Congressman John Hall, D-N.Y., has some parting wisdom to bestow on America as his time as a U.S. Representative winds down: beware of fascism.
"I learned when I was in social studies class in school that corporate ownership or corporate control of government is called Fascism," Rep. Hall said, referring to the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision earlier this year which overturned limits on corporate political donations on First Amendment grounds. "So that's really the question," he continued, "is that the destination if this court decision goes unchecked?"
Hall, like man congressional Democrats and President Obama, believes First Amendment rights which protect individuals' right to donate to political campaigns do not comparatively apply to corporations and other interest groups. But not many opponents of the court's Citizens United decision have claimed that the ruling amounts to creeping fascism.
It's the flow of corporate cash, Hall says, which led to Republicans' resurgence during the midterm congressional elections in November. "The country was bought," he says. "The extremist, most recent two appointees to the Supreme Court, who claimed in their confirmation hearings before the Senate that they would not be activist judges, made a very activist decision in that it overturned more than a century of precedent. And as a result there were millions of extra dollars thrown into this race," Hall said, acknowledging his own re-election defeat.
Hall also repeated Democrats' claims that Republican campaigns accepted help from foreign corporations, a clear violation of U.S. election laws. "We are talking about supposedly wholesome names like Revere America, American Crossroads, Americans for Apple Pie and Motherhood—if somebody hasn't trademarked that one I probably should. The fact is you can call it anything and the money could be coming from BP or Aramco or any corporation domestic or foreign," Congressman Hall told the New York Observer.
Hall was elected to Congress in 2006, ousting incumbent Republican Sue Kelly in a district that has come to be seen as one of the nation's quintessential swing districts. Kelly was first elected in 1994, when Republicans took control of the House. Hall, a former front man for the rock bank Orleans, lost this year to Nan Hayworth, a wealthy ophthalmologist. He rebuffed the idea that Democrats over-reached, noting that his Republican colleagues were frequent lunch guests of the White House, but he and his Democratic counterparts seldom were. And he defended the health care vote which many pundits saw as dooming Democratic chances.
"[Congressman] Hank Johnson of Georgia told our caucus before the [health care] vote that we should be willing to lose our seats over this vote. And I think he was right about that. I don't think that is the only reason why I lost but if it is I am ok with it."
Hall declined to comment on his future plans. Rumors have been floating around that he is up for a job in the Obama administration or with soon-to-be Governor Andrew Cuomo, possibly as head of the Department of Environmental Conversation. Hall said that he had been contacted by the Cuomo transition team, but that no offer had been made and that he had not decided what to do next.
According to Hall, the Democratic Party has already approached him about running again in 2012, but he offered no hint at his future plans.
"I am not saying I am done but I am also not saying I am not done. It would depend on the situation," he said. "It's too soon to tell at this point."