Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Art Pope, another wealthy political buccaneer given vastly greater power by "Citizen's United"

Marc Farinella, a Democratic political consultant who was Obama's 2008 campaign director in North Carolina, and is now an adviser to the state’s Democratic governor, Beverly Perdue, says, "In a very real sense, Democrats running for office in North Carolina are always running against Art Pope. The Republican agenda in North Carolina is really Art Pope’s agenda. He sets it, he funds it, and he directs the efforts to achieve it. The candidates are just fronting for him. There are so many people in North Carolina beholden to Art Pope — it undermines the democratic process." Farinella contends that the Citizens United decision is likely to make the problem worse. Because Variety Wholesalers is privately owned by the Pope family, Pope "has access to huge quantities of corporate funds," which now can be channelled freely into politics. Still, Farinella notes, “there are very few people in North Carolina who understand who Art Pope is."
- From Jane Mayer, State for Sale New Yorker 10/10/2011

The article is from a couple of months ago. But it describes another rightwing multimillionaire whose ability to have an outsize effect on elections has been magnified by the atrocious Roberts Court Citizen's United decision. His main area of influence is North Carolina. But the new field for the exercise of oligarchical power that Citizen's United provided is nationwide.

Obama's words back in January of 2010 just after the Court handed down this awful decision were very descriptive:

But this week, the United States Supreme Court handed a huge victory to the special interests and their lobbyists – and a powerful blow to our efforts to rein in corporate influence. This ruling strikes at our democracy itself. ...

This ruling opens the floodgates for an unlimited amount of special interest money into our democracy. It gives the special interest lobbyists new leverage to spend millions on advertising to persuade elected officials to vote their way – or to punish those who don't. That means that any public servant who has the courage to stand up to the special interests and stand up for the American people can find himself or herself under assault come election time. Even foreign corporations may now get into the act.

I can't think of anything more devastating to the public interest. The last thing we need to do is hand more influence to the lobbyists in Washington, or more power to the special interests to tip the outcome of elections.
Whether the President is giving enough attention to a problem that "strikes at our democracy itself" is another question. (President Obama Vows to Continue Standing Up to the Special Interests on Behalf of the American People 01/23/2011) We'll see if the President tries to use his 2012 campaign to build up a public mandate to change the result of which he said - back then, anyway, "I can't think of anything more devastating to the public interest." Because the Art Popes and the Koch Brothers and likely-minded wealthy rightwingers are making use of the Roberts Court decision that "opens the floodgates for an unlimited amount of special interest money into our democracy."

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