How absurd is this response from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid? When it first appeared on Twitter, everyone assumed it was satire. Not so, reports Politico, as truth remains stranger than fiction, if just as predictable:
Responding to the decision, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) invoked his favorite boogeymen: the Koch brothers.
“The Supreme Court today just accentuated what they did on Citizens United, which is a decision that is one of the worst decisions in the history of that court,” Reid said during a press conference on raising the minimum wage. “All it does is take away people’s rights because, as you know, the Koch brothers are trying to buy America.”
Shocked? Er … no:
One must presume that if Reid stubbed his toe on the dais, he’d find a connection between the carpet manufacturer and Koch Industries. The McCutcheon case had nothing to do with the Kochs, as is true of most of Reid’s paranoid projections, but don’t bother to use logic when Reid is fulminating on billionaires who dare oppose Reid’s agenda while he conveniently forgets about his courting of George Soros, Tom Steyer, etc etc etc. I noted that hypocrisy in my column today at The Week:
This populist shriek is a nonsense argument even beyond Reid and Schumer’s oddly constipated response to the backlash. Democrats like Reid and Schumer, and their party and its affiliates, had little complaint when billionaires like George Soros organized grassroots into messaging attack dogs against Republicans. Reid and Schumer all but rented out the Senate last month on behalf of another billionaire, global warming activist Thomas Steyer, even though Senate Democrats had no legislation to offer.
But Schumer’s argument on the First Amendment is revealing in more than one way, and not just about Democrats. The Republican Party routinely demonized Soros during the 2006–08 election cycles in much the same way Democrats are doing with the Kochs in 2014. In both cases, the party in power had nothing more to offer the American electorate other than the demonization of peripheral characters. Neither had the courage to run on their own records and cheerfully withstand accountability on the basis of them.
Back to the rest of the Democratic reaction, which was a little more focused on the point. Most lamented the dismantling of campaign-finance law, which they pledged to reconstruct post-McCutcheon:
Over in the House, Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) said he plans to introduce legislation that will “fully reverse this latest Supreme Court blunder.” And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called for passage of legislation sponsored by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) that is meant to amplify small-dollars donations to congressional candidates.
“Our founders risked their lives, their liberty and their sacred honor to create a democracy — a government of the many, not a government of the money,” Pelosi said in a statement. “After misguided and destructive court decisions in McCutcheon and Citizens United, it is clear that Congress must act swiftly to restore fairness to our campaign finance system.”
Actually, they “risked their lives, their liberty and their sacred honor” to create a constitutional republic, in part to make sure that the government didn’t control who got to say what, and when and how much. That is what they meant when they wrote and ratified the 1st Amendment, which states that “Congress shall make no law” infringing on speech, especially political speech. Passing another law to limit that engagement is merely repeating what has already been struck down.
On the other hand, Senator Angus King (I-ME) offered a better suggestion:
Meanwhile, Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said he introduced legislation intended to make donations more transparent by requiring all contributions of $1,000 or more to be disclosed to the Federal Election Commission within 48 hours. A campaign bill in the House will be introduced by Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas).
That’s actually a better idea than the Byzantine campaign-donation limitations that McCutcheon partly struck down. Full and immediate disclosure of all contributions for each candidate and party that exceeds $1000 in the aggregate makes sense, and doing that rather than imposing caps and forcing political contributions away from candidates and parties would do more for sunlight than the system erected since Watergate. That would put the cash in the hands of those who can be held responsible for the messaging created with it — and if nothing else, would at least reduce the demand for outside super-PACs and their lack of direct accountability.
If Congress really wants to reform the political process, that is the right path to take.