May 17, 2022
San Francisco While all eyes are on the Supreme Court because of the abortion leak, there’s other damage being done. A 6-3 decision announced this week, in what we might have hoped was a quixotic case involving Ted Cruz, brought more horror to our future, this time to the electoral system and the last vestiges of seeing higher office as something that “we the people” might aspire to seek.
Cruz, the chameleon US Senator from the great state of Texas, as you may not want to remember, was a candidate almost to the end for the Republican nomination against eventual winner Donald Trump on the early card before the main event in 2016. Failing to win, he became a dyed-in-the-wool Trumper once the fur stopped flying in order to protect a slim chance with the far right to run again someday. When he ran, he and his investment company spouse lent a pile of their own money to his campaign. In the post-election he sought to pay himself back some of the money based on what he raised once the dust settled. The federal election laws said that was a no-no. He went to court over the issue, and the case finally ended up on the Supreme Court docket. Now the court majority says, go ahead Ted, pay yourself back, it’s a First Amendment thing that the rich should be able to use their money anyway they want regardless of campaign finance laws, because money is the loudest speech. The minority in the losing cause said, oh, no, what prevents corruption.
They have a point. A candidate borrows a ton of money from himself and others, and then wins, puts his or her hands out and lobbyists and special interests rush to fill them full of dough to curry favor for their bills now that they have a winner, and it’s a sure thing.
There’s another point as disturbing to me. Now that this decision will be the law of the land, any billionaire, multi-millionaire, or someone generally rich, can now see their campaign in our putative democracy as an investment. They can spend a huge and unlimited pile of money on their campaign (see the earlier disastrous decision by the court in Citizens United) and then if they come across the finish line first, they can pull their armored truck in front of corporations, lobbyists, and other deep-pocketed interests, and get all their money paid back for favors in the future. This kind of deal makes the Trump, Bloomberg, Rick Scott, and other deep-pocketed candidacies (see current Pennsylvania lists right now) not the exception but the rule.
Now there will be no stopping rich candidate who wants a trophy political job as a vanity project. Before like any other, they had to bet the farm. Now, they will have a good chance of getting it all back. Elon Musk is probably beating his breast now that he went large for $42 billion on trying to buy Twitter, when he could have just dropped a billion or two and maybe won a Senate seat somewhere for pennies on the dollar and then gotten it all back as the winner collecting the spoils.
Raising campaign funds has always been the downside of modern politics making it already a rich man’s game, either because you have it, or you can get it. Now with this Cruz decision politics is going to be even more of a sport for the wealthy, where the rest of us get to choose which of the superrich might best represent us, knowing full well, that they won’t represent us as at all, but just others like themselves.