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PrattTribune - Pratt, KS
A blog 'for independent minds'
Roberts’ Court denies reality
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Opinion page editor Rick Holmes and other writers blog about national politics and issues. Holmes & Co. is a Blog for Independent Minds, a place for a free-flowing discussion of policy, news and opinion. This blog is the online cousin of the Opinion ...
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Opinion page editor Rick Holmes and other writers blog about national politics and issues. Holmes & Co. is a Blog for Independent Minds, a place for a free-flowing discussion of policy, news and opinion. This blog is the online cousin of the Opinion section of the MetroWest Daily News in Framingham, Mass. As such, our focus starts there and spreads to include Massachusetts, the nation and the world. Since successful blogs create communities of readers and writers, we hope the \x34& Co.\x34 will also come to include you.
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By Rick Holmes
April 7, 2014 5:18 p.m.



We know what the biggest of political donors want. They have their favorite parties, politicians and policies. Sheldon Adelson, leader of a global casino empire, wants to keep Internet gambling illegal. He wants to avoid federal prosecution for bribing Chinese officials, and he’s against the two-state solution in the Mideast. Adelson gave around $100 million to political candidates in the last election, all of it to Republicans.

Tom Steyer, to cite a second example, made his fortune running a hedge fund. He plans to give $100 million to candidates in the next election, probably all of them Democrats.  Everyone knows that environmental issues are what he cares about.  He has pledged to use his campaign clout to stop the Keystone XL pipeline.

What’s most disturbing about the McCutcheon decision handed down by the Supreme Court last week is that Chief Justice John Roberts and his four conservative colleagues are pretending to be the only people in Washington who see no connection between Adelson’s and Steyer’s political goals and the fortunes they are giving to political candidates.

If Adelson’s candidates end up opposing Internet gambling and Steyer’s candidates end up opposing the Keystone XL pipeline, apparently that’s not corruption, just a coincidence.

As Roberts said in his majority opinion:



 Spending large sums of money in connection with elections, but not in connection with an effort to control the exercise of an officeholder’s official duties, does not give rise to such quid pro quo corruption. Nor does the possibility that an individual who spends large sums may garner “influence over or access to” elected officials or political parties.


In the private sector, the standard for conflict of interest is well-established.  As an employee and a community volunteer, I’ve had to sit through online training sessions in conflict of interest.  They typically ask, for instance, whether a vendor offering tickets to a ball game, or making a donation to your favorite charity, or offering to invest in an enterprise run by a friend of yours would constitute a conflict of interest.  The answer is always a clear yes, since the favor given by the vendor cannot be separated, in appearance or in realty, from your decision to do business with his company.

John Roberts must not have taken that course.  He assumes raising campaign funds and getting elected mean so little to candidates that they would never let it influence the votes they make in Congress or the actions they take as public officials.  He assumes there is no transaction in what looks, smells and feels like the trading of millions of dollars for political influence.

The Roberts court’s ignoring of political reality is disturbing.  How can they refuse to see the game Adelson, Steyer and their partisan enablers are playing? What’s worse, the court has now declared that the private sector has a higher standard of ethics than the public sector.

 

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