Transcript #156

Supreme Court May Toss Out Laws Limiting Corporate Campaign Contributions


Partially hyperlinked to sources.  For all sources, see the data resources page.


Your sources for this segment include: the New York Times,, The Edmund Burke Institute,  and


I want to start off by letting you consider these three quotes from American presidents, widely separated in time, but not sentiment:


Here's founding father Thomas Jefferson, who wrote that he hoped to


crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.

Jefferson spoke for many of our founding fathers.


Next, Abraham Lincoln in his first annual message to Congress:


Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.

And finally, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, accepting the Democratic nomination for President in 1936:


audio: FDR

These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power. Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power. In vain they seek to hide behind the flag and the Constitution.  But in their blindness they forget what the flag and the Constitution stand for.  Now, as always, for over a century and a half, the flag, the Constitution, stand against a dictatorship by mob rule and the overprivileged alike…

What did the concerns of these Presidents have to do with a potentially game-changing case about to be decided by the Supreme Court?


All of these Presidents recognized the dangers of unbridled corporate power.  And the Supreme Court may be about to unleash such unbridled corporate power when it decides the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.


The Supreme Court will cut short its summer breakto hear a new argument in a momentous case that could transform the way political campaigns are conducted.  

The case, which arises from a minor political documentary called “Hillary: The Movie,” seemed an oddity when it was first argued in March. Just six months later, it has turned into a juggernaut with the potential to shatter a century-long understanding about the government’s ability to bar corporations from spending money to support political candidates.

That century long-understanding was one means by which the nation enshrined the concerns of Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt that corporations not get too powerful.


Starting as far back as the late 1800's, states began barring corporate expenditures on elections.


Corporate contributions became an issue in federal elections.


It came to a head during the 1904 presidential campaign, when the Democratic candidate felt compelled to proclaim:


The greatest moral question which now confronts us is, shall the trusts and corporations be prevented from contributing money to control…elections?”

In 1907 Congress went ahead and banned corporate campaign contributions.  In the over one hundred years since then, Congress has repeatedly ratified that ban, right through the 2002 McCain-Feingold law.


So let's be clear: it is the American way to restrict the power of corporations to influence elections, to determine the outcomes, to -- let's come right out and say it -- to buy elections.  The right-wing will try to tell you such restrictions are un-American.  Quite the opposite, as history shows.


Next up, details of the mortal danger these corporate campaign restrictions are facing.  See you in a sec.






So what exactly is this Supreme Court case about?


During the last Democratic primary season, Citizens United, a conservative advocacy group, produced a film called "Hillary: The Movie."  It was a decidedly negative portrayal.  The Federal Elections Commission ruled that Citizens United could not distribute it on a video-on-demand service, because of the McCain-Feingold prohibition on corporate money being used for electioneering.


The lower court agreed with the FEC, concluding that the sole purpose of the movie was to convince viewers to vote against Clinton.


The shocker came when the case reached the Supreme Court.  The case could have been decided on narrow grounds, but the Court ordered the parties to re-argue the case, and to address the broadest possible question of all -- whether the Court should overturn its numerous previous decisions and declare such restrictions on corporate spending unconstitutional.


The John Roberts Supreme Court seems in an awful hurry.  It gave the parties to Citizens United only a month to write legal briefs on questions of extraordinary complexity, and then scheduled the oral re-arguments for before the Court's scheduled Fall term even started.


What's the rush?  Does Roberts know that Justice Kennedy is retiring, and they want to get this case decided before Obama gets to appoint a replacement, and possibly swing the Court 5-4 in the other direction?


That conjecture aside, this case has caused somewhat of a split among progressives.  First Amendment purists believe the corporate restrictions should be thrown out.  But the majority of progressives feel democracy itself would be threatened by unlimited corporate spending, and that concern trumps any First Amendment considerations.


I don't know about you, but I agree with Fred Wertheimer, one of the fathers of the campaign finance reform movement.  He explained:


This is rough business. We’re not dealing with campaign finance laws. We’re dealing with the essence of power in America.

And that's the key.  Power.


Check out these numbers:


In the 2008 election cycle, political parties and federal political action committees spent a total of $2.7 billion.  At the same time, the profits of the just the Fortune 100 companies alone was 224 times that, $650 billion. [correction: should be $605 billion]


Just imagine: if the law forbidding this is overturned by the Roberts Supreme Court, these companies could take just 1% of their profits -- $6.5 billion [correction: should be $6 billion] -- and outspend everyone else combined by more than two to one!


And of course, you and I know, that to get what they want out of the federal government, these mega-corporations would be willing to spend far more than 1% of their profits.


What would they want?  You know.


If the floodgates open, money from big business could overwhelm the electoral process, as well as the making of laws on issues like tax policy and bank regulation.

