Debate Forum Left 10/27/10

We Are Under Assault By Moneyed Interests

By Marianne Stanley

Marianne Stanley

To simplify: we have two kinds of non-profits under federal law, the 501(c) and the 527.

Both are tax-exempt.  The 501s are generally “social welfare” charitable organizations and, as such, do not have to disclose the names of their donors.  The 501s are prohibited from participating in or supporting any campaign or candidate in an election. By contrast, the 527s are more accurately called “political committees” that directly or indirectly accept contributions or spend money on political campaigns although they are not permitted to be affiliated with a political party. These non-profits must report their donors since they may and usually do participate in elections.

The problem is that these laws are not enforced.  Since honest elections are a cornerstone of a free society, we are hamstrung as we try to decide on the best candidates for office.  To make matters worse, the U.S. Supreme Court, in its recent Citizens United decision, opened the floodgates for campaign corruption by overturning precedent and allowing corporations to participate in our elections for the first time in history.

What does this mean? It means we are under assault by moneyed interests and have no real recourse until the laws are enforced or, in the case of the Supreme Court’s decision by a conservative court, overturned. It means that we all will see private interests overtake public concerns as our bought-and-paid-for politicians pay homage to the wealthy companies and individuals who put them in office. It means that we will all have to become our own teachers since we have no one to teach us what is really going on anymore.

That used to be the job of the media. Journalists used to be free to find the best and most informative stories of the day. Not anymore. Most of the faces we see are not the faces of those with a journalism degree. We are seeing marketing, pure and simple. We are hearing stories shaped by the likes of the arch-conservative, billionaire oilmen and industrialists David and Charles Koch, Republican operative Karl Rove and media mogul and FOX News owner Rupert Murdoch.  They have set up shadow organizations with such benign names as American Crossroads, American Future Fund, and Americans for Prosperity in order to claim tax exempt status while pushing their decidedly non-consumer-friendly agendas.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, once a stalwart supporter of all businesses, only works on behalf of huge corporate interests that are undermining our democracy while it claims tax exempt status. The Chamber has said it will spend as much as $75 million this year, the lion’s share going to Republicans who are most likely to give them what they want – more deregulation so that their members can continue to plunder what’s left of America’s already-shredded middle class.

We no longer get news on “news” stations or programs.  If we did, we would be hearing subjects of substance.  We would have heard by now what really happened in New Orleans after the hurricane.  We would be hearing what became of the millions and millions of dollars Americans sent to Haiti after the earthquake. We would know all about the bloated spending of our government on those things that we, as Americans, don’t want. The list includes things like endless “war” that is costing $1 billion every two days while our children go hungry, while our homeless population grows, while millions of houses are stolen from responsible homeowners through no fault of their own, while jobs are taken away from the people who are this country’s backbone and heart. We would see that our government is allowing profits to trump common decency.

So, “Who is determining our national dialogue?”  It isn’t “one of us,” for sure.  If it were, we would hear about the futility in that nonsense of making us stand sheep-like in line at airports to be scanned. We would hear about our government’s refusal to label genetically modified foods though our health is at stake. We would not hear the snide word “Obamacare” ever again, as though it is a word. We would hear that Social Security is funded for at least another 25 years and that the new health care law actually decreases the deficit.

We would hear that in times like these, government spending is critical to rebounding the economy and that this talk of deficit reduction is foolish and ill-advised.  In other words, we would hear the truth and not just more spin from a propaganda machine that feeds our need for “infotainment” daily with the destructive likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, both multi-millionaires who can bank on our ignorance in making millions of us think they are on our side and understand us while they laugh all the way to the bank.

The Tea Party, supposedly a grassroots movement of regular folks, is actually the brainchild of and funded by the Koch brothers and other wealthy conservatives. They need talk radio and corporate “news” programs to get the uninformed to elect the very worst people for this country so they will have the very best people to advance their own narrow interests. It’s way past time to wake up and fight back.

Marianne Stanley is an attorney, college professor and former journalist who believes many of our nation’s ills could be cured if our children were taught critical thinking skills beginning at the elementary level and continuing throughout middle and high school. She can be reached at contactus@daytoncitypaper.com

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