At a town hall-style meeting in New Hampshire yesterday, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) demonstrated everything that is wrong with conservative activism when he argued that “unlimited political cash would give rank-and-file conservative activists greater sway in picking their representatives,” as the Guardian put it.
When Ted Cruz says that “the people” will have a greater say in the political process if there are no limits on political spending, he only means ‘the people who are billionaires.’ Congress raised the limits last year, and so far, the only person known to have hit the new, higher ceiling is hedge fund manager Ken Griffin, who spent about six times the median American family’s annual income.
Cruz made his remarks even as the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling creates an appearance of corruption in Congress, where supposedly ‘independent’ spending is more closely-bound to legislative outcomes than ever before, and corporate lobbyists currently outspend all other sources of campaign cash by a 34-1 ratio. There are few better examples of the warping effect this arrangement has than Cruz’s own opposition to net neutrality, a policy stance that has been bought and paid for by big telecom.
The event was held to inflate Cruz’s image in New Hampshire, a state critical to the outcome of the GOP nominating competition. Cruz is expected to run for the White House in 2016 and will likely need a billion dollars of dark money spent on him if he is to have a hope of being elected, so it’s not a surprise when he defends the current system by referring to the overweening influence of billionaires and their corporations as “free speech.”
Asked about the outsized role of money in politics at his first event in New Hampshire this year, Cruz said he understands voters’ frustration but that cannot trump the constitutional rights to free speech.
“Right now, the system is crazy,” Cruz said of the campaign finance rules.
At a later appearance at a GOP fundraiser in New Hampshire’s rural Grafton County, Cruz said Democrats were working to limit activists’ rights through a proposed constitutional amendment to restrict campaign spending. The Democrat-backed proposal last year was more an election year posturing than a viable plan to change the Constitution.
“Is there not one lion of the Left who will stand for free speech?” Cruz said in Lincoln.
In the Senate, Cruz has proposed lifting all campaign contribution limits in exchange for immediate disclosure.
“The answer is not to muzzle citizens. It is to empower citizens,” Cruz said.
Note how smoothly Cruz transforms billionaires buying the political process into “activism,” thus transforming sensible campaign spending limits into an assault on the free speech of everyday Americans who won’t make as much money in their lives as Ken Griffin makes in a single day. This seems to be a common Republican talking point.
But Cruz’s hypocrisy reaches transcendent heights when he attempts to frame himself as the king of disclosure, since so much of his career has been about fighting transparency. Cruz famously ‘forgot’ to disclose his ties to a college roommate’s Caribbean holding company when he first ran for the Senate, tried to block the nomination of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler because he supported the DISCLOSE Act, and put public pressure on the Texas legislature to leave his dark money nonprofit friends alone.
Conducted in town hall-format, the scripted event hit an unexpected-but-telling snag yesterday when Cruz’s apocalyptic imagery and fearmongering also terrified a young girl in the audience.