… They would be able to…obtain subsidies, stimulus money and tax loopholes and…undo protections for investors, workers and consumers. It would take an extraordinarily brave member of Congress to stand up to agents of big business who then could say, quite credibly, that they would spend whatever it takes in the next election to defeat him or her.  [source]

Of course, this already happens now, but if we think the current situation is bad, you can only imagine how much exponentially worse it will become.


And let me not neglect to mention, that as is so often the case, the right's hypocrisy here is unbelievable.  They always scream about judicial activism.  Yet here, the Court would be ruling broadly when it could instead rule narrowly.  It would be reversing all of its prior rulings upholding such restrictions.  And it would be substituting its views for the view of the people, as expressed through over a century of legislative action restricting corporate electioneering.


At his confirmation hearing, John Roberts said it was his job "to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat."


Here, he'd go far beyond just pitching and batting, playing the game.  He'd be drastically rewriting the rules of the game itself.


Let's expand the frame even further.  The title of a New York Times editorial says it all: "A Threat To Fair Elections"


Right-wingers don't want fair elections.  They don't even want most people to vote.


Your jaw may well drop as you listen to Republican strategy guru Paul Weyrich speaking to right-wing Christian activists.  His message surely could have come straight out of the mouth of Jesus:


audio: Paul Weyrich

Now many of our Christians have what I call the goo-goo syndrome — good government. They want everybody to vote. I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people, they never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.

The conservative "don't let them vote" gene goes way, way, way back.  Here's what Edmund Burke, founder of modern conservatism, had to say :


The occupation of a hair-dresser, or of a working tallow- chandler, cannot be a matter of honour to any person — to say nothing of a number of other more servile employments. Such descriptions of men ought not to suffer oppression from the state; but the state suffers oppression, if such as they, either individually or collectively, are permitted to rule.

Why doesn't the right want fair elections?  Why don't they want people to vote?


How about you and I get to the ultimate bottom line: it's that the right doesn't want any impediments to their project.


If you've been listening to Blast The Right for any length of time, you know my mantra:


Everything the right-wing does is designed to accomplish one of two things, either (a) transfer wealth from everyone else to the rich, or, (b) distract everyone else from the fact that (a), that wealth transfer, is occurring.

The richest 1% have nearly tripled their share of the national income since Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, and right-wing economic policies took hold.


The 400 richest American families now have as much wealth as the entire bottom half of the nation, as the 57 million American households at the bottom of the income scale.


Unbridled corporate power will shift this ongoing wealth transfer into hyper-drive.  Warp speed.


Now I often close a segment with a call to action.  That's not so easy here.  We can't lobby Supreme Court justices.


So I'll end with this instead:


After Obama took office, I started two Word documents.  One is called "obama good."  The other is called "obama bad."  Good and bad, as in his actions in office.


At first there were a lot more good entries.  Then the bads started catching up.  Now the bad document is over twice as long.


But, and this is a big but, there's something in the good document that likely trumps everything combined in the bad document.


When it came time to replace Supreme Court Justice David Souter, Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor.  No, she's not a firebrand progressive, who can counter Scalia.


But she is left of center on many issues.


And most importantly, she's not another Alito or Roberts, which is the type of justice that John McCain said he'd nominate.


The Citizen's United case you've just heard about shows how critically important the Supreme Court is.


Were it not for Obama's election, we'd be facing a definite 5-4, likely 6-3 loss here, and that situation would continue for a generation.  On issues across the board.


And become even worse, if McCain got to pick more justices.


When Obama was running, I said we need to work for him with all our heart and soul if for no other reason than the Supreme Court.


And now you can hopefully see why.


In a moment, some of my recent appearance on Air America.  Stick around.






Jack Discusses Health Care On Air America



Your sources for this segment include the New York Times and Reuters.


A listener, Greg Huff, now has a show on the Air America affiliate in Minneapolis, station KTNF, AM 950.


Congrats, Greg. Good luck!!


Greg invited me on to discuss health care.  Here's a five-minute excerpt, which contains a great new analogy to use when pointing out to your friendly local right-winger that even though our health care system is the most expensive in the world, we get some of the worst results.


I apologize for the less than stellar audio quality.


audio: Greg Huff, Jack Clark

Greg Huff:  Now, from your research, and I think you did a 3-part series on health care myths and the right-wing talking points regarding health care, what would you say from your experience are the biggies, the biggest lies?  You know they always say "the bigger the lie, the easier people will believe it," so what are some of the right's big lies?

Jack Clark:  Absolutely.  I think the biggest right-wing lie—and it underlies everything else they say—is that the U.S. health-care system is the best in the world.  And when they say that, and if you accept that, then we really don't need to change much, do we?  Because it's the best in the world.

