"We have the best Congress money can buy," humorist Will Rogers quipped in the 1930s. More recent comedians have suggested that politicians wear NASCAR-like jumpsuits so citizens can see the logos of all of their sponsors.
Trouble is, the joke is no longer funny. Many of us think special-interest money and the corruption it creates are threatening the very future of American democracy.
Money's influence over government has grown for decades, but it has gotten immeasurably worse since a 5-4 vote by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010. That narrow majority turned a decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission into a vehicle for rich people, corporations, unions and other special-interest groups to spend virtually unlimited sums to sway government and public policy.
Think it's bad now? Just wait until after the Republican and Democratic conventions. This campaign will be more awash in special-interest cash than any in American history. Billions of often-anonymous dollars will be spent, mostly on TV and radio attack ads that range from simplistic half-truths to outright lies.
But there is a growing movement to amend the U.S. Constitution to stop the corruption by clarifying historic legal principles. The amendment would make clear that corporations are organizations, not people, and money is property, not speech.
One organization behind this push is Move to Amend (Movetoamend.org). One of its national spokesmen, David Cobb, will be in Lexington this week, speaking Thursday at 7 p.m. in the University of Kentucky Student Center's Center Theater. His talk is free and open to the public.