Michael Bloomberg’s cash is not welcome here

Today, The Morningside Post published an op-ed* I wrote on New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision to start his own SuperPAC, Independence USA PAC:

Two years ago, when the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that, for the purposes of the First Amendment, corporations were people – a phrase presidential candidate Mitt Romney made famous last year –the floodgates burst to unleash torrents of political campaign advertising. What rendered this decision especially troubling was the fact that these SuperPACs – a category that did not even exist prior to 2010 – are often funded by “dark money,” or unknown financial backers, whose advertisements and other campaign expenditures have already surpassed $400 million during this presidential campaign.

Candidates shuttling back and forth among moneyed patrons and trading away their policymaking autonomy for the chance to blanket Ohio in 30-second TV spots: this is no way to run a democracy. According to the Washington Post, since June of this year, the two candidates have personally attended 176 fundraisers (69 for Obama, 107 for Romney). Republican strategist Karl Rove’s fundraising organization American Crossroads has spent over $63 million in the 2012 election cycle alone, and yet its donor list remains a closely guarded secret.

In the face of this frontal assault on our democratic ideal of “one person, one vote,” Mayor Bloomberg’s attempt to launch political moderates back into the halls of power amounts to little more than a bandage. And it is the worst kind, because it confuses the symptom for the underlying illness: by using the very same funding tactics that helped drive the fringe into the mainstream American political landscape in the first place, Bloomberg’s efforts constitute an implicit endorsement of the post-Citizens United world. But accelerating the funding arms race is not the right long-term approach.

* Edited here only to add spaces after punctuation marks, which were accidentally eliminated in the transition from Microsoft Word to The Morningside Post.

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