A Disastrous Ruling

Editorial

Published June 27, 2012, issue of July 06, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to let stand its disastrous 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission consolidated Sheldon Adelson’s position as the national leader of mega-donors in this year’s political races. He is so far in the lead that he has become the poster child for unprecedented, unfettered campaign spending, with promises for much more in the race to November.

We’ll admit that seeing a Jew in that position makes us uncomfortable. Especially when that Jew is a businessman who makes much of his money from a casino in Macau, beyond American shores, and who is outspoken in his hard-line political views regarding Israel and Iran.

This discomfort is a rather old-fashioned feeling, to be sure. Adelson’s donations, which are perfectly legal, hardly represent the first time that Jews have entered the political arena with lots of money to share with their favored candidates and causes. In 2004, George Soros gave $23.7 million to a handful of outside political groups called 527 organizations, making him the largest donor to outside groups that election cycle. His politics were decidedly more to the left than Adelson’s, but his intention to use his money to defeat George W. Bush was just as passionate as Adelson’s desire to end the Obama presidency after only one term.

Conservatives pilloried Soros. Liberals are now going after Adelson. So? What’s to be concerned about?

For starters, the rules of the game have changed. The 527 organizations that seemed so cutting-edge eight years ago have been completely overtaken by the flood unleashed by Citizens United, which allows corporations and unions to spend as much money as they like to support or oppose political candidates. (And corporations, as individuals or as companies, have a lot more cash on hand than unions these days).

As a result, the scale of giving has ramped up with astonishing swiftness. It’s only June, but Adelson and his wife have already contributed 150 percent more to super-PACs and individual candidates than Soros did during the entire 2004 election. More money brings more influence, no doubt about it. Otherwise, why would anyone part with such huge sums?

But the high court’s decision pointed to something more troubling than astronomical dollar amounts: the potential for corruption, or the appearance thereof. In its 5-4 ruling, the court summarily reversed a decision of the Montana Supreme Court that had upheld a state law limiting independent political spending by corporations. Montana had enacted the law to tame a political system that its own state leaders determined had been corrupted by corporate interests.

As Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in his stinging dissent: “Montana’s experience, like considerable experience elsewhere since the court’s decision in Citizens United, casts grave doubt on the court’s supposition that independent expenditures do not corrupt or appear to do so.”

The appearance of corruption can be almost as dangerous as the real thing. It suggests that special treatment is accorded the person who is able, through money and the power it confers, to steer government to benefit his or her individual interests. And, therefore, that government is not neutral, justice is not blind, but is in fact twisted in a way that leaves the rest of us unable to compete.

So, yes, it makes us uncomfortable to see Adelson as this campaign cycle’s poster child. It’s not that he’s done anything wrong. It’s the unmistakeable appearance that something is not right that so worried the judges in Montana and the dissenting justices on the Supreme Court. It should worry us, too.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.