Wednesday, January 2

:: The Dirty, Hidden Corner that Campaign Finance Reform Forgot

The New York Times has an editorial today entitled "Drowning in Special Interest Money."
My comment is simply this.
The New York Times editorial board forgot to mention one critical - and terrifying - way that a certain set of mega-rich individuals and their for-profit corporations operate behind the scenes to manipulate the outcome of every presidential election.

These wealthy individuals are part of a secretive, elite group. They represent only their own narrow personal and family interests. They are accountable to no one but themselves. They spend corporate money to achieve their agenda but are not subject to any kind of disclosure of quid pro quo, personal gain, conflict of interest, or coordination with candidates.

Every four years this shadowy group meets privately with each of the presidential candidates. Behind closed doors the supplicant is subjected to a battery of carefully crafted questions designed to elicit the degree to which he (or she) would adhere to the group's agenda. The meetings are closed to the public and to federal regulators.

Out of this degrading cattle call a "winning" candidate is chosen. The prize? Millions of dollars of corporate resources spent "educating" the public in order to sway their votes.

This group would protest that they represent the interests of hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans and that they act only with the best, most civic-minded intentions. These are attractive words that the public is supposed to take on faith - because without federally mandated rules guaranteeing full disclosure and transparency, there are no checks and balances on their power.

Not surprisingly, this group spent millions of dollars of corporate resources lobbying to have their own type of group exempted from McCain-Feingold. Not surprisingly, the resulting law is silent about this form of influence peddling.

Who is this shadowy group of elite, wealthy Americans?

They call themselves an "editorial board." The New York Times Corporation has one - and there are hundreds, maybe thousands more of these corporate so-called "editorial boards" operating throughout the country, completely beyond the reach of federal regulation.

The special interests behind these so-called "editorial boards" argue that the first amendment protects their right to choose a winning candidate. But banning "editorial boards" would not silence the individuals behind them. They would still be free - just like any citizen - to voice their opinion. They simply would not be allowed to use their corporate megaphone to drown out the voices of their less fortunate peers. "Editorial boards" might howl that the Constitution specifically protects "freedom of the press," but surely the founders did not foresee a day when the media would be a multi-billion dollar industry and the simple printing press would be replaced by technology that would let a few members of the wealthy elite reach millions of readers at the touch of a button.

The only way to level the political playing field in this country is to ban all special interest influence peddling vehicles - especially the pernicious 527s, PACs and "editorial boards" that make a mockery of the principle of one man, one vote.

Only when private special interest influence is banned, and all candidates must meet requirements determined by incumbent elected officials in order to apply to a government-run committee for their sole source of campaign funding, will true democracy be achieved in this country.

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