Hardly a day goes by without a story exposing wealthy special interests sticking it to the average Joe. One day it's Wall Street bankers bringing down the economy, foreclosing on the unsuspecting poor, and getting off virtually scot-free. The next day it's insurance companies charging exorbitant rates for health coverage yet denying claims whenever they can get away with it. Drug companies and pesticide manufacturers lobby the Food and Drug Administration to delay pulling a harmful product from the market while unwitting patients or phosphate-breathing farm workers pay the heavy price. The recent article, "Kochs have stake in oil sands," raises concerns about who really stands to gain from the Keystone XL Pipeline. And then there is Sheldon Adelson.
Mr. Adelson is blatantly attempting to hold court for the Republican presidential contenders wishing to compete for his financial support. The victor in this "winner take all" bid for the casino mogul's backing stands to pocket a fortune in TV ads from the man who spent $93 million in his 2012 bid as kingmaker.
Mr. Adelson, the Koch brothers and a handful of other billionaires, working with their front groups and Super PACs, use their fortunes to control the political dialogue in America's elections, in large part, because of the Supreme Court's verdict in Citizens United. This game of "billionaire bingo" will get even more out of hand now that the court has ruled similarly in McCutcheon v. FEC.
There are now 14 proposed Constitutional amendments in Congress that would address Citizens United. However, Congress' failure to act on any of them speaks volumes about legislators' own dependence on corporate donations and the power of "dark money" in our political campaigns. Accordingly, the burden now rests with states like Maryland, which are empowered to call for a convention under Article V of the U.S. Constitution, expressly to (1) affirm every citizen's individual right to vote, (2) reject the doctrine that artificial entities have inalienable right and (3) regulate campaign contributions and electioneering expenditures. In all, 34 states (two-thirds) must issue the call for a convention to take place. Maryland, in all its diversity, would be among the first.
We must not delay any longer in responding to the crisis posed by Citizens United. Maryland can show the way forward now, much as our 17th century forebears did with the first statute for religious toleration in America. Maryland is poised to accomplish a significant milestone and should summon the courage to act boldly in the face of an existential threat to democracy.
Joe Garonzik, Baltimore
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