Mark Andrew, a former Hennepin County Board Chair and former chair of the Minnesota DFL Party, is the owner of GreenMark, a leading environmental marketing agency. GreenMark, the originator of the Minnesota Twins/Pentair Rain Water Recycle partnership, is currently finalizing the state's largest solar energy installation while delivering sustainable results on behalf of leading brands, nonprofits, public agencies and the public.

Shades of Watergate past

Posted by: Mark Andrew Updated: May 24, 2014 - 1:08 PM

In the summer of '72 I was a long-haired college student at the U of M working in the newsroom of the Minnesota Daily, when the news wires began spitting out the first reports about a break-in at the Watergate office complex, headquarters of the Democratic National Committee.

The Watergate story came over the wire and the bells on the teletype were rat-tat-tatting like a Tommy gun.

I ripped off the story from the sputtering wire, read the copy out loud and hollered something like "Nixon is all through!" to the glee of my young colleagues.

I mention this because two Watergate new stories broke last week; Jeb Stuart Magruder, the suave, "I-lost-my-moral-compass" Nixon deputy had just died at the age of 79; and, a related story about the Shakopee Historical Society's decision to create a public exhibit to unpaper the Watergate role of home town business scion Maurice Stans, Nixon's Chairman of the Committee to Re-elect the President", (CREEP).

Magruder was reconstructed as a born-again Christian but was not delivered from the infamy of being the second person convicted in the scandal and the first to turn on the President. Stans remains a Shakopee icon but has water stains on the linen of his fresh pressed legacy.

Watergate brought down many more in the Republican Party and ushered in an era of Democratic control and election reforms, including limits on contributions and "sunshine" laws mandating reporting of where political contributions come from. 

The heart of these reforms has been effectively crushed by the Supreme Court.

In 2010, the Supremes ruled in the landmark Citizens United that corporations are people, too, (sniff-sniff), striking down limits on independent expenditures. Last month the Court struck down caps on individual expenditures, meaning political spending limits are now the number "infinity".

Scalia and Thomas were smugly waiting for the 2012 arrival of the new hegemony of the Fringe Right. But a funny thing happened on the way to the Victory Party.

They lost.

Sheldon Adelson, the far-Right casino magnate single handedly propped up Newt Gingrich's Presidential campaign, giving him at one point $10 million in a span of two weeks. Before Citizens United, he could have given a few thousand bucks for the whole campaign.

In 2012, Obama decried the influence of SuperPAC's and vowed to spurn them--until he fell alarmingly behind in fundraising. Despite the evaporation of the incumbent's money advantage, he cruised to re-election with a surprising margin.

With the erosion of election controls and more Federal court rulings expected to undermine fair elections, the Democrats are quaking in their boots. Governor Dayton's and Senator Franken's campaigns are girding for an out-of-state onslaught of direct and independent spending that will make past contributors seem like pikers.

But I am serene. The ginning up of political sweepstakes has become a political parlor game for the super-rich, a perverse collusion between this most extreme Supreme Court and a handful of billionaires and corporations. In the forthcoming deluge, never will so few spend so much to say so little to so many. But at least they will say it loudly.

In the end, the voters will insert their earplugs, shrug like they did with the latest Supreme Court hustle, and cast their votes for the candidates who least offend their sensibilities.

The political spending might not have any limits. But the public willingness to buy what they are selling does.

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