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April 9, 2014 9:24 AM Age: 6 yrs

This Supreme Court is No Joke

Category: Larry Checco
Source:  Larry Checco

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A political candidate, a billionaire and five US Supreme Court Justices walk into a bar.

Bartender: What’ll it be, gents?

Billionaire to the bartender: Give these guys whatever they want. The tab is on me.

Politician: I’d like a congressional seat.

Five Supreme Court Justices to the billionaire: Hey, let’s make this a real party. Invite more of your friends.

Two working stiffs sitting at the end of the bar overhear the conversation.

First working stiff: What kind of drink is a congressional seat?

Second working stiff: I don’t know, but this is beginning to sound like a bad, old joke.

First working stiff: Who’s laughing!?

Only those who can afford to.

If money in politics talked before, iI believe that it shouts now because of the decisions of this U.S. Supreme Court with respect to Citizens United and now McCutcheon v. FEC.

Chief Justice John Roberts, at his Senate confirmation hearing, said that his job as Chief Supreme Court Justice would simply be to call balls and strikes. What he failed to reveal or understand is that how those balls and strikes are called determines the outcome of the game.

And right now he and others on his court are determined to convert our democratic process into a game of Moneyball.

There are those innocent enough—including Chief Justice Roberts, it appears—to believe that money has little if any influence in our political system or that it leads to any form of corruption, unless it be a direct quid pro quo arrangement between donor and politician.

And there’s evidence that this just might be the case: Try to recall one time that a U.S. congressperson or senator was willing to admit that he or she was swayed in any way by his or her big donors—prior to perhaps being indicted, that is.

I thought so.

Ironically, on the same day that the media announced the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold McCutcheon—which effectively does away with any overall limit on how much individuals can give to candidates and political parties—many media outlets also were running obituaries of Charles H. Keating Jr.

As you may recall, Mr. Keating, who recently died at age 90, was the financier at the center of the US$150 billion savings-and-loan crisis in the 1980s. He ultimately pleaded guilty to fraud charges and spent nearly five years behind bars.

He also contributed generously to congressional campaigns, including donating more than $1.3 million to U.S. Senators with names like Cranston, McCain, DeConcini, Riegle and Glenn.

All five senators met with the head of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board to ask him to go easy on Mr. Keating regarding the scandal. Better known as the Keating Five, they eventually were all brought before the Senate Ethics Committee and were either reprimanded, admonished or cited for “poor judgment.”

According to The Washington Post, when Mr. Keating was later asked whether he expected favors from the public officials he supported, he replied, “I want to say in the most forceful way I can: I certainly hope so.”

Please, say it aint so?!

BTW, the $1.3 million Mr. Keating donated to the senators is pocket change these days, in contrast to the nearly $100 million casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson threw into the 2012 presidential race—and what he’s threatening to put behind the next Republican presidential candidate of his choice.

And I’m sure we can all rest assured that if Mr. Adelson’s candidate wins, there will be no strings attached, favors asked. Just a glorious night of rest in the White House’s Lincoln bedroom.

Not!

In the McCutcheon decision, Chief Justice Roberts evoked the romantic notion of one person one vote when he wrote: "There is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders."

Fact is, yes, we’re all entitled to one vote. But let’s not be naïve here, folks. Those who can afford to back their candidate, as well as his or her party, with millions of dollars, amplify their single votes exponentially—and drown the rest of us out.

Bartender, I’ll have another congressional seat, this time without the twist of injustice.

Larry Checco Contents © 2014 All Rights Reserved

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