On 21 January 2010, the US Supreme Court handed down its worst decision in the decade since Bush v. Gore made a mockery of the democratic process in 2000. The controversial Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling effectively removed all brakes on political spending in US elections, opening the door to unbridled corporate and private donations to third party advocacy groups. These so-called “Super PACs” have no limits on what they can spend to support or denounce any candidate, and no curbs on the content or accuracy of their ads. The case was based in a 2008 DC US District Court ruling which banned the Citizens United advocacy group from airing or advertising their Clinton-bashing “documentary” film, “Hillary: The Movie” before any of that year’s primary elections.
The court in its 5-4 ruling split on the fault line of conservative and liberal justices in a decision which gutted the 2002 McCain-Feingold Act. McCain-Feingold was a bipartisan campaign finance reform law which prohibited corporations and unions from funding ads mentioning candidates by name (pro or con), during a window of 60 days before a general election, or 30 days before a primary. Although restrictions on dollar amounts which individuals and corporations can contribute directly to a candidate remain in effect, the Citizens United ruling creates an end-run around this legislation, permitting limitless spending by anyone with an axe to grind and a checkbook fat enough to support the airing of their views.
Essentially, Citizens United redefines free speech as money, and uses First Amendment rights not only to justify massive corporate influence on elections, but also to grant corporations rights formerly reserved to individuals under the Constitution. As the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court’s ruling cannot be challenged, short of a Constitutional Amendment enshrining a new definition of “free speech” which specifically excludes monetary contributions, and which strips corporations of their newly minted status as “persons.” Such an amendment would need to be passed with a two-thirds majority by both houses of Congress, then ratified by three-quarters of the state legislatures, to become law, thus overruling the Supreme Court. This is possible, but given the current preponderance of Republican statehouses nationally, and the extent to which this ruling favors GOP interests, it is highly unlikely such an amendment could ever be enacted. Citizens United thus paves the way for total corporate control in the US.
Very little traction was made by this ruling before the 2010 midterm elections, but in the two years since, a proliferation of Super PACs has arisen, and the 2012 general election will be our first extensive view into the political world we’ll be living in from now on. The effects of the decision became clear in the GOP primaries, where flagging candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum were artificially kept in the running much longer than their actual popularity or viability would allow, due to support of their Super PAC advocacy groups from the candidates’ pet millionaires.
In early 2012, Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas gambling billionaire with extensive overseas holdings, donated $10 million to Gingrich’s “Winning Our Future” Super PAC, a contribution which allowed Gingrich supporters to target $3.5 million in ads in South Carolina, where Gingrich surged to victory over an unprepared Mitt Romney, taken unawares by the ad onslaught. Romney’s ad backlash in Florida days later effectively ended Gingrich’s momentum and his candidacy, but Adelson’s money kept the former House Speaker technically in the game until May.
Since Gingrich’s withdrawal from the race, Adelson has now moved on to support Romney’s candidacy. After locking up the GOP nomination in early June, the pro-Romney Super PAC “Restore Our Future” received a $10 million check from Adelson, whose wife Miriam has stated that the couple are prepared to donate as much as $100 million to defeat Obama. Worth in excess of $23 billion, the couple can well afford the proffered sum, which represents less than half a percent of their total assets, much of which come from gambling establishments in Macao—raising the specter of foreign influence in US elections.
Rick Santorum’s campaign was propped up almost exclusively by millionaire Foster Friess, to the tune of $1.7 million in the 2012 primary. The contributions kept the bankrupt Santorum candidacy afloat with Super PAC ads in Iowa which eventually garnered Santorum a slim caucus victory there, and three subsequent wins in Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota. But even these massive cash injections could not win enough converts to the former Pennsylvania senator’s extreme positions, and within hours of Santorum’s withdrawal from the race in April, Friess announced he too was switching his support to Romney.
