Monday, January 25, 2010

What Will the Ruling on Political Ads Mean in the Corporate Oligarchy of Tennessee?

Posted By on Mon, Jan 25, 2010 at 6:54 AM

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President Obama thinks the Supreme Court's campaign finance ruling is the end of democracy as we know it. But in Tennessee, where we've chosen corporate oligarchy over democracy as our form of government, will it really matter that much? The ruling tosses out regulations that barred corporations from buying campaign commercials that explicitly advocated the election or defeat of candidates. Big whoop. Under McCain-Feingold, all businesses have had to do is form PACs and 527s, dump their money into so-called issue ads and pretend there was no coordination with candidates. It was sneaky and fun. They even coined a cute term for it: swift-boating! Now, corporations can pop up a TV ad and proudly claim it as their own. This new system is more honest, but it's not too much different from the old one. Here, corporations never have seen much need to buy issue ads. Why bother? Business interests pretty much own every Republican and Democrat in this state. We're guessing corporations will remain reluctant to make unnecessary political expenditures in Tennessee. Just in case the court's decision doesn't apply to the states--and there's some uncertainty about that--House GOP caucus chair Glen Casada has introduced legislation to repeal the Tennessee law banning corporate cash in our campaigns. He probably is wrong that this change would give Republicans a big edge. In Tennessee, Democrats might stand to gain as much, since they are right there with Republicans elbowing for room in the back pockets of business interests. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, trying to compete with Bill Haslam's fund-raising machine, is excited by the new lay of the political landscape. He thinks he can use his state office to shake down corporations for cash for his gubernatorial campaign. "It's nice to have an equalizer," he says. But does anyone think this will change the basic dynamic of the race? Haslam stays No. 1 in money (no need for Pilot Oil to pony up). So we doubt too many corporations will care to exercise their new constitutional right to engage in political speech on Ramsey's behalf. It might annoy Haslam, who's still the clear favorite to become the next governor. Update: That populist firebrand Gail Kerr is sounding alarms. She sees unlimited financial corporate "sponsorships" of state legislative candidates in our future. She doesn't address the question of whether The Tennessean would bankroll a candidate. Ba dum tsh!

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