Russ gave an incisive interview on last week’s edition of American Public Media’s This American Life, as he teamed back up with Arizona Senator John McCain, co-author of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, also known as McCain-Feingold. The sweeping campaign finance measure was signed into law ten years ago, March 27, 2002.
The segment on This American Life was part of a broader episode delving into the pervasive and pernicious role of big money in politics.
Here’s a bit of what Russ had to say:
“[Citizens United] clearly was one of the worst decisions ever of the Supreme Court. The trouble with this issue-- and I think John would agree with this-- is people have gotten so down about it, they think it's always been this way. Well, it's never been this way, since 1907. It's never been the case that when you buy toothpaste or detergent or a gallon of gas, that the next day that money can be used on a candidate that you don't believe in. That's brand new. That's never happened since the Tillman act and the Taft Hartley Act. And so, people have to realize this is a whole new deal. It's not business as usual.”
The entire episode is an instructive look at the mechanics of corruption in our political system. Pressures from all sides drive politicians to seek out big checks and corporate shills to write them. The situation only got worse after the Supreme Court disastrously weighed in. Money is now unlimited, largely undisclosed, and can come from corporations directly. The result is an overpowered democracy flooded with negativity and back-room deals, and dominated by wealthy individual and corporate interests.
You can listen to the full episode, what Washington Post writer Ezra Klein called “one of the best things ever done on the subject,” here.
And, for the full, unedited version of the discussion between Russ and John McCain, check out This American Life’s blog here.