The Wisconsin recall election is another indicator of the probable effect of Citizens United on the democratic process. Due to Super PAC contributors predominantly from out of state, embattled governor Scott Walker was able to raise some $31 million for his recall effort, compared to barely $4 million by challenger Tom Barrett. Walker’s supporters were on the air by early January 2012, blanketing the state with ads, not so much defending Walker per se, as calling into question the validity of the recall process generally, depicting it as un-American. Barrett’s slim war chest prevented him airing ads more than a few weeks before the June 5 recall, by which point the alternate message had sunk in with Wisconsin voters—whatever you think of Walker, you elected him, give him his shot.
Alarming as they are, these cash totals are nothing compared to the sums truly large advocacy groups can bring to bear. Karl Rove’s “American Crossroads” and “Crossroads GPS” Super PACs plan to spend as much as $300 million to defeat Obama in 2012, and this is a drop in the ad budget bucket when factored in with the Romney campaign itself, pro-Romney Super PACs and the RNC spending. After a cash blitzkrieg of three quarters of a billion dollars to defeat McCain in 2008, it seems Obama may well be outspent this year, due predominantly to the rise of these “no accountability” groups.
According to PolitiFact.com, in 2010, 85% of House races went to the candidate with the most money, while 83% of Senate winners outspent their rivals. Due to the natural alignment of the Republican Party with the wealthiest Americans and corporate vested interests, and the decline of natural Democratic constituencies such as trial lawyers and unions, it’s likely that most Super PAC money going forward accrues to GOP candidates, ultimately leaving progressives increasingly out in the cold.
The transit sky on 21 January 2010 well portrays the impact of the Citizens United decision. Black Hole energies abound, a sure indicator of the supplanting of an alternate reality for the one previously pertaining, a radical shift in the status quo which creates a startling departure from prior circumstance. Black Holes act also as energy attractors or accumulators and energy drains, and tend to promote the breaking of records, as conditions become more and more extreme under their influence.
Astrologically, the Sun at 1 Aquarius is within orb of a Black Hole at 4 Aquarius, opposed a second a 3 Leo, and squared a third at 29 Libra. The Sun mired in a Black Hole T-Square suggests massive change which affects the very core of any given situation, and with this Sun still within orb of the USA natal Pluto at 27 Capricorn, it is issues of power which come under scrutiny. Power and who wields it is an ever-present motif in politics, and Pluto even has a form of government named for its mythic namesake—plutocracy, meaning “governance by wealth.” Its position in the US natal chart opposed Mercury defines a basic dichotomy of the American experience—extreme wealth versus populist interests, with the bank accounts of the fat cats eternally opposed to the voice of the people.
The Sun is also involved in an astrological Grand Trine with Saturn at 4 Libra retrograde and asteroid Midas at 1 Gemini retrograde. Saturn of course represents governmental structures and authority, as well as specifically ruling the legislators, who are most affected by the new cash influx, and in turn pass legislation favorable to the interests of their donors. Midas is named for the ancient Phrygian king whose greed caused him to petition Dionysos for a gift—that everything he touched turned to gold. The god obliged, and too late Midas realized the foolishness of his wish—unable to eat or drink, since everything he came into contact with became gold and was thus inedible, Midas’ life became a living hell. The riches he sought had turned into the bane of his existence. Asteroid Midas’ inclusion in this pattern is therefore more than apt, as it conveys a cautionary tale about the effects of limitless wealth, here tied directly to government via Saturn.
Additionally, each of the financial planets aligns astrologically with Black Hole energies, illustrating the centrality of money to this ruling. Traditionally, Venus rules the thousands, Jupiter the millions, and Pluto the billions, but all have a role to play with financial matters. Venus at 3 Aquarius conjoins the Sun, suggesting the importance of money generally to the day’s events. From this degree Venus is more tightly drawn into the net of the 4 Aquarius/3 Leo Black hole polarity, but also activates two opposed Quasars, at 5 Taurus and Scorpio, creating a Galactic Grand Cross. Quasars promote success, notoriety, and high visibility, shining a bright spotlight upon whatever they touch. The Supreme Court in its wisdom allowed lawmakers to tighten restrictions on disclosure, forcing Super PACs to divulge promptly and completely the sources of their donations, but Congress has yet to act on this potential.
