THE BLOG

America for Sale: The Best Government Money Can Buy

04/04/2014 08:57 BST | Updated 03/06/2014 10:59 BST

With the latest Supreme Court ruling in McCutcheon v FEC the flood gates for personal wealth to influence the outcome of US elections have swung wide open and some would say American democracy itself is now up for sale.

With its five-four ruling the US Supreme Court has given money in politics a new status - cash is now "king" in a way it has never been before.

This ruling marks the end of era and proves that elections have real consequences beyond the term any presidential candidate is elected to serve.

In the era which has just ended Congress enacted all the reforms and restrictions designed to avoid financial campaign abuse in response to the Watergate Scandal. All of these efforts culminated with the passage of the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act.

These reforms along with the original equal time rules governing the public airways were all designed to level the economic playing field for all candidates.

The purpose of these rules were to ensure that all sides had a chance to air their views to the widest public audience guaranteeing that money alone was not the sole impediment to any potential candidate.

This decision broke along party lines with Republican appointees Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Clarence Thomas joining in the majority opinion.

While the Democratic appointees Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined the in the dissenting opinion.

This decision basically drove the final nail in the coffin of campaign finance reform legislation in America for years to come.

The 5-4 split decision exposed the political chasm that exists in the US Supreme Court today between the Republican and Democratic presidential appointees and is reflected in their differing views of their role and the US Constitution itself.

What is particularly unusual about this ruling is its underlying highly political nature.

This ruling is almost as politically incendiary as Bush v Gore - where many thought the Supreme Court may have learned a valuable lesson to steer clear of hot political battles.

Apparently, that was not the case.

The "Citizens United" decision was greeted by the left in the US as a political challenge to individual rights in US elections.

In the McCutcheon decision the Supreme Court followed its train of thought in the Citizen United decision and has basically equated the spending of money with a form of free speech.

By doing so the Court has given rich individuals the ability to spend money to get out their message and the Court elevated this right to one worthy of constitutional protection with apparently no limits.

Although this case addressed one type of limit it is clear that all others are also likely to fall.

Practically speaking this means the "Ultra Rich" are free to spend as much money as the wish to support or attack any candidate or issue.

In its broadest sense, it could mean that the richest person could buy all the available airtime and buy or control of all media outlets - even the main access providers to the internet - for many months and flood them solely with their own personal viewpoint.

Although this might make some fat cat political donors jump for joy, they too should be worried because there are really no limits. There are no regulations to level the playing field even among the very rich to prevent abuse by the richest of the rich!

This decision does not address the concept of the equality intended by one person - one vote. Clearly if you are very rich according to this decision your views matter more than those of the financially less fortunate.

What is perhaps even more disturbing is that even the right to "freedom of speech" defined in the US Constitution is normally subject to some restrictions for safety, the public good and to accommodate other conflicting equally important constitutional rights.

This does not appear to be the case here - now the right to spend unlimited resources to promote your views is completely unfettered no matter how much damage it does to the delicate balance of the US political system.

This ruling may have damaged the very essence of what American democracy stands for which this country has been foisting on other "less democratic" nations since 1776.

Before this decision and its predecessor Citizens United, there were limits on corporate spending, foreign money contributions and individual and group limits etc. Now there are none.

The dissent believes the basis for the majority opinion is simply "wrong-headed".

In reality, the dissenting faction of the Court simply does not have the number of Justices needed to prevail. With this decision, they may never achieve that number again.

This move by the Court is seen by those on the left of the political spectrum as an attempt to give an unfair advantage to the wealthiest Americans in an electoral system where the demographics are not in their favor by all accounts.

By giving those who share this viewpoint the advantage, a president who shares the viewpoint expressed by the dissenting Justices may never be elected again and he or she will never get the opportunity to change the current balance in the Supreme Court.

Perhaps the most disturbing fact about this Supreme Court ruling is that a group of individuals who were not elected by anyone, who are appointed for life and who answer to no one have dramatically altered the US electoral process for years and years to come.