San Francisco In an election where the votes are already being counted in “dollars raised” rather than “votes counted,” I supposed none of us should be surprised that money, rather than much of anything else, seems destined to define the 2008 election for President. The US Supreme Court stepped into the mess by ripping the heart out of the McCain-Feingold campaign financing law with a narrow 5-4 vote led by Chief Justice Roberts.
Bascially, the Supremes weaponized money and took the chains off of any of the deep pockets out there that want to speak loudly — and expensively — about issues. Corporations and unions will be able — virtually without limits — to spend money to advance their position on an issue. They can do so right up to the election. The only limitation is that they can not use this “freedom of speech” to endorse candidates. Of course we all saw how the boat people hit John Kerry last election, so in most of these situations the “point” of the issue advertising will be hard to miss as elections loom ahead.
In an election cycle that already seems destined to create new records for money raised (and therefore spent), based on the early reports of fundraising prowess by various candidates (another report is due at the end of June), my bet is that with the stroke of Roberts’ pen on this opinion, we probably just saw $100-$200,000,000 more pushed into the primaries and general election.
Unions were already announcing financial commitments at the outer limits of their ability to deliver, so there is no unlimited well that they can still tap for more than they have already promised to put into the play. Corporations and “independent” committees, like the old and recently maligned “527s” though have deep pockets, and this decision will take all of the restraints off of their interests and ambitions. For many corporations this is almost a business decision. By advertising and putting out information about their interest and issue, they are advancing their business purposes in any new administration. Some will do it loudly, while others may whisper it, but either way, they will spend goo-gobs of money now to buy their way in politics.
The progressive forces will be ill-equipped to compete in a money war of this magnitude. There has to be a better way!