THE SANTA CLARA
February 26, 2015
This weekend’s revelation that the conservative billionaire Koch Brothers have given over $1.25 million to a foremost climate change denier does little to dispel the notion that “money can’t buy happiness.” It does suggest, however, that wealth can buy power, influence and integrity.
In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision ruled that corporations could be sheltered from certain campaign spending regulations under the First Amendment.
The Supreme Court made a crippling mistake with Citizens United. In moving to protect the uber-wealthy, it slipped American democracy a poison pill and threw its support behind the oligarchy of the “1 percent.”
As a result of the decision, wealthy Americans can now exploit a series of loopholes and partake in political money laundering.
It’s legal. It’s discreet. And most importantly, it is one of the worst rulings in Supreme Court history, arguably only eclipsed by the 1944 Korematsu decision, which found that Americans of Japanese descent could be placed in internment camps during World War II, and the 1857 Dred Scott case, which found that African Americans could not be considered citizens.
Now, Charles and David Koch can purchase more than just the integrity of Willie Soon, a scientist from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who said the cause of global temperature fluctuations stems from changes on the sun and is not human induced. They can quite literally buy our government.
In 2012, the brothers raised over $400 million for Republican campaigns, particularly the campaigns of Tea Party candidates, through their political network. The 2014 midterms saw 290 million Koch network dollars back conservative campaigns.
The 2016 elections will likely experience the most Koch Brothers’ spending to date. Their recently released budget states that their network intends to spend $889 million on the next campaign, roughly the same amount of money spent on the last presidential election by the entire Republican party.
As an arts and sciences major, I’m not completely sure about the accuracy of my math, but I am fairly certain that $889 million is slightly more than the $2,600 that individuals can legally give to each candidate or committee per election.
Conservative defenders of the Koch brothers are quick to point out enormous fiscal donations from liberals like Tom Steyer, a retired San Francisco hedge fund manager who gave $73.7 million to mainly his Super PAC in the 2014 midterms. Yet such backing completely overlooks the issue at hand and only further highlights the problem.
Anyone even moderately aware of America’s political landscape recognizes the need for change. Gallup polls note that, “In 2014, an average of 15 percent of Americans approved of Congress.” Government shutdowns, fiscal cliffs and a culture of mediocrity have left our country wallowing in despair.
The Koch Brothers’ millions will only worsen this. Especially when one realizes that the purpose, as Charles Koch puts it, is “largely defensive to slow down a government that continues to swell and become more intrusive.” Considering that our government is already slower than the Santa Clara basketball team’s response to a Gonzaga fast break (Yeah, I went there), this does not seem like a favorable option.
The Supreme Court needs to reevaluate its Citizens United decision in order to keep big spenders like the Koch Brothers from steering our government into a brick wall. America’s billionaires should spend their money on lavish yachts, lousy football teams and whatever else pleases them — as long as such delight doesn’t come from the complete and devastating control of American politics sought by the Koch Brothers.
Thomas Curran-Levett is a junior political science major and the editor of the Opinion section.