If politicians had to cease being hypocritical, there would be no politics, and for all its sins, we need politics. But if something as big as freedom of speech is on the line, maybe it’s time to use the H-word in reference to some of the guilty and to argue against vitiating the First Amendment.
Start with Hillary Clinton. She’s as angry as can be with corporate big spenders throwing gobs of money at politicians and thereby corrupting the political system. But there’s a catch. Even though she wants to rewrite the First Amendment to fix all this by further controlling who can say what and when, she herself stuffs special interest moolah in her purse or campaign coffers every time she gets a chance. Don’t worry. She says she herself cannot be corrupted.
Yep, big money is hurtful but cannot buy her influence, because, well, what? In a debate with another Democratic candidate for president, Bernie Sanders, she answered his snarls on the issue by pointing to President Barack Obama. In the 2008 campaign, she said, he got more Wall Street cash to help his cause than any candidate ever did before, and look at how he then jimmied up financial operations by his support of Dodd-Frank regulations people are still trying to figure out.
She didn’t put it quite that way, but in bringing up Obama, she did point to another anti-speech hypocrite. Last year, the president was giving a speech about solar power operations he wants to smother with subsidies and excoriated the Koch brothers who oppose that, saying they want to keep these world-saving businesses from succeeding. “That’s not the American way,” the president said.
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Charles Koch, brother of David, responded by saying it was “beneath ... the dignity of the president” to be indulging himself in these and other insults, and, yes, throwing mud while splattering one’s self is something Oval Office occupants should avoid. That’s especially the case when these political contributors would also like to get rid of all subsidies, even those directed at their own fossil fuel business, and have been fighting fiercely and openly for an end to all corporate welfare.
Obama is the one distorting free enterprise in his crony capitalism enthusiasm for ladling out taxpayer money to campaign-contributing solar power companies and the like, and the Koch brothers, of course, are a favorite Democratic punching bag. Get this: As has been reported, numerous Democratic donors have outspent the libertarian Koch brothers over the years, the two side with liberals on many social issues and they have given generously to medical research, the arts and universities.
For a small-H hypocrite, consider Sanders for a minute. He has shunned giant contributors to get his campaign dough from ordinary folks, but this advocate of using public funding instead has not used public funding. That’s mainly because he wouldn’t get enough early money to win that way, which is much like the Koch brothers still taking subsidies because they would otherwise be at a competitive disadvantage. But it does put this morally superior guy does in the same boat.
The main issue in all of this is the Citizens United Supreme Court case that said unions and corporations can’t be shut up on politics. If the NCAA, the Sierra Club, Goldman Sachs or the AFL-CIO want to pay for pamphlets, books, movies or TV ads taking stands on candidates or issues during an election, they can as long as they aren’t conniving with the candidates.
That much is clear in the blessed Constitution, which is why Democrats want to change it to better control what people are allowed to say. One argument is that the big voice of big money will fool the voters apparently considered stupid, but that has always been overstated and this year turned upside down as one of the most heavily financed campaigns headed south. Remember Jeb Bush, anybody?
Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.