California Money Floods Massachusetts Special Election Thanks To Citizens United


US Representative Stephen F. Lynch is learning firsthand what a Post-Citizens United election is like. The Massachusetts Democrat is in a primary race to occupy the Senate seat vacated by the new Secretary of State John Kerry, and the biggest threat to his campaign is not coming from his rival, Ed Markey, but from a California billionaire instead:

 Thomas F. Steyer, a billionaire California hedge-fund executive and Democrat who has chosen to bombard Lynch with theatrical attacks from the skies and from the streets. He has poured $400,000 into the Massachusetts race so far, bankrolling planes with banners, trucks with video screens, and canvassers who plan to knock on 300,000 doors statewide.

Herein lies the problem with the influence of money in free elections. When the Supreme Court handed down it’s Citizens United ruling and declared corporations people, we cried foul. We are now seeing the ramifications of a world in which a California businessman can blatantly threaten a US Representative and carry through on that threat, unhindered, with hundreds of thousands of dollars in negative campaign publicity.

Last month, he burst onto the scene with a sharply worded threat to Lynch, warning him that if he did not change his mind and oppose the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline “by high noon on Friday,” he would launch an aggressive campaign to defeat him in the April 30 primary.

The country got a preview of what the new norm is during the 2012 Presidential election. We were overwhelmed by attack ads and flyers in the mail. Everywhere we turned we were reminded of the Citizens United ruling. It was incredibly dirty. We were given front row seats in a show of corporate greed and special interests influencing an election, but this is by far the most obvious attack that I have seen. Steyer was not subtle. He is not quietly sitting back and funneling his money into the election as others have. He outright threatened that if he does not get his way he will destroy Lynch’s chances of becoming a Senator.

So is this going to now be business as usual? Where is the outrage? Sure, Steyer’s intentions are good, the pipeline is definitely not something that we want. The thought of another oil spill makes us all cringe, but there is a bigger problem. A problem that far outweighs the threat of the Keystone pipeline. A problem that will change our country as we know it. A problem that threatens to take away the voice of the average American in an election. The issue is not whether or not we agree with his intentions but if we are going to sit back and let an individual, his money, and influence buy an election. That is a threat to our freedom more than any other issue at the moment.

So there you have it, our new Post-Citizens United world. A world in which a businessman, with an interest in an out of state election can sit back and run the show. A world in which you and I don’t have as much say because we can’t afford to fly a plane over Fenway Park that carries a banner demonizing a candidate. A world in which a candidate does not only have their rival and their attacks to worry about, but also the attacks of people that are in no way related to their election. Oh, how fantastic our new world is going to be.