If you are like my family, beginning Wednesday it was nice to be able to let a little bit of the guard down that we have had in place for at least four years. It was nice to hear the new President and Vice-President speak in full sentences with formulated thoughts behind the words. It was nice to think that they actually meant what they said – that there was no hidden meaning or that the words said were simply lies to hide what the real intentions were.
Unfortunately, this was the newly installed administration on display in contrast to the previous administration where deceit and “alternate realities” were their stock in trade. We would love to believe that the corruption and deceit went out with the old administration, but this is but one branch of our government. Left behind is a SCOTUS over which the public has little influence and whose members serve for life.
In our current situation, the Supreme Court through some very questionable maneuvering has become a 6 to 3 right wing majority where the ages of the right wing justices are 72, 70, 69, 56, 53 and 49. Those are people who will be around for a long time, some for 15 years and some more.
Since the Supreme Court decides what issues it will address, they can pick cases that can help keep their side in power for the long run. On the eve of the inauguration of a new administration, SCOTUS chose to take up two new cases that have the possibility of allowing much more untraceable campaign contributions to flow into our political system. Untraceable money in a democracy is a very bad thing. To survive, democracies must operate in the sunshine.
The cases in particular arise from California and are concerned with so called “non-profit charities.” The following is from the AP. As with many SCOTUS cases the details can be a bit hard to follow. In short, the question is whether donors can contribute large amounts without disclosure to so-called “charities” where that money will be used for political purposes:
The Supreme Court will decide whether California can collect the names and addresses of top donors to two conservative nonprofit groups, including one with links to billionaire Charles Koch.
The justices on Friday agreed to hear an appeal from the two groups, Americans for Prosperity Foundation and Thomas More Law Center, that argue the state’s policy violates the First Amendment and would deter people from giving.
A federal appeals court in San Francisco had ruled that the information serves the important state goal of preventing charities from committing fraud and was unlikely to be released publicly.
California requires all charities that collect money from state residents to give the state an Internal Revenue Service form identifying their largest contributors. The state is not allowed to disclose the names publicly, but state officials say they need the names to determine whether a group is really doing charitable work and is not involved in illegal business activity.
Americans for Prosperity Foundation is a charitable organization connected to the primary political organization supported by Koch and his brother, David, who died in 2019. Koch’s organizations have spent hundreds of millions of dollars supporting Republican candidates and conservative policies, making them frequent targets of attacks by Democrats.
Commenting on these cases radio host Thom Hartmann points out:
Back in 1907, to stop the Robber Barons of the day from using their massive corporate resources to corrupt politics, Republican President Teddy Roosevelt pushed the Tillman Act through Congress, which made it a federal crime for any corporation to give any kind of money or other support to any candidate for federal office.
It stood for more than a half a century before conservatives on the Supreme Court with their “corporations are persons, my friend“ ideology struck it down.
Now that the Supreme Court has broadly let corporations involve themselves in politics, two very politically active corporations are demanding that they should be able to influence politics and politicians without anybody ever knowing are the actual humans behind their efforts.
These corporations demand the “right” to put forward and sponsor candidates and legislation that will serve their interests without American voters ever realizing that those candidates are actually front men for some of America’s most powerful oligarchs.
In this case before the Court, the rich don’t just want their corporations to essentially take over the American political process; they want to make it impossible for the people subject to the power of law and government to know who is really behind the scenes pulling the strings.
What can we do about this? There are no elections, no marches or any way to pressure the Supreme Court. This is why McConnell and the previous administration put so much of their effort into control of the courts in general and SCOTUS in particular.
Thom Hartmann’s conclusion?
There’s little we as citizens can do to influence the Supreme Court. But Congress can change the entire character of the Court by expanding the number of justices to reestablish a rational ideological balance.