Checkbook nobility and our democracy

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Today's political class is owned - and you are not the buyer.

THE POLITICAL BANK otherwise known as the Koch brothers network dropped a stunning number this past weekend, at an exclusive gathering of wealthy donors in California. The conservative mega-donors are prepared to commit $400 million to defend Republicans in the mid-term elections which, historically, have tilted heavily away from the party controlling the White House.

That's a 60 percent increase in the dollars flowing from the Koch brothers group just last year, in 2016.

Before liberals stand up and get all righteous, understand that Democrat big-bucks backers also shell out large sums. For example, Democrat mega-donor Tom Steyer spent an estimated $40 million running national ads calling for President Trump's impeachment. Billionaire Steyer says there's a lot more money where that came from going into the fall.

HERE'S WHAT FOLKS ought to be riled about. In a free country with some 325 million souls, money is fast becoming the deciding factor in what kind of political representation the people get.

And let's be honest.

Most Americans live paycheck to paycheck. They're more concerned with putting dinner on the table than handing cash to politicians.

Those fortunate Americans who are a little better off may consider making contributions, but generally fork over small amounts - $25 here, maybe a hundred there.

The big money goes to mostly unaccountable independent outfits, not technically associated with a particular candidate or even political party. Millions flow through "dark" conduits, where common people can't even find out who donated the cash. It's always been a wink-and-nod that coordinating with candidates was dirty pool and regulated. Of course it's coordinated, one way or another, or why bother? The well-heeled are very savvy about getting return on investment.

LOOK, WE AGREE in this media-driven age that money has become the equivalent of free speech. Communicating with 325 million people is not cheap. Prohibiting anyone from using the resources at hand on behalf of deeply-held beliefs is inconsistent with the First Amendment.

Having said that, it still ought to induce a certain amount of queasiness among the people that the wealthiest few can buy elections. That's right. We absolutely said "buy elections."

There's no other way to characterize it. The objective of big money on both sides of the political spectrum is to capture and then hold control of the government. And when it comes time to govern, here's the right question: Will the politicians remember the man who donated $25, or the woman who didn't donate at all, or the mega-donor who helped pop for millions to back a successful campaign?

That question answers itself.

THE FOUNDING FATHERS went to war against England because the common folks over here in America felt nobody listened to them. Only the favored few warranted the king's attention.

Make no mistake: It is entirely possible - strike that; make it probable - that America is well down that road, where political climbers know to whom they are beholden and cater exclusively to their demands.

Left unchecked, at some future time that might spark the same response seen in Philadelphia in 1776. Part of the American DNA involves figuring out just who is yanking them around, then calling the ruling class to account. Whether it's the birthright nobility of England or the checkbook nobility of modern America, don't be surprised if a day comes when the regular folks have had enough.

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