WHO WE ARE- It’s a funny idea, really, the kind of absurd pie-in-the-sky fantasy an informed public and an inquisitive press would laugh off of the political agenda in a minute -- if either existed.
The idea is this: Take the lead as California has under the leadership of Assemblyman Mike Gatto to get two-thirds of the states to demand a constitutional convention to consider a proposed amendment that – if ratified by three-fourths of the states – would undo 200 years of American jurisprudence and strip corporations of their “personhood” – a legal invention that has formed the basis for better or worse of the nation’s development into the world’s dominant economy.
Funny, really, we the people of the United States of America can’t agree on anything. We’re stuck in the muck of our own contradictions, idealizing a past that never was and a future that can never be, and yet we allow ourselves to be played over and over by cynical and sinister politicians and the wealthy who fund them to confuse, befuddle and paralyzed the body politic while never actually fixing what’s broken.
A case in point is Gatto’s campaign that has successfully won approval … after two years of trying … of both houses of the legislature – completely controlled by his fellow Democrats.
The purpose of this effort is to enact AJR1, a joint resolution that puts the nation’s richest and most populace state on record as demanding a constitutional convention for the purposes of overturning the Citizens United case that effectively destroyed all campaign finance reforms by giving corporations an extension of their “personhood” status … allowing anyone to give every dollar he has to politicians without any limits.
Of course, that matters more to the Koch brothers with their own conservative agenda and to so many others on the rich and greedy left, right and center than it does to us ordinary people.
You would think that the author of such an audacious and radical proposal would be as pure as the driven snow, making his mark as one of us, you know the little people. But you would be wrong. Dead wrong.
Mike Gatto is the poster child of hypocrisy, the king of the cynics.
His campaign war chest is the richest in the legislature. He’ll do anything for big bucks.
“Voters are fed up with the notion that money is speech and that big money can drown out the speech of average citizens,” Gatto piously declared two years ago when introducing his resolution even as he was leading the pack in fund-raising from big-money interests to drown the speech of opponents and foes even in local races in his district.
On Thursday at Chops, the politically popular joint near the state Capitol, Gatto held a one-hour breakfast fund-raising event -- $1,000 to get in, $2,500 to be named sponsor, $4,100 to be a host.
The organizer of the event is Gatto’s fund-raiser Dan Weitzman, who knows as well as anyone how to deliver the quid for the quo without creating a criminal indictment. That’s why the Prosperity PAC he runs and uses in support of Gatto’s politics and the money he raises for Gatto come from the usual suspects: Indian tribes, trial lawyers, alcohol purveyors, insurers, medical lobbies, unions and assorted developer and business interests interested in favors.
This is big money and that’s why Gatto, who represents a totally safe Democratic district, has the biggest campaign war chest with nearly $1.5 million in the bank and more rolling in.
August is an especially opportune time to shake the money tree, Citizens United notwithstanding, especially if you’re like Gatto in a power position as chair of the Appropriations Committee where he can make or break hundreds of bills so the special interests are lined up ready and happy to pay.
The legislature is just back in session with deadlines looming so it is the optimum time for funny business, which is why the Senate has banned accepting contributions during this period for reasons that are obvious: Taking political money when the hard decisions are being made leaves the clear impression that money can buy you just about anything you want from the legislature.
It would be naïve to suggest that politicians everywhere at all times are anything but crooks. They are or they don’t matter at all. It’s the nature of the beast, a dirty business that should make all of us look at them as the elected gangsters they are rather than the honorable this or that.
Gatto is a special case. He is smart and a lawyer and ambitious, a combination that causes him to run as close to the edge of the law as he can while cleverly pandering to the true believers, the ignorant, the my-party-or-wrong-kind-of-people.
One belief those people share as good and loyal Democrats is that Citizens United is a disaster, a green card for the Koch Brothers, the Hobby Lobby and all the right-wing corporate CEOs and fat-cats to corrupt our sacred political processes. That unions and liberal billionaires take advantage of the same corrupting contribution practices doesn’t bother them at all.
It’s an article of faith that the problem is corporate personhood, a doctrine that is just about as old as the Constitution, though the current court has extended it to its illogical absurdity.
What is so hypocritical is that Gatto wears the do-gooder’s hat as the man who wants to take dirty money out of politics at the same time he takes more of it than anyone else.
What’s so cynical is that it takes 34 states to agree on a single constitutional amendment to force Congress to call a convention but most experts agree that once the convention meets, the delegates can do just about anything they want if three-fourths of the states agree.
They could ban abortion and a women’s right to choose. They could abolish civil rights legislation or limit the right of free speech. They could send all Mexicans home or take the wealth from the rich and make us all equal. They could do just about anything because they are rewriting the Constitution itself.
Clearly, Gatto fully understands that even if so many beguiled by his game do not. But then think how much political money could be raised in the unlikely event that Citizens United led to the first constitutional convention in 225 years and the future of the country was on the line.
It would be worth a handsome fortune.
(Ron Kaye is a lifetime journalist, writer and political observer. He is the former editor of the Daily News and the founder of the Saving LA Project. He writes occasionally for CityWatch and can be reached at [email protected])
Vol 12 Issue 64
Pub: Aug 8, 2014