In a wide-ranging interview before he prepares to leave the House of Representatives, Hudson Valley Congressman John Hall warned that the nation could quickly descend into Fascism if more is not done to curb the influence of corporate money in politics.
Speaking about the Citizen’s United decision, which allowed unregulated flow of cash into campaign coffers, Hall said, “I learned when I was in social studies class in school that corporate ownership or corporate control of government is called Fascism. So that’s really the question– is that the destination if this court decision goes unchecked?”
Hall said that the flow of corporate dollars is why he and the Democrats lost control of Congress.
“The country was bought,” he said. “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.”
The extra money floating around, he said, compounded the Democrats weaknesses on the economy, unemployment and the mortgage crisis. And he said that for of the accomplishments of the lame duck Congress, their failure to pass the Disclose Act–which would have at least forced corporations to reveal who they were donating to–stood out a black mark on the session.
“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 said.
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.
He said that he has already been approached by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee about running again in 2012, but noted that if he really wanted to he would need to be out raising money already, and Hall seemed relieved to not be.
“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.”