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Good money vs. bad money

August 15th, 2010

The News & Observer, better late than never, on Sunday revealed that four months ago Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue shook down — sorry, but there’s no better way to say it — corporations for campaign cash:

Gov. Bev Perdue had called the board rooms of North Carolina’s biggest corporations and asked them to ante up for a fundraiser for the nation’s Democratic governors’ political kitty. They delivered $1.2 million, the largest fundraiser of its kind ever held by the Democratic Governors Association.

It was a sign that Perdue wants to be more of a player on the national stage while also hoping to raise North Carolina’s profile.

And it provides a brief glimpse of how big money flows in politics — the kind of money that does not show up in the campaign finance reports.

The event allowed corporate executives and lobbyists to rub elbows with several of the nation’s governors. And it allowed the Democratic governors to collect large checks directly from corporations, legally bypassing the usual restrictions on political donations.

Want to have some fun? Great. Let’s recall, then, the reaction of the Democratic establishment to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, in which a ban on political spending by corporations was overturned. Here, for instance, was President Obama’s reaction, according to the New York Times:

“… a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”

But the Times pointed out that the Supreme Court also declared that corporations can be required to disclose their political spending —meaning that corporate advocacy would be done in the open, for all to see.

In light of all this, we now have the Democratic Party’s definition of “bad political money” and “good political money.” The first is money spent by corporations themselves, in the open, to advance a political agenda. That’s a threat to democracy, and shouldn’t be tolerated — Supreme Court be damned. The second is money given by corporations to politicians, quietly and out of sight of the public, to be used to advance a political agenda.

That, apparently, is just peachy.