in midterm elections too. That is disturbing. Even more disturbing is the number of Americans who have really stupid beliefs. Again, so what? If Hager had bothered to call MTA’s national office, he would have been told that their plan is to get an amendment out of Congress in about 10-15 years. That is hardly an unforeseeable future. Imagine if women had given up their quest to amend the Constitution after Minor v Happerset because it could take 45 years which it did? Now try to imagine how someone like Alice Paul would have responded to a man like Hager claiming that the struggle for woman’s suffrage “cannot succeed in the foreseeable future.” Hager ignores that MTA and its allies have something that no other advocates for any ratified amendment has ever had, i.e., the world’s greatest communication machine. MTA is using the Internet to speed up the amendment process. Maybe Hager forgot about the Internet he used to smear MTA.
There is an effective strategy to get money out of politics that aims at the source of the problem – 5 plutocratic Supreme Court justices – for people willing to go deeper than deceitful soundbites before deciding where to place their energy. http://tinyurl.com/12ekeys
That URL leads to an article by George Flower who drinks the kool-aid supplied to him by…surprise…Hager and Leas. Again, the fatal flaw in their so-called “effective strategy” will be conveyed below.
Because this majority has yet to discover an effective strategy, the more important polling data is that 72% do not think that, for example, limiting individual donations even helps prevent corruption. There is an appropriately wide public cynicism about “solutions” to money in politics generated by decades of misguidance from organizations like MTA that have failed to do any but the most superficial inquiry about how to actually get money out of politics, before soliciting gullible supporters for their soundbite strategies and piecemeal reforms.
Here’s the relevant data that Hager is linking to on the YouGov poll:
It’s not clear where Hager gets his 72% figure from, but clearly 47% do think that limiting individual donations does help prevent corruption. If Hager cannot honestly convey simple polling data, why the hell should anyone believe anything he has to offer in this malicious attack on the grassroots effort to get money out of politics and end the fraud of corporate constitutional rights?
Hager’s last paragraph reads:
More is needed to convince Americans that an anti-corruption strategy will actually work to clean up the system. The first step toward getting money out of politics then, is to ask any organization like MTA, where they get their money. The second step is to do the research on an effective strategy, and stop buying into the empty soundbites like MTA’s just because they are simple, and sound plausible prior to deeper reflection. Then it will be time to stop chomping the Cap’n Crunch and get active in pursuit of an effective strategy.
MTA gets their contributions from donors like you. Senator Hollings was right: “Excise the cancer of money, and most of the misconduct will disappear.” What Hager and Leas do not understand is that will require a constitutional amendment to overturn Buckley. They do not understand that amendments trump the language of body of the Constitution just as later amendments trump earlier ones. The Court will not allow Congress to use Article 3, Section 2 of the Constitution to defy the law of the land which is that spending money on electioneering communications is protected by the 1st Amendment. The Exceptions Clause (Article III, Sec.2, Cl, 2, Sentence 2) of the Constitution empowers Congress to take away from the Supreme Court any authority to make decrees overturning state and federal laws, and it reads:
In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.
If anyone is chomping on something, it’s Hager, Leas, Flower and Larry Kachimba. Their strategy is neither informed nor intelligent! They are deluded if they believe that the Court will allow Congress to defy the law of the land. The fact is, Congress cannot overturn Supreme Court decisions with laws. That is not just the view of this Gazette; that understanding is shared by Joe Sempolinski, the district manager of Congressman Tom Reed (R, NY). He shares this opinion, not because Sempolinski is a corporate plutocrat; it is because, unlike Hager, Leas, Flower and Kachimba, he understands how the Constitution actually works. Passing and ratifying an amendment is a historically proven constitutional solution. Invoking Article III would most likely cause a constitutional crisis which is why Hager cannot point to an example of CFR legislation with Art. III language introduced by anyone in Congress. It is just a foolish, ineffective and ignorant strategy that no one in Congress is willing to embarrass themselves attempting to employ.