As we write this the Iowa Caucuses are just getting underway. And while the winner will not be known for a few more hours there is already a clear loser in this election process…the American people.
Over the past few weeks we have watched the seedy side of politics reach and all time low. Thanks to the Supreme Court Citizen United decision, Romney supporters have been able to influence this election in a way never before possible.
Citizen United is the case wherein the Supreme Court ruled that major corporations and wealthy individuals could anonymously donate unlimited sums of money to the candidate of their choice. Super Pacs, who are separate and autonomous from the candidate they support, are able to use this ruling to collect vast sums of money from wealthy donors which they use to run an avalanche of attack ads against their opponents. Because the candidate and his campaign are prohibited by law from communicating with or co-ordinating the activities of these Super Pacs, the candidate is able to sit above the fray untouched by the venom and lies prevalent in these ads. And nobody has taken advantage of this ruling better than Mitt Romney.
Three weeks ago Newt Gingrich had soared to the lead in the polls. Gingrich held 30% of the vote while Romney continued to be locked in at 25%. That same week Restore Our Future, a Super Pac supportive of Romney but separate from the Romney campaign, began to run what would eventually be over 1200 attack ads against Gingrich. Restore Our Future spent over 2.8 million dollars viciously attacking Gingrich, the one opponent Romney feared. Three short weeks later, as the doors opend for the Iowa Caucuses, Gingrich’s support has plummeted to 15%; essentially knocking him out of contention in Iowa.
The Citizens United decision has provided an opportunity for the very wealthy to anonymously buy an election. Citizens United has effectively eliminated or at the very least unfairly limited the chances of a middle class citizen ever reaching elected office. Elections are no longer about issues and stump speeches and leadership. Elections are about money…more now than ever before. The long term effects of this ruling are frightening.
Sadly, this is not what the founding fathers envisioned. Those of us who raised these concerns when the ruling was issued can take little solace in saying “I told you so.”
It is however ironic that Newt Gingrich, who was once a vocal supporter of the Citizens United decision, now finds himself its first victim.