(Here in the good ol' US of A, they're out in broad daylight)
Last year, the Supremes decided 5-4 in the Citizens United case that money = free speech (even though money is, of course, not free) and opened the floodgates for the unrestricted flow of corporate money into political ads (yes, less well-financed union money too).
Yesterday, the Supremes decided -- again 5-4 -- in McComish v. Bennett that if a candidate opts out of public-financing, other candidates cannot receive matching funds to level the playing field.
As Lawyers, Guns and Money puts it:
This case strikes down a law that doesn’t prevent people from spending as much money as they want if they choose and represents a net increase in political speech.Or, in other words, money is speech for thee, but not me. Not only do those with the most bucks get to spend those bucks, unfettered, to support a candidate, but the candidate with the most bucks gets to prevent other candidates from getting more bucks. From Justice Kagan's dissent:
This suit, in fact, may merit less attention than any challenge to a speech subsidy ever seen in this Court. In the usual First Amendment subsidy case, a person complains that the government declined to finance his speech, while bankrolling someone else’s; we must then decide whether the government differentiated between these speakers on a prohibited basis—because it preferred one speaker’s ideas to another’s. But the candidates bringing this challenge do not make that claim—because they were never denied a subsidy. Arizona, remember, offers to support any person running for state office. Petitioners here refused that assistance. So they are making a novel argument: that Arizona violated their First Amendment rights by disbursing funds to other speakers even though they could have received (but chose to spurn) the same financial assistance. Some people might call that chutzpah.Add this to the recent Wal-Mart ruling -- which some in the media erroneously labeled unanimous -- but the heart of the matter was yet another 5-4 decision which questioned the whole idea of class action suits and set up a too-big-to-fail standard where if you screw over enough people, you win and you get the following:
Indeed, what petitioners demand is essentially a right to quash others’ speech through the prohibition of a (universally available) subsidy program. Petitioners are able to convey their ideas without public financing—and they would prefer the field to themselves, so that they can speak free from response. To attain that goal, they ask this Court to prevent Arizona from funding electoral speech—even though that assistance is offered to every state candidate, on the same (entirely unobjectionable) basis. And this Court gladly obliges.
1. The public can set no limits on how much the richest companies can spend to buy an election for a candidate.
2. There can be no attempt by the public to level the playing field among candidates so that the richest candidate cannot attempt to buy an election.
3. If a company is big enough and rich enough and screws over enough people, the public cannot band together to try to achieve justice against wrongdoing.
We, the public, are well and truly fucked.
Long Live the United States of Plutocracy!