JUDICIAL ELECTIONS AND THE 80 PEOPLE WHO HAVE 1.9 TRILLION DOLLARS
Some say it is not judicious for sitting judges to solicit funds for their campaigns because it creates both, an appearance of impropriety, and potential conflicts of interest and that the practice is abasing towards the concept of an “independent judiciary”; a preferred method for some, is through a “merit-based” process- presumably the “merits” of individual judges could be illuminated through published polls and comments conducted by various bar associations and the like. A recent editorial in the New York Times says as much: http://nyti.ms/1DTp2X1. This thought process doesn’t consider the built-in advantage incumbent judges have in state elections, not only because their names often appear first on the ballot, but also because an active sitting judge is more likely to poll well with large law firms, who regularly are “doing business” with the judge, are members of the bar association that conducts, analyzes, and reports the results in various bar association publications mainly populated by members of the large firms and controlled thereby. Although such practices do not involve the direct exchange of cash and support that are typical in most elections (most states prohibit a judge from personally soliciting the money), the round-about-method of using the bar to do the work for a sitting judge is just as disingenuous- perhaps more so, because it gives the appearance of a propitiatory process; after all is said and done, who can judge you better than your peers, the saying goes- the answer is, an informed public- that got the information needed about a judicial candidate from the normal open and unrestricted political election process. The U.S. Supreme Court should ease the restrictions placed on judicial candidates and make the whole process more transparent. Many judges were appointed to their positions owing to their political connections in the first instance- so let the process continue in the same vein.
UPDATE: 4/29/15: The Supreme Court upheld a Florida judicial code that bans judicial candidates from asking for donations stating that such a practice would tend to undermine the public’s confidence in the judiciary. The opinion was divided in a 5/4 vote. Critics say the case has now opened the door for more restrictions on campaigning and has weakened the first amendment. The ruling appears to coincide with the opinions of sitting judges, who are worried about losing their jobs in an election, and bar associations who are worried about losing clout with sitting judges. As Justice Scalia and Clarence Thomas said, “One cannot have judicial elections without judicial campaigns, and judicial campaigns without funds for campaigning, and funds for campaigning without asking for them”. Justice Kennedy stated, “The irony in the court’s having weakened the rigors of the First Amendment in a case concerning elections [which were] intended to protect freedom in so many ways”.
THE ONE PERCENTERS WHO CONTROL THE WORLD AND CORPORATE GREED
Some websites put the total United States revenue at 2.849 trillion dollars: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/us.html The New York Times reported today that 1 percent of the population will control more than half of the globe’s total wealth by next year and that 80 of these people are worth 1.9 trillion dollars.
In some ways, not much has changed over the past century- the wealthiest have always controlled the masses; indeed, at one time, you could not vote if you did not own land; and most people did not have the money to own land so they had to rent- making the wealthy richer. Where did the original wealth come from? Beads, tobacco, liquor for the Native Americans sound familiar? Opium for the Chinese? Today, the wealth appears concentrated in the finance, insurance and health industries- no surprise given the aging population. Is all of this fair considering that the government is footing much of the bill in these areas? Certainly we know why the rich want to control the government since it is their cash cow- in this regard, they are thriving off of “corporate socialism” (Military contracts, grants, healthcare, etc.). And many of the owners/investors of these entities are profiting more and paying less.
Should we be concentrating on re-distributing the wealth through increased taxation for the rich and corporations, tax incentive programs for the poor and providing more federal and state incentives? The best approach is to focus on corporations- it is clear they are not paying their fair share in taxes, they have virtual unlimited spending power in political campaigns, unusual preferential treatment when it comes to prosecution (can’t hurt the shareholders because of the acts of a few at the top), and are generally adverse to transparency. Given the stunning disparity between the rich and the poor in the country today, it makes sense to go after the corporations and the owners and insist on transparency, honesty and fairness.