Jupiter, which in addition to its fiscal implications also has astrological connections to both judges and politicians specifically, is at 0 Pisces is conjoined the Black Hole at 28 Aquarius, opposed a second at 28 Leo, and squared to a Maser at 28 Taurus and a Quasar at 28 Scorpio, forming a second Galactic Grand Cross. Jupiter tends to inflate situations, and can be noted for a certain lack of scruple in achieving its ends. The Black Holes will act to increase Jupiter’s extravagance even further, while the Quasar spotlights and gives greater stability to what otherwise might be Black Hole fickleness and changeability. The Maser suggests extreme volatility or controversy stemming from Jupiter’s excesses.
Pluto at 4 Capricorn lies between two Black Holes, at 3 and 5 Capricorn, and once again opposes another, at 4 Cancer, while forming a third Galactic Grand Cross with squares to a Quasar at 5 Libra and a Pulsar at 3 Aries. Pulsars are deep space anomalies which are informational in nature, and as such have an affinity both with news and media, and also with the copious amounts of advertising which the Citizens United decision has unleashed.
Remarkably, Pluto is also exactly squared to transit Saturn at 4 Libra, leaving no doubt as to the plutocratic “government (Saturn) by extreme wealth (Pluto)” scenario which the Supreme Court’s ruling fosters. Transit Pluto is also opposed to the USA natal Venus/Jupiter conjunction at 3 and 5 Cancer, further linking these three financial factors and tying directly into the nation’s essential fiscal make-up.
In addition to Jupiter, several other celestial points describe judges and the workings of justice. TNO Rhadamanthus, named for a mythic Greek judge of the dead noted for his scrupulous honesty but harsh punishments, lies at 19 Libra and forms yet another Grand Cross with opposition to TNO Eris at 20 Aries and asteroid Achilles at 21 Aries, and squares to the Nodal Axis at 21 Capricorn and Cancer, with asteroid Icarus on the North Node from 20 Capricorn, and TNO Varuna on the South Node from 20 Cancer. Eris is named for the Greek goddess of strife and discord, something which is surely an increasing factor in our political life due in large part to the avalanche of negative advertising the decision unleashes. Achilles represents a weak spot, a point of self-undoing which here relates generally to the effects of the ruling, and specifically to Eris’ propensity toward ivision, which increased negative political advertising only promotes.
The inclusion of the Nodal Axis here stresses the karmic implications of the ruling, and the embedded nature of its ramifications in our society. Icarus on the North Node suggests a rash, reckless disregard for our future, while Varuna on the South Node indicates a legacy that drags us down, binding us more securely to the least productive or ennobling elements of our past.
Asteroid Themis, named for the Greek goddess of justice, at 7 Capricorn is an exact match for Mercury, governing the deliberative process, rulings and decisions, and both conjoin Pluto at 4 Capricorn, squared Saturn at 4 Libra. Asteroid Justitia, named for Themis’ Roman counterpart, at 10 Aquarius is broadly conjunct both the Sun and Venus, and also opposed Mars (conflict, contention) at 12 Leo retrograde.
Although the ruling will affect countless races nationwide, both in 2012 and going forward, Barack Obama may become the most visible casualty of the Citizens United decision, should he lose his bid for re-election this fall. Appropriately, the chart for the decision ties closely to his natal chart, with its 1 Aquarius Sun conjoined his 0 Aquarius Jupiter (politicians), opposed his Mercury (voting, the message, and his ability to disseminate it) at 2 Leo, and exactly inconjunct his Venus (fundraising) at 1 Cancer. The ruling’s Mars is exactly conjunct Obama’s natal Sun, indicating the challenge (Mars) to him which the ruling represents.
Barring some extraordinary circumstance, Citizens United and the vast sums of money it releases into our politics is here to stay. How long our democracy can endure under these conditions is another matter.