Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Frontline grills NOM attorney James Bopp, who started Citizens United, about dark money in Montana politics

Watch Big Sky, Big Money on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

James Bopp, Jr., who initiated the Citizens United lawsuit, represented the National Organization of Marriage in its defiance of Maine's campaign financing disclosure laws, and tried to destroy Iowa's Judicial Nominating process, was interviewed by Kai Ryssdal last night in a Frontline program about dark money in Montana politics.
     His remarks start at 38:15 and 49:49 in the above video. Here are excerpts from Frontline's transcript of his interview, most of which was not aired.
I appreciate that, but the question was, is money in politics inherently corrupting?
And I said no. Who does it corrupt for doing what? I don’t know what that would be.
I guess my point was corruption of the process.
It doesn’t corrupt the process. It’s necessary for the process. To communicate, you have to spend money, so you have to have money to communicate, see, and that’s called speech.
You look at campaign finance, and it’s this thing you’ve spent literally your whole life on, your whole career on. The average voter reads the stories about it and watches the ads that come as a result of it. What do you think voters think about all of this? Can you blame them for sort of being turned off by the whole thing?
Voters in the United States have always had a healthy skepticism about government and politicians, and I think it’s a good thing. … But the problem we have is we don’t have enough information available to voters to allow them to make informed choices, so we need more spending.
With all the ads and the news, you think there’s not enough information out there in American politics?
Definitely. If a third of the people in the United States cannot name the vice president of the United States, a majority of the people do not know who their congressman is or who their senators are, so you think that’s enough information? No. That’s not enough information. They need a lot more information.
Do you think people should care about where this money’s coming from?
Generally no, because it’s the message. You know, you either buy the argument or don’t buy the argument. Generally no, it doesn’t matter. Truth doesn’t change because of who’s funding it.
I don’t even know what to say. You actually think that?
I actually think that the truth doesn’t change based on who’s funding it. John Gregg is either a pro-life [candidate] or not. What difference does it make who’s funding that? The truth doesn’t change. What they say may change, but the truth of whether he is or not — and by the way, he is pro-life — he’s a Democrat running for governor. Whether he is or not doesn’t change by who’s funding the message on that.
Should citizens in this country be able to find that information? Should they be able to learn who’s funding?
Not generally. They don’t care.
That’s not the question. Just because they don’t care doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be able to know, right?
No. I’m sorry. Well, then are you’re just patronizing them? Sorry, you ignorant Hoosiers, you should want to know this. Well, actually they could[n't] care less because it’s not relevant to them. It’s not relevant.
You’re the one who said they shouldn’t know because they don’t care, right, and my question is —
No, I said they shouldn’t be told or shouldn’t be disclosed. I forget how you put the question, but to be clear on what I meant, things shouldn’t be required based on voter information, which is the only justification for disclosure that’s ever been upheld, if they don’t care. It’s not relevant to them.
What does that say about democracy, though?
It says that this is completely irrelevant information that only some left-wing nut jobs care about. That’s the bottom line. And they also care about it because they know that it undermines people’s participation that they don’t want to be participating, because they don’t care.

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