Mining the bottom of the political pits

The Wisconsin Gazette

The latest court documents released from the John Doe investigation of Gov. Scott Walker’s political activities provide an unsurprising but depressing look at how low American politics has sunk.

Apparently Walker instructed donors to get around state-mandated limits on individuals’ donations to his campaign by contributing unlimited amounts to the Koch brothers-backed group Wisconsin Club for Growth. Under the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, individuals and corporations can give whatever they want to third-party political action committees advocating for issues instead of candidates.

The problem here, of course, is that Club for Growth’s issue was advocating for Walker — to help him win his recall race and continue moving forward with their corporate agenda like a charging bull. Emails among Walker’s staffers make that irrefutably clear.

Did the strategy amount to illegal coordination of fundraising under state law? That’s for prosecutors to decide. If Walker is indicted, he’ll be regarded as a martyr by the right; if not, the left will continue to whine about “fairness,” as if such a concept ever existed in politics. The only thing that really matters is that the money Walker raised for CFG was successfully used to promote his messaging and win his recall race.

The most damning donation to the complex Walker campaign apparatus was the $700,000 donation from Gogebic, the company that wants to build a massive, open-pit iron ore mine in the Penokee Hills. As an assemblyman, Walker reportedly opposed mining expansion — as well he should have. It creates a modicum of short-term jobs but very long-term profits for its out-of-state owners and even longer-term, perhaps permanent, damage to the environment.

It’s now embarrassing for Walker and his apologists that one of the first things he did after being elected was to ram through changes in the mine-permitting process without even first gathering input from residents near the mining area. The scenario is no different in effect than the pay-to-play scandals that have landed so many elected officials in prison, even if proving causality in this case is probably impossible.

But we already knew that this was how Walker — and, to be fair, nearly everyone else in politics these days — flies. What’s far more disturbing is that voters have become so accustomed to it, they only complain when an elected official on the other end of the political spectrum is caught. Otherwise, it’s business as usual.

No one should accept this sort of behavior from any candidate affiliated with any political party. Our democratic process has collapsed into a scheme that seeks only to manipulate and trick voters by inundating them with misleading spin and outright lies. The more money you have, the more and cleverer propaganda you can churn out via mailers, print ads and commercials. The higher the office, the more this costs. That’s why our leaders spend the vast majority of their time raising fundraising.

Is it any wonder that nothing ever gets done for the average working stiff?

The big bucks rule in today’s America. And those who believe that’s a good thing — that after 30 years of failure, trickle-down is magically going to help the poor and middle-class lift themselves up by their bootstraps and join the country club — are living proof of how effective mass messaging has become. Once they’re sufficiently propagandized, people will stop believing their own lying eyes.

There’s only one way out of this tragic ending to the great American experiment in government: a constitutional amendment that overturns Citizens United.

Can it happen? That seems to depend on how much the people against Citizens United can raise versus how much the mega-corporations who are for it can raise.

How much are you in for?