Last night, I posted a video here by Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig about the importance of getting corporate money out of politics. At the time, I agreed with the professor that corporations had way too much influence over American politics. Since I posted it, however, things have gotten considerably worse. This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court, led by Bush appointee John Roberts, voted 5-4 to allow corporations even greater influence in politics. (You can read the actual opinion of the court here.) Here, by way of background, is a clip from the New York Times:
Overruling two important precedents about the First Amendment rights of corporations, a bitterly divided Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections.
The 5-to-4 decision was a vindication, the majority said, of the First Amendment’s most basic free speech principle — that the government has no business regulating political speech. The dissenters said that allowing corporate money to flood the political marketplace would corrupt democracy…
The ruling, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, No. 08-205, overruled two precedents: Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, a 1990 decision that upheld restrictions on corporate spending to support or oppose political candidates, and McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, a 2003 decision that upheld the part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 that restricted campaign spending by corporations and unions….
So, as of right now, corporations will have the same level of control over U.S. elections that they, up till now, have exercised over other areas of American life.
Oh, speaking of which, did you see the headline today that top defense contractors spent $27 million lobbying for the Afghan surge? That’s right. They spent $27 million dollars making the case to our elected officials that a surge in Afghanistan, requiring their products, was necessary. (I don’t have the number handy, but I expect peace groups had considerably less to spend.) And, now, they’ll be have the same kind of influence over U.S. elections.
My favorite quote today was from someone on Reddit, who said, “Coming this November: attack ads by banks against Congressmen who advocate banking reform legislation — paid for by taxpayer bailout money. It’s kind of poetic, isn’t it?
And, as you might have guessed, Lawrence Lessig doesn’t seem too happy about this current turn of events. He’s advocating that people immediately get behind the Fair Elections Now Act, which would, if passed, cap personal donations to political campaigns at $100, and make public funding available for those who meet certain criteria.
…There is no quick fix. The Roberts Court’s audacity must be met with bold action.
People For the American Way is launching a campaign to pass an amendment to the U.S. Constitution which would nullify the worst part of the Court’s decision by granting Congress the authority to limit corporate influence in elections. This is not something that we take lightly. But the very foundation of our democracy could depend on our ability to overturn this decision…
We support other legislative efforts in Congress to limit the impact of today’s anti-democratic decision – some of which are being talked about by our allies already. But this decision is such a drastic departure from sound democratic principles that we now stand on the precipice, and more is needed.
Congress must move quickly to protect our democratic system and the voice of the people by passing this amendment. From there, we will take our campaign to the states to get the amendment ratified by two thirds of the state legislatures. As the consequences of this decision sink in, more and more Americans will be justifiably outraged. We can make this national movement to amend the Constitution a success — with your help…
If you want to be involved, just click that last link and enter your email address.
And, here, in conclusion, are a few quotes that I found on the subject.
Senator Chuck Schumer: “The Supreme Court has just predicted the winners of the next November election. It won’t be Republicans. It won’t be Democrats. It will be Corporate America.”
Barack Obama: “With its ruling today, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans… That’s why I am instructing my Administration to get to work immediately with Congress on this issue. We are going to talk with bipartisan Congressional leaders to develop a forceful response to this decision.”
And this, my friends, is the Bush legacy. This is what happens when criminally-uninformed voters put a far-right ideologue/puppet into the Oval Office. It’s not enough that we have to invest years, undoing all the shit he’s personally responsible for, but, then, on top of it, we have to suffer through the ridiculous decisions of his Supreme Court. And nothing is more ridiculous than this notion that corporations, in the eyes of the law, are people, entitled to the same rights as you and me.
Until a corporation can go to prison for breaking the law, in my opinion, it shouldn’t be given any of the privileges of personhood.