When SCOTUS voted 5-4 in favor of Citizens United in 2010, it opened the door to unlimited independent election spending by corporations, political nonprofits, Super PACs, and the wealthy. Justice Anthony Kennedy, in his majority opinion, wrote that independent spending in elections “[does] not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.”
So, Justice Kennedy just didn’t think that opening the big money floodgates and allowing these groups to donate millions of dollars to their chosen candidate’s campaigns could potentially sway elections and gain influence (i.e. corruption).
Well, think again Justice Kennedy. What has happened in the state of North Carolina since Citizens United, is a crucial example of what happens when big money, provided by right-wing extremist conservatives, are allowed to fund and influence elections.
Since 2010, the takeover of North Carolina by Republican extremists was architected and funded primarily by one man – multimillionaire conservative Arthur (Art) Pope. Within two years, thanks to Pope’s millions, Republicans took control of both houses of the North Carolina legislature and put their “guy”, Gov. Pat McCrory (R), in office. McCrory immediately installed Pope as his state budget director.
Gov. McCrory and Pope, with full support of the new right-wing legislature, started passing legislation that would unravel the social and economic safety net for struggling North Carolinians, including:
- Cutting off unemployment benefits for tens of thousands of people
- Cutting benefits for working people
- Cutting pay for public school teachers
- Denying Medicaid coverage to half a million low-income people
- Defunding public education
- Eliminating protections against racial discrimination in the criminal justice system
- Gutting gun violence prevention efforts
- Attacking religious freedom
- Threatening women’s reproductive rights
All while cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy, and giving salary hikes to members of his cabinet.
Since coming into power, Republicans in North Carolina have also launched one of the country’s most extensive attacks on democracy itself:
- Suppressed voting rights
- Decimated the state’s campaign finance disclosure laws and contribution limits
- Heavily gerrymandered congressional districts
- Politicized judicial elections
Thanks to SCOTUS and their decision on Citizens United, North Carolina became a prime example of how big money from a single, wealthy donor can influence the political direction of an entire state and the damage it can do to its citizens.
But don’t think it ends there. This is similar to the model being employed on a much larger national scale by the conservative, multibillionaire Koch brothers. The Koch brothers and their allies develop strategies for electing Republicans and advancing conservative initiatives on the state and national levels. The money, structure, and scale of the Koch’s influence is massive compared to that of Art Pope in North Carolina. In 2012, the Koch’s political machine poured over $400 million into the elections. That amount will seem like peanuts compared to the upcoming 2016 elections.
So, is what happened in North Carolina a glimpse into our future?
I hope not. Our only defense is to get involved and help get out the voters.
Huffington Post, Paul Blumenthal
Right Wing Watch, Miranda Blue