Viser arkivet for stikkord dcsommer

It's the money, stupid.

Over to sider i Bergens Tidende kan du i dag lese om de få personene som står for store deler av finansieringen av årets USA-valg. I den anledning legger jeg ut en liten oppsummering av saken som jeg skrev i DC i sommer.

Citizens United v Federal Election Commission

Who’s Citizens United and why do they matter?
Citizens United is a non-profit organization, and it describes itself as dedicated to restoring the citizens’ control over the US government, and to «assert American values of limited government, freedom of enterprise, strong families, and national sovereignty and security.»

They make it easy to place them in the conservative camp of US politics, and to underscore that point, they have previously aired ads in attacking John McCain as being «surprisingly liberal». Citizens United wanted to air a movie about the then frontrunner to be the democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. The movie was, of course, attacking her candidacy.

Their wish to air it was denied by due to the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, known as the McCain-Feingold Act, where broadcasted advertisement mentioning a candidate within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election was illegal.

Citizens United was itself a plaintiff in a 2004 case against Michael Moore, where they argued that advertisements for his movie «Fahrenheit 9/11» was in fact political advertising aimed to target President George W. Bush.

After the FEC dismissed the claim, Citizens United wanted to make a similar type of political documentary. That led to «Hillary: The Movie», which was described as a prolonged version of a TV-ad by the District Court. As Fahrenheit 9/11 had been ruled as legal and «Hillary: The movie» was not, Citizens United decided to challenge it in the court system.

The Supreme Court took the case, and in 2010 they ruled that parts of the McCain-Feingold Act was unconstitutional.

How does this relate to interests groups?
In short, the case is about the use of money for political purposes. Should it be legal for an interest group to gather money and spend it on the making and screening of a movie aimed to support or denounce a specific candidate?

If so, it would’ve been a massive deregulation of political advertisement, in which of course, increases the playing field for interests groups. If «money equals speech», then interests groups would be very interested. It’s all about the money.

Corporate personhood
One of the consequenses of this case, was the continuation of the practice that interest groups, including corporations, have the same rights as people.

That practice started in 1819, when corporations were given the same rights as individuals to make and enforce contracts. The Equal Protection Act sanctioned in the Fourteenth Amendment was in 1886 stated to also cover corporations. Now, with the Citizens United ruling, corporations are protected by the First Amendment.

The result has been the establishment of Super-PACs, a sort of political action committee separated from the official campaign. While the campaign has limits on how much donors can contribute, these Super-PACs have not.

The never-ending debate: Is money good or bad?
Is the act of spending your own money on political ideas or interests a lesser moral deed than to spend money to increase your own stockpile of materialistic wealth? And shouldn’t businesses and labor unions have the same right to influence?

During a talk with former presidential candidate for the Green Party, Ralph Nader, we heard his two main arguments on what’s problematic about US politics: First, the massive corporate influence on policies, and second, the fact that the US electorate is too little involved in politics. So why limit the one area where Americans are very active? Remember, Super-PAC money often come from individuals.

It is not that easy however. The general populace is not that active in political donations even if the aggregated dollars are high. When President Obama ran for office in 2008, he was the first to really take an advantage of the low-tier donations, such as $50. Previously, larger donations, closer to the then limit of $ 2 000 in the primaries and $2 000 in the general election was the dominating donation.

There is a real worry that US politics are moving in a more money-driven direction, giving interest groups more power. One can ask if the US has gone from «checks and balances» to «balanced checks» as the most important component of government and politics. The power of the political parties, however, will be reduced as a consequence. The Framers would like that, as they saw interest groups in a better light than they saw parties, where the latter only led to factions and a more polarized political debate.

Ny (heftig) uke i DC

Forrige uke var tettpakket med program, men denne uken ser ikke slappere ut. Programmet vårt er en ting, men hele DC venter på to høyesterettsdommer, utfallet av Fast & Furious-behandlingen i Kongressen og fremtiden til studielån. Det mest omtalte er selvsagt helseloven.
Les mer…

Høring om atomvåpen

I dag skal vi på høring med Senatets utenrikskomité, der en skal diskutere New START. Det er en avtale mellom USA og Russland, som ble effektuert for 16 måneder siden, og som har som mål å redusere mengden med atomvåpen og leveransesystemer.

Les mer…

Et møte med McCain

I går fikk jet gleden av å se Senator og tidligere presidentkandidat John McCain tale, samt stille han et spørsmål om FN-involvering i Syria. På arrangementet “Getting serious on Syria” spurte American Enterprise Institute om vi kan “[…] close the Assad era without opening a can of worms?”

Les mer…

En sommer i DC

I noen uker fremover blir det nok bare oppdateringer fra USA på denne bloggen. Jeg reiser til Washington, D.C. og skal være i USAs hovedstad i tre uker.

Jeg reiser sammen med en ukjent mengde ukjente studenter, og skal bo på Georgetown University. Programmet er i regi av organisasjonen Oxbridge Learning Academy, og er et Oxford-kurs som er komprimert til tre uker. For en som er så interessert i amerikansk politikk som meg, blir dette sikkert helt fantastisk. Se bare på et utdrag fra den første ukens program:

Les mer…