So what I would do is, the first thing when I would be talking to a right-winger, is I would say to him, even before he brings it up, almost, or if he does bring it up, just say "Well, did you know that 60 percent of all bankruptcies in the United States are due to medical bills—and most of those people had health insurance?" Obviously, inadequate insurance.

So that means hundreds of thousands of Americans go bankrupt every year from medical bills.  And if you look at every other developed nation in the world and you ask "How many people in any of these countries go bankrupt from their medical bills?" the answer would be a big fat zero. 

Huff:  Zilch!

Clark: The concept would be absurd to them.  Immoral.  An outrage, that someone should go bankrupt because of the cost of saving their life—because of their medical care.  And can I expand on that a bit?

Huff:  Sure.

Clark:  Ok, beyond the financial burden that our health care system puts on people, it also results in care that is not the best by far.  The fact of the matter is—and these statistics are from the CIA Factbook—it's not from some left-wing source.

Huff:  Right.

Clark:  CIA Factbook—Central Intelligence Agency puts this stuff online every year.

Huff:  That's one thing I appreciate about your podcast.  Everything is carefully sourced.  You can go to your website and you've got hyperlinks to all of your source material, so people can't just say hey, you're pulling these facts out of, you know, where the sun don't shine like say, Rush Limbaugh, who just cites numbers that don't really relate to reality.

Clark:  They just make stuff up.

Huff:  Yeah, they make it up!

Clark:  Absolutely.  So what the CIA Factbook, it has these two statistics for every country in the world—life expectancy:  how long your adults can expect to live.  And the United States ranks dead last among all developed nations in life expectancy.  Beyond all the European countries, beyond every country in the world that has a national health care system, our adults live -- have shorter life expectancy.

And the counterpart of that is infant mortality rate: the number of  babies, infants that die before they reach one year old—we have the highest infant mortality rate of any developed nation.

Huff:  Those aren't good stats.

Clark:  No.  So how could we say we have the best system?  And here's the kicker.  Here's the kicker.  Well maybe you could say they spend a lot more so they get a better result.  No, it's the exact opposite, Greg.  We in the United States, per person, spend more than any of those other countries on health care—often twice as much, often twice as much as them—and we get a terrible result as far as the health of our population.

It's like—let me give you an analogy.  Let's say every year you order a Rolls Royce and you pay Rolls Royce price.  And every year they deliver you an '85 rust bucket. 

Huff:  A Pinto!

Clark:  A Pinto—a dangerous one at that!  A Pinto, good.  What would that mean?  Every year? You'd begin to say maybe we'd better do something different because we're not getting a good result, and people die.  People die.

In fact, there's some hard stats on how many people are estimated to die from our lousy health care. 

Huff:  Well, to take your metaphor further, so what's happening right now out with these town halls and everything, is that people aren't totally angry that they're not getting their Rolls Royce.  They're afraid you're going to take their Pinto away! 

Clark:  Absolutely, and the funny thing is, they don't even know what they—that's right. The funniest thing, you know—and I know you have a lot of funny bits on your show—so to me, this is almost, it's sad, but it's also funny—they did a poll and they said "Should the government stay out of Medicare?"

Huff: (laughs)

Clark:  And this is frightening, because there were some people at town halls who were quoted in the newspaper as saying, you know,  "keep your government hands off my Medicare," but, you know, right-wingers said "oh, they're just the exception." 

But 39 percent of people in this country said yes, the government should stay out of Medicare, and 15 percent said they weren't sure. So that means that over half the people in the country don't even know that Medicare is a government program.

That's how bad a job out mass media does, and our educational system does in explaining to people what's even going on. 

People love Medicare!  Who doesn't have a relative that's on Medicare and appreciates it?  You pick your own doctor, you pick your own hospital, you pick your own care, the government pays it out of, you know, the tax revenues that have been paid in previous years or in current years. 

And the satisfaction rate on these, Medicare is very high, according to all polls.  And you know what?  Medicare is single payer! 

Huff: Exactly.

Clark: You pick your own doctor, you pick your own private doctor, you pick your own private hospital, and the government pays.  And that's what the public option is.  The public option is just you can buy into a Medicare-type system.   And that's what the right-wingers are screaming and yelling about is so horrible!

[for sources of the data cited in this excerpt, see the transcripts of podcasts 152, 154 and 155]

Wasn’t that great, the way Greg capped off my Rolls Royce analogy, by adding that the rust bucket was a Pinto?  The car with the exploding gas tank, knowingly marketed in that unsafe condition by Ford, even though they knew people would die. 


How about sending in some comments on this clip?  I'm interested in hearing how I can improve my live radio presentation.


Beyond that, I hope you can see the connection with the previous segment.


