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Money and Politics

The old saying, “money is the root of all evil” never rang truer than it does today. And in no sector of human endeavor does it ring truer today than it does in the political arena. It is reasonable to think that conservatives, liberals, libertarians, and independents alike could all agree on at least one thing: Our country would be better if we could find a way to take the money out of politics. If we could close the revolving doors between government offices and the corporate offices of the companies who desire government action that benefits them financially, wouldn’t there be less corruption, fewer conflicts of interest and less temptation on the part of those our citizenry has charged with the responsibility to write and enforce our laws and ensure fairness to all? If we could end the practice of political contributions as a means of purchasing access to those in our government with the power to enact laws that have a financial impact on those who make those contributions, wouldn’t that benefit all Americans, especially those who don’t have the means to make such political contributions?

Most people, regardless of their political affiliation, would answer yes to those questions. But somehow, in each political cycle, we seem to have gotten further and further from those common-sense ideals upon which most Americans agree. And finally, with just a little research, it is possible to point to a reason why: the current United States Supreme court (at least until February 2016, back when it was fully staffed with nine justices). With holdings in cases like Citizens United, which codified such previously unheard of legal theories as “corporations are entitled to the same rights as persons,” and “money equals speech,” the court has given free rein to those who seek the cover of law in committing what is known in most democracies (and once was in this one) as open bribery.

It would be nice to say that all sides are responsible, and to some extent all are. But some are more responsible than others. The facts speak for themselves. The Republican-appointed justices prevailed in these cases, and they did so over the objection and dissent of those four justices appointed by Democrats. Justice Scalia was the deciding vote in these cases, and his death leaves a vacancy that has engendered a ferocious battle over his replacement. Despite their constitutional duty to do so, the U.S. Senate has refused to even consider the appointment of Judge Merrick Garland as Scalia’s replacement, with nearly eleven months available to do so, simply because President Obama, a Democrat, was the president who made the appointment.

The next president, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, will appoint not only Scalia’s replacement, but in all likelihood, two or three additional justices as well. Short of declaring a major war, there is little the next president can do to have a greater impact on the future of our country than the appointment of one, two, three, or perhaps even four, Supreme Court justices. Donald Trump has named ten judges he would put on a list for potential replacements. None of them, based on their previous writings and words, would vote to overturn Citizens United. Hillary Clinton has said she will appoint judges who would be inclined to overturn it. Voters who are undecided in the coming election would do well to consider that the next judges appointed to the Supreme Court will have an opportunity to move our country toward more honesty, more accountability to all citizens, and away from more corruption. Or they will have an opportunity to do the opposite.


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