It’s a long way to Labor Day, the official start of campaign season, but the airwaves are already full of campaign rhetoric. Even before former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown began his New Hampshire exploratory tour, there were TV commercials urging voters to “Tell Senator Shaheen to be honest. Obama care doesn’t work.”
And now that Senator Brown is pondering a run, incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen has targeted him with radio spots. “Not so long ago, the ad’s announcer says, “Scott Brown said he was really disgusted with super PAC ads.
If you have not heard either of these ads, enjoy the moment. Prepare for a headache inducing never-ending cycle of negative ads, part of the reality since Citizens United became the rule of law. The Supreme Court’s ruling that campaign spending is an expression of free speech, even if the speaker is a corporations. It has paved the way for so called outside funding--deep pocketed groups as well as individuals directing huge sums of money at campaigns.
The 2012 presidential election set records for this type of campaign funding. In New Hampshire, outside groups spent 19 million, that’s 5 times MORE than the candidates. Analysts predict that amount will double for this year’s mid terms. That’s guaranteed if Senator Brown does decide to run; he’s already said he would not sign another people’s pledge to ban outside funding. There is simply too much money on the table.
It’s not that big money hasn’t always been a part of American political campaigns, but now a coalition of concerned citizens warn that money continues to change our democracy into a ‘dollaracracy.’ What was individual grousing about Citizens United is turning into a movement. Leading the movement---activists on the right and left --including Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig who led a protest march across new Hampshire a few months back, a national effort called Move to Amend, and Public Citizen’s Corporate Reform Coalition.
And 17 states, including New Hampshire are fighting back. Recently 47 Granite state towns voted for warrants to overturn Citizens United. But, analysts predict nothing will happen in New Hampshire before the November elections.
So, I’m readying my defense---a fast flip of the wrist to switch off the incessant radio commercials, and a trigger finger on the TV remote ready to mute the first seconds of partisan red white and blue blather.
In a nation where money talks—loudly—it’s easy to see the anti money movement as futile, little more than tilting at windmills. The cynics and pessimists among us who doubt the possibility of reform, do best to remember the African proverb—“When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion.”