Grayson: Fight Now or 'Kiss Your Country Goodbye' to Exxon, Wal-Mart
WASHINGTON -- Responding to the Supreme Court's ruling Thursday to overturn corporate spending limits in federal elections, progressive firebrand Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) immediately highlighted a series of moves to "avoid the terrible consequences of the decision."
"If we do nothing then I think you can kiss your country goodbye," Grayson told Raw Story in an interview just hours after the decision was announced.
"You won't have any more senators from Kansas or Oregon, you'll have senators from Cheekies and Exxon. Maybe we'll have to wear corporate logos like Nascar drivers."
Grayson said the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling -- which removes decades of campaign spending limits on corporations -- "opens the floodgates for the purchases and sale of the law."
"It allows corporations to spend all the money they want to buy and sell elected officials through the campaign process," he said. "It allows them to reward political sellouts, and it allows them to punish elected officials who actually try to do what's right for the people."
Fearing this decision before it became official, Grayson last week filed five campaign finance bills and a sixth one on Thursday. Grayson said the bills are important to securing the people's "right to clean government."
The bills have names like the Business Should Mind Its Own Business Act and the Corporate Propaganda Sunshine Act. The first slaps a 500 percent excise tax on corporate spending on elections, and the second mandates businesses to disclose their attempts to influence elections. More details are available on the congressman's Web site.
"These bills will save us from drowning in corporate money and special interest money," Grayson said. "They should have been passed a long time ago but after the Supreme Court opened those floodgates, I think it's imperative we get these things done."
Reforming campaign finance laws has been a daunting task, as senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and John McCain (R-AZ) have made concerted attempts and failed.
"I'm very optimistic," Grayson said. "I discussed the bills with the leadership when I filed them, which was a week ago in the case of the first five."
"The bills are short and readable, which frankly is pretty unusual these days," he said. "The longest one is four pages long and there are six of them."
Grayson has created the Web site SaveDemocracy.net to gather petitions in support of his bills. On Friday at 8:30 AM EST there were nearly 40,000 signatories.
'Worst Supreme Court decision since the Dred Scott case'
The first-term congressman from Florida had an ominous view of the consequences of embracing the decision.
"Anytime Exxon feels like it, Exxon can go and claim one of the 435 Congressional districts in this country, and drop $100 million in cash to pay for ads to knock off anybody they don't like. To them, that's an insignificant amount of money."
Grayson even likened the ruling to the 1857 pro-slavery Dred Scott case, arguing the two are "bad for pretty much the same reasons."
"We now today have a Supreme Court decision that essentially says only corporations have Constitutional rights," he said. "The rights of the rest of us to clean government is somehow overlooked by the Founders, according to this Supreme Court."
The decision supports "this bizarre conception that the Constitution is for the benefit of the powerful, and nobody else," he added.
Grayson's critique echoes the viewpoints of many others who believed campaign finance laws were already too permissive to special interests before Thursday's ruling.
"I think few people would say that what we really need in America is more corporate interference in the political process," he said.
Reforming campaign finance laws will be a tricky process for Congress because both Republicans and Democrats receive weighty campaign contributions from wealthy corporations.
While few Democrats have acted in recent years to change campaign finance laws, Grayson predicted his party will now be more interested in the issue.
"This just happened, that's why you're not hearing enough," he said. "You're going to hear a lot. I'm pretty confident that these bills will draw a tremendous amount of Democratic support."
Inviting his opponents to support his effort, Grayson said: "I'm hopeful that in the end there are principled Republicans who will actually join the effort, because nobody really wants to become the congressman from Wal-Mart."
GOP 'smiling' at the decision
Never one to pull a punch from Republicans, Grayson questioned the intentions of the ruling's backers.
"In the same way that Republicans always do their best to suppress voter turnout in elections, the Republicans are doing their best here to increase the amount of corporate cash," Grayson said. "They are, in essence, a wholly-owned subsidiary of corporate America."
GOP elders -- including party chair Michael Steele, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) -- praised the verdict, hailing it as a defense of free speech.
"For too long, some in this country have been deprived of full participation in the political process," McConnell said. "With today’s monumental decision, the Supreme Court took an important step in the direction of restoring the First Amendment rights of these groups."
"Freedom won today in the Supreme Court," said Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN).
But Republicans were not unanimous in their support -- McCain and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) criticized the outcome.
"McConnell is the head of the Senate Republicans, and he knows that a decision like this means a huge amounts of cash from special interests, which Republicans are more than happy to support," Grayson said.
"Everyone in the political process will have to knuckle under their corporate masters or face the consequences, and maybe Mitch McConnell is happy about that but I have to think that ordinary Americans are going to be pretty unhappy."
The decision was criticized by President Obama and Democratic senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Feingold.
"I think most elected conservatives are already bought and paid for by special interests so this just makes it official."
His view of independent conservative voters who back the ruling?
"What conservatism seems to mean to them, when you get down to it, is simply offering comfort to the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted," Grayson said.