Amending the Golden Goose


It may well be the most important bill considered by Congress in the last half-century — and it has virtually no chance of becoming law.

In an effort to overturn the Citizens United and McCutcheon v. FEC rulings, Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) has proposed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would reestablish the authority of Congress to set campaign finance limits.

Amazingly, the bill cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee, but it did so along a party-line vote of 10 to 8, winning every Democrat and no Republican. The unanimous GOP opposition means it’s unlikely to win the two-thirds majority needed in Congress before it can be sent to the states for ratification.

The primary text of the bill reads as follows: “To advance the fundamental principle of political equality for all, and to protect the integrity of the legislative and electoral processes, Congress shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in-kind equivalents with respect to Federal elections, including through setting limits on: (1) the amount of contributions to candidates for nomination for election to, or for election to, Federal office; and (2) the amount of funds that may be spent by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates.”

Republicans are quite proud of their opposition to campaign finance regulations even though an overwhelming majority of American — of both party affiliations — support them. According to a 2010 Washington Post/ ABC News poll, 80 percent of those polled said they oppose the Supreme Court’s decision to allow unfettered corporate political spending. Of those 65 percent “strongly” opposed the ruling. Support for congressional action to curb the ruling garnered similar approval with 72 percent of respondents in favor of reinstating limits.

How then can Republicans flout the will of their constituents? Their position can be succinctly described as “Rule by Golden Goose,” or an aureoanserocracy, if one is more technically minded.

To be fair, Democrats are often just as ethically tainted, but Republicans have made shilling for PACs, billionaires and other dubious concerns their national pastime. Accordingly, they will do nothing to interrupt the flow of golden eggs.

This brings us to another maxim — The Golden Rule — He who has the gold, makes the rules. This principle is a time-honored as it is corrupting.

We all remember the mythology of King Midas. As the story goes, Midas was granted a wish by the god, Dionysus, as a reward for having set free the satyr, Silenus. Midas chose that everything he touched should turn to gold. This was all well and good until he touched his daughter. Midas quickly realized his folly, and Dionysus was a good sport about it. He allowed Midas to wash away his magic touch in the river Pactolus, which thenceforth enjoyed a renown for its deposits of gold.

In Udall’s bill, we as a nation have been offered a dip in the Pactolus. Unfortunately, there are too many people in Washington who have yet to recognize the gross corruption of a gold-clad government. They console themselves and excuse their avarice behind a false banner of “free speech.”

We share the value that there be no fetter on free expression, but this isn’t that. The current broken system of pay to play Congressional action means that only the wealthiest people (not necessarily Americans) and the largest corporations (again, not necessarily American) will have the greatest access and sustained attention of Congress.

We must fix this; and Udall’s amendment is a good start. While we may not need to kill the aforementioned goose, in government — as in omelets — we’re going to have to break some eggs.