Tuesday, October 19, 2010

More on the Erosion of American Democracy by Filthy Rich Anonymous Donors (And, Yes, on the Minnesota Catholic Bishops)

Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under President Clinton, writes about the perfect storm now threatening the democratic institutions of the U.S.: as he suggests, we're returning to the age of robber barons, when obscenely rich businessmen could buy elections by depositing money on the desks of legislators (or, in the case of the Minnesota Catholic church, Catholic bishops), while the public never learned the identity of these overlords.

Here's Reich's description of the perfect storm now facing our democracy:

The perfect storm: An unprecedented concentration of income and wealth at the top; a record amount of secret money flooding our democracy; and a public becoming increasingly angry and cynical about a government that's raising its taxes, reducing its services, and unable to get it back to work.

We're losing our democracy to a different system. It's called plutocracy.  

Dan Gillmor writes in a similar vein at Salon today about the "anonymous cowards" who are  buying the 2010 elections.  As he notes, there's not a great deal those of us concerned to preserve our democratic institutions can do about this right now, some two weeks out from the elections.

But Gillmor thinks that unless we wish to relinquish control of our government to wealthy puppet masters hiding in the shadows, who are pouring hundreds of millions into this election cycle via organizations that launder their money into an increasingly corrupt political system, we need to force the anonymous cowards out into the open.

I agree.  But I wonder how this is going to happen.  The one tiny piece of this much larger narrative of corruption on which I'm choosing to harp these days (at the risk of sounding like a broken record) is the choice of the Minnesota Catholic bishops to accept funds from a donor whose identity they will not disclose, to make gay marriage a major issue in a campaign in which it was on no one's radar screen, in order to put a conservative Republican into the Minnesota governor's seat.

This is gross politicking by a religious group, which is using its tax-free screen to shield the identity of a donor or donors seeking to buy the Minnesota's governor's seat for a Republican candidate.

This politicking by a set of Catholic bishops serves the needs of unnamed corporate interest groups at the expense of the people bishops are called to serve first and foremost: the little people, those who are down and out, those without voices and without influence.

By accepting these funds to attack their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to score political points for a Republican candidate, the Catholic bishops of Minnesota have done serious damage to their credibility as Christian pastors, and have undermined their authority as teachers of faith and morals.  They are also actively assisting a wealthy anonymous donor or donors to tear apart the institutions of a democratic society.

This is dirty work.  It is not work that good shepherds walking in the footsteps of Jesus should be doing.

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