Just like corporations want the ability to make unlimited direct campaign contributions so they can ramp up even further the transfer of wealth from everyone else to the already rich, so, too, does the insurance industry want to perpetuate the current situation, where huge profits enrich the few, while others less fortunate die as a result, from lack of insurance and other shortcomings of our health care system.  


Shameful, don't you think?


Up next: the strange, right-wing-related similarities between Brazil 1964 and Honduras 2009.  Stay tuned.






Honduran Coup Update



I want to update you on developments in the right-wing military coup in Honduras, and suggest to you why what happens there is so important. 


Your sources for this segment include: Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting,, the New York Times, the Associated Press, the British newspaper The Guardian, CNN, the Nation magazine, the website of the U.S. State Department, and


As you know from podcast 153, over half of Hondurans live in poverty, the kind of poverty where children die from hunger and lack of medical care.


Wealthy rancher Manuel Zelaya was elected president and swung way left.  He did great stuff like raising the minimum wage, and spending far more on health care, education, elderly assistance and the like.  


The right-wing elite in that nation was not amused, and a military coup overthrew Zelaya.


Condemnation of the coup was near-unanimous worldwide.


Since podcast 153, developments in Honduras have followed a familiar pattern, with the coup government persecuting opponents of the coup.  Amnesty International reported widespread beatings and arrests.  There have been credible allegations of the use of rape and other sexual violence as a method of intimidation.


This week President Zelaya made his way back into the country undetected by the coup government and has taken refuge in the Brazilian Embassy in the Honduran capital. Events are moving so quickly that whatever I say now will likely be outdated by the time you hear it.  So let me address a larger question you may be asking yourself: why is any of this important?  Honduras is just one little country of less than eight million people. 


The past provides one part of the answer.  This Honduran coup has an eerily similar antecedent in that region.


In early 1960's Brazil, a wealthy rancher had also swung left after he was elected president and did similar things like raising the minimum wage.  Again like 2009 Honduras, sham charges were brought up that he was trying to amend the constitution to run for another term. 


And again in parallel, the media said the Brazilian president was a leftist and ally of Castro, like the current day media justifies the Honduran coup by pointing out that Zelaya is friendly with Hugo Chavez.


Both presidents were accused of trying to create a communist style system in their country, when in neither case was that true.


The Brazilian military overthrew that president in 1964.


This set the stage for a series of right-wing coups across Latin America, and those coup governments used bloody repression to beat down any opposition.


At the time, the liberal New York Times cheered on the campaign against leftists across the continent.  The corporate media portrayed the right-wing dictatorships as having great economic policies, even though these policies caused terrible suffering among the region's poor majority.


This spreading of right-wing military overthrows of progressive governments, is what must be avoided now, and reversing the Honduran coup is the best way to make sure of that.


I'm happy to say that, unlike reactions back then, the nations of Latin America rejected the Honduran coup.  They criticized the United States for hindering the reversal of the coup.  They told the coup leaders that they couldn't run out the clock, because any new government elected under elections run by the coup government won't be recognized.


Taking a cue from these countries, the United States also said it would not recognize any such successor government.  And it finally started taking some steps it should have done long ago, such as revoking the visas of the Honduran coup president and other high government officials.


Also on the "why is this important" front, President Zelaya of Honduras, speaking in Washington, DC a few weeks ago, painted the big picture:


[T]he same opponents of Obama in the US are mine in Honduras. The transnational trade, oil and banking systems. Those who do not want health insurance here are the same as those who do not want to pay a living wage in Honduras.

In other words, the right-wing is the same around the world.


As with the Citizen's United case, and health care, money is the bottom line.


Everything the right-wing does is designed to accomplish one of two things, either (a) transfer wealth from everyone else to the rich, or, (b) distract everyone else from the fact that (a), that wealth transfer, is occurring.

The right-wing throughout US history, the American right-wing today, the right-wing Justices on the Supreme Court, right-wingers in 1964 Brazil, right-wingers in 2009 Honduras.


All of a piece.


The five letter word I referred to in the introduction to today's show, that would tie all these segments together, was, of course, greed.


Fight back on Honduras, the Honduran people really need your help. And by fighting the right there, you'll be helping fight the right here as well.


So please call your two Senators and member of the House of Representatives, and demand that they impose full economic sanctions on Honduras, and do everything else possible to ensure the reinstatement of Manuel Zelaya as president of Honduras.  The Capitol Hill switchboard is 202-224-3121. You can also call the White House with the same message.  The number there is 202-456-1111.


There's also a link in the transcript of this show and on the podcast home page, to send an email to President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton asking that they denounce the military violence in Honduras against the supporters of President Zelaya.


I've been calling and emailing all this week.  Please join in.



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