Saturday, February 17 , 2018, 2:16 pm | Fair 65º

 
 
 
 

Jim Hightower: Election 2014 — The Rise of a Stealth Oligarchy

A stunning surprise coming out of this year's elections is that the most dominant contenders were not glad-handing braggarts, but the least likely of participants: shy people.

That's strange, since running for office these days is assumed to be an ego game, attracting the loudest of self-promoters. But the big winners on Tuesday were a group that actually campaigned anonymously, not even whispering their names to the voters.

Indeed, these were not the candidates listed on your ballot, but shadow candidates that are not even people. They are corporations that have been empowered by the Frankenstein-majority on our Supreme Court to exercise the political rights of us real human-type persons. Only they've been endowed with far more political power than you and me, for the court decreed that these corporate "persons" can spend unlimited amounts of their shareholders' money on TV ads and other campaign tools to elect or defeat whomever they choose — without disclosing their names to voters.

What we have here is the rise of a stealth oligarchy in America. These politically shy corporations are pumping untold millions of dollars out of their practically bottomless corporate treasuries to elect Congress-critters, governors and ultimately presidents who will serve their narrow special interests at the expense of the public interest. You would know these cagey corporate campaigners, for they are major brand names from Big Oil, Big Food, Big Pharma, etc. Normally, they're not at all timid about promoting themselves, but — shhhh — they don't want us to have any inkling that they're running surreptitious, multimillion-dollar campaigns that have become a deciding factor in who holds public office in America.

One reason they hide their names is that they run overwhelmingly negative campaigns, degrading our so-called political discourse with the most disgusting, mendacious and vitriolic smears against the opponents of the corporate-friendly candidates they hope to elect. They would never want such slime attached to their corporate brands, for it would anger and repel their customers, employees and shareholders. That's why their lawyers pushed the Supreme Court so hard to let them do their repugnant politicking, yet not have to be accountable for it.

Another reason that corporations want to "vote" in our elections without showing their identities is that honest disclosure would tarnish their favored candidates as shameless corporate toadies. If Exxon Mobil Corp. had to reveal that it put up $50,000 or $100,000 or more to elect Bob Bogus from Bogullusa to Congress, voters would surely suspect that Bob was going to back Exxon Mobil's plan to frack their community. With the legalization of secrete campaigns, however, Exxon Mobil can hitch Bob to its wagon without voters even knowing.

We're about to see this formula of secret money equals election, equals bad policy in action. Just in terms of campaign donations it disclosed, Wall Street put more money than ever into this year's elections, and a bigger portion of that than ever went to Republicans. We don't know how much dark money the banksters donated to the GOP because, obviously, the donors can keep that their little secret. But we do know that the new Republican Congress has gleefully declared Wall Street deform one of its top priorities.

Following the greed-fueled financial meltdown of 2008, reformers passed the Dodd-Frank bill, imposing modest restrictions on Wall Street's reckless speculation and setting up a new consumer watchdog to protect people from predatory financial greed. Even though both reforms have proven beneficial, and even though no GOP candidate dared to promise voters that "I'll kill those protections and unleash the arrogant greedmeisters on you again" — that's exactly what the Republican majority will now vote to do.

The message of this election is that money matters — it matters more than what We The People want lawmakers to do, or not do. At the very least, shouldn't we be told the truth about who's buying what with their massive, self-serving political spending?

How ironic that cynical lawmakers demand that us commoners show our picture on an official "voter ID" card in order to be allowed to cast a ballot, yet they allow enormously rich corporations to buy our elections (and, therefore, our public policies) without showing a "Donor ID" card. If you're wondering who's in charge, there it is.

To battle oligarchic rule-by-money, connect with Public Citizen by clicking here.

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker and author of Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow. Click here to contact him, follow him on Twitter: @JimHightower, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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