McCutcheon, Money and the Bible

“Spending large sums of money in connection with elections, but not in connection with an effort to control the exercise of an officeholder’s official duties, does not give rise to quid pro quo corruption. Nor does the possibility that an individual who spends large sums may garner “influence over or access to” elected officials or political parties.” – Chief Justice John Roberts in McCutcheon v. the Federal Election Commission.

For those of us use to politics, we know that money is the essence of a political life. We know that those with the most money have the loudest voices or can stir up those who think they have the power. We also know that those with money have extraordinary access to politicians and in some cases, like the actions of the Koch brothers, the direction the politician takes.

Many of us know that the majority of justices of the Supreme Court have turned the tide on any financial reform concerning American national politics. Corporations are people and money represents speech. Intrinsically we know both are wrong. But is there a religious argument that parallels the secular that can be used to convince our legislators to correct the laws? You betcha.

Rabbi Michael Knopf writing for the Huffington Post tells his readers that quid-pro-quo is perceived and is in essence a bribe. Accordingly the Torah prohibits bribes. Knoft writes, “Exodus 23:8 warns, “A bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.” Deuteronomy 16:19 echoes the sentiment with nearly identical language. The Bible detests bribery as a perversion of justice, an indicator of a corrupt and morally broken society (Deut. 27:25).”

In the Christian Bible, Jesus of Nazareth warns numerous times about the money handlers and the corruption of money. In Matthew 21, he drives the money people out of the Temple. In the parable of Money is found in Luke 19: 11-27 and the parable of Talens in Matthew 25: 14-30, we are warned that money will not buy one a place in heaven, but is a form of corruption.

By announcing that money is king, we are limiting the access to our national legislators and the executive office to those who can buy their way in. E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post said on NPR’s “All Things Considered” that only 591 persons were directly affected. That means that 591 individuals will have unfettered access to government. And that, according to Dionne, creates an oligarchy, that we have a government representing only a few chosen people.

The New York Times’ David Brooks suggested that campaign reform has been a total failure and he is right but for the wrong reason. It is not that money needs to be unregulated to know who is giving, but definitions being used by the Court need to be changed.

Corporations are not people.

Money is not speech.

It is a government not for the wealthy but for and by the people.

If the House leadership had half-a-backbone, they would change the language of the law to return the nation to the ideals of the founders, one person, one vote and one voice and no voice is more important than another because of wealth or organizational structure.

If the money handlers are men and women of religion, maybe they should take note of their holy writings and remember that the meek shall inherit the earth, not those of wealth.  (The Beatitudes – Matt. 5:5)

About David Rosman

David is the winner of the Missouri Press Foundation's "Best Columnist" in 2013 (First Place) and 2014 (Second Place), the 2016 Harold Riback Award for excellence in writing, and the winner of the 2007 Interactive Media Award for excellence in editing.
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