When money is speech, democracy is in peril


I don't think it's possible to overstate how bad the AZ Supreme Court decision on Monday to allow astronomically high fundraising limits ($4000 for statewide and legislative races) is. It's pretty much taking the very worst aspects of our state's politics and injecting them with steroids.

In case you share the conceit of many in the Arizona establishment punditry class – AKA "the Village" – that moderation and pragmatism will reign once elections are completely in the hands of wealthy and wise "business leaders", let me disabuse you of that forthwith:

Lesko flyer


















 Lesko, otherwise known as the cuckoo for cocoa puffs "Tell Tour Boss You're On Birth Control Bill" sponsor in the Arizona Legislature, wasted no time after the ruling letting potential fundraisers know that they could give her beaucoup more bucks for her reelection. And line up they will – the lobbyists, the Chamber of Commerce types, and the well-heeled true believers – for Debbie Lesko is the ALEC homecoming queen of Arizona. Her being a lunatic will not affect her ability to raise piles of cash one iota, which is something I've tried and tried to explain to those on our side who bought the self-serving establishment line that our problems are caused by Clean Elections or hyperpartisan primaries or whatever. Basically, anything that puts the blame on those uncouth activists and not on the corporatists who funded and enabled the takeover the the GOP by radical reactionaries for decades is their preferred narrative, but they are wrong.

Keep an eye on who gives checks to Lesko and other far right candidates this cycle. You'll see a lot of the same people who publicly wring their hands over the lack of "civility" and "bipartisanship" in our government.

As for the Democrats, as Jeremy Duda of AZ Capitol Times noted on KAET's Horizon Wednesday night, the new contribution limits will help people like Fred Duval and Felecia Rotellini, who have the capacity to raise large amounts of money. Duval probably stands to do the best in this scenario, given that he's got no primary challengers and lots of national connections. Downticket statewide Dems will struggle, but so will the GOP ones, who are all going to be in competitive primaries, so that may be a wash, though independent expenditures are sure to be a factor in some of the statewide races.

It's progressives, already marginalized in this state, who are poised to become thoroughly diminished by these new limits. This will worsen the plight of poor people, immigrants, women, and any other group without the kind of access to politicians that large campaign checks can buy. This was the whole point of the endeavor, after all, to silence everyone who threatens money. And, sadly, there are more than a few Dems here who will be perfectly happy with that.