Saturday, November 3, 2012
GRANDMA INCORPORATED: As election day 2012 approaches there can't be many people who don't know what a "SuperPAC" is or what "Citizens United" means.
But fewer know what an IRS 501(c)4 is or what it means when it comes to the huge piles of cash being infused into federal, state and local campaigns and, more to the point, who that money is coming from.
Because one of the quirks of combining the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) Citizens United (CU) decision with existing IRS non-profit-organization laws is that it allows those 501(c)4s to collect unlimited amounts of money from unknown secret donors and then give that money to the SuperPACs, resulting in hundreds of millions- if not billions- of dollars being spent without even a clue given as to where it came from.
Many objected- and still object- to CU on the basis of it's "corporate personhood" presumption- that, as Mitt Romney said, "corporations are people my friend," making it hard to know which word is more farcical, "corporations" or "friend."
But one of the contentions in support of the 5-4 decision allowing unlimited expenditures is that the money is not a problem as long as you know where it is coming from and who is doing the giving. Even individuals and some groups that support getting cash out of politics entirely often make this claim.
This is not new ground. Anyone who listens to the blathering TV heads has heard this kind of discussion. But we've been all but flabbergasted that many have completely ignored the now barely remembered or mentioned dust-up at President Obama's state of the union speech following the CU ruling.
Many will remember that, with most members of the SCOTUS sitting a few feet away, Obama criticized the ruling, not just for it's potential to flood the country with cash from unknown donors but for the fact that those secret donors could well be foreign entities- whether actual people or overseas corporations- who can now funnel money though those 501(c)4s- in violation of US law forbidding foreign money in US politics.
That led to ultra-conservative Justice Sam Alito's now infamous indignant head shaking and his mouthing of the words "not true" at Obama's suggestion regarding the potential for illegal foreign money influencing US election- indicating that such a thing could not be a result of the ruling.
So where is the discussion of this amongst the corporate punditry? Are their memories that short? Moreover, where are the demands that Alito and the rest of the five CU decision supporters- Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Kennedy- acknowledge that their position has been demonstrably shown to be a pile of hogshit and indeed the floodgates allowing foreign cash are wide open.
The fact is that foreign cash may well be a big part of the "SuperPAC" influx that has made this year's election a minefield of back-to-back-to-back 30 second clips of spooky music and lying, sarcastic voices. That's because the source of the money is, well, secret. While no one has found actual foreign cash going through 501(c)4s to SuperPACs no one has identified any of the secret donors.
Since no one can prove anything either way, the odds that a foreign person, company or even government has spent millions to influence US elections without anyone knowing it are astronomically in favor of it.
And unless one of the unholy five drops dead soon it seems a good bet it will only get worse for the foreseeable future.