When the U.S. Supreme Court, in the now-infamous Citizens United case, ruled that corporations, associations and labor unions may spend as much as they’d like to influence (buy!) elections, it helped blow the wheels off of whatever was left of our democracy.
CQ Roll Call’s Eliza Newlin Carney, one of the few journalists focusing on the money-and-democracy beat, said the Court’s 2010 decision “ushered in a Gilded Age for the booming political consulting industry.” She noted that more than $13.6 billion was spent during the three major campaign cycles since the floodgates were opened.
University of California, Irvine professor Richard L. Hasen—a nationally recognized expert in election law and campaign-finance regulation—bemoaned that “democracy has become a cash cow.”
An unprecedented amount of money has swamped our electoral system. It’s a big story, and not just for those of us in the alternative media. Traditional news outlets can’t totally ignore what’s happening, but their coverage rarely, if ever, acknowledges the greatest beneficiary of that payola: the mainstream media.
Where is the bulk of all that campaign cash actually going? Into the pockets of newspaper publishers and, to a much larger extent, the owners of TV and radio stations in the form of campaign ads. Little wonder the mainstream media pays so little attention to the corporate takeover of the electoral process. Now that the Internet is changing everything in the mass-communication industry, a huge influx of windfall revenue is a lifeline.