Public Citizen has called on Congress to make some badly-needed changes in the laws governing elections in this country. As we all know, the U.S. Supreme Court turned over the financing of elections to Corporate America when it ruled campaign finance reform legislation passed by Congress to be unconstitutional in the case of Citizens United v. FEC. The decision, which found a corporation to have the same constitutional rights as a living human being, gave corporations the right to spend unlimited amounts to support or oppose candidates for elected office. If that seems rather weird, it certainly is. The 5-4 decision opened the treasuries of Corporate America to have unlimited influence over elections. The authors of our constitution would be shocked if they were around today to see what the Court did and why.
The Supreme Court has given companies like Exxon, BP, Merrill Lynch, Tyson Foods, CIGNA, and hundreds of others, the unique ability to open their corporate treasuries to directly influence elections. Democracy was never intended to operate like that. Our Supreme Court has now given corporations the right and authority to spend unlimited amounts to undermine democracy. Democracy is supposed to have rule by the people in a country. That has always meant – until now – by real, live human beings – not corporations. Public Citizen had this to say recently in a statement that we received:
Now the Supreme Court comes along and says that Congress acted unconstitutionally – and violated Corporate America’s free speech rights. This is bad news for human beings and our democracy. How bad? Take the recent election. From 2009-2010, all candidates for U.S. House and Senate races combined spent about $1.5 billion. In the same time frame, Exxon alone registered profits of $40 billion.
So, in just one election cycle, a tiny fraction of Exxon’s profits could be used to buy our democracy. Lock, stock and barrel. Pretty soon, we’ll have politicians walking around with logos on their jackets – like a NASCAR driver – advertising their sponsors. Democrat or Republican, Conservative or Liberal, Blue State or Red State. It won’t matter. Corporations will shower cash on any candidate who best represent their interests in Congress, your state house, your city council, or your state and local courts.
We’ve already seen a torrent of corporate money rush into politics. The large retailers Target and Best Buy, for example, spent money for a right-wing extremist gubernatorial candidate in Minnesota. And News Corp., which owns Fox News and the New York Post, contributed $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, a partisan group dedicated to electing Republican governors. Health insurers, King Coal, Wall Street giants, Big Oil and more funneled tens of millions through front groups to support pro-corporate candidates. The corporations have shifted the political makeup of Congress, and they’re just getting started. 2010 was just practice for the presidential election of 2012.
And not all of the damage from the new corporate spending is direct. In the future, elected officials who want to do the right thing, won’t. And if they do, they’ll risk facing a barrage of corporate-funded attack ads and losing their jobs in the next election. In this environment, many candidates who would challenge corporate interests won’t even bother to run. All this because five justices invented the idea that artificial entity corporations should be given the First Amendment protections intended for actual people.
The Supreme Court’s recent decision is an absolute assault on democracy. Corporations are not people. They should not be able to use their massive accumulations of wealth to subvert the democratic process. It’s time for human beings to fight back. The lines are now clearly drawn. Human beings vs. corporations. We cannot allow this decision to go unchallenged. And we will not. The day the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Citizens United and sided with corporations, we launched a national campaign on behalf of human beings and our democracy.
We certainly have a rather weird situation in Congress with the House under GOP control and the Senate still, at least in theory, controlled by Democrats. Tragically, there is more partisanship and bitterness today than I can ever recall. The political climate is definitely “meaner” than I have seen in recent memory. Public Citizen is asking Congress to:
Those are good recommendations from a group that is independent and free of influence from powerful lobbyists. For those of our readers who aren’t familiar with all that Public Citizen does, I will give a brief review of their work.
Public Citizen, for 40 years, has been at the forefront of the fight to rein in Wall Street, end corporate subsidies, deliver clean energy, remove dangerous drugs from the market, promote auto safety, advance open government, win a just trade policy, and crack down on corporate crime. This group has fought hard as a consumer advocate for the public interest.
Public Citizen also has been at the center of every campaign finance and lobby reform battle since the early 1970’s. It played a lead role in passing a federal law requiring lobbyists to disclose who they give money to and who pays them. Public Citizen also helped pass historic legislation, known as McCain-Feingold, to restrict corporate political spending – the very law referred to above that was trashed by the Supreme Court. I can think of very few groups that work as hard for ordinary citizens in this country as does Public Citizen.
Public Citizen lawyers have argued 58 cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. Public Citizen has lawyers who are recognized experts in Supreme Court litigation and campaign finance reform law. That’s the reason Public Citizen lawyers represented the McCain-Feingold sponsors in the Citizens United case. And now Public Citizen is taking on its biggest challenge ever. It is critically important to take back our democracy from the large corporations that have, with the help of the highest court in the land, usurped it. We must stop the large corporations from a total political takeover of our democracy.
The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United is tightening the corporate hammerlock over all aspects of our democracy – from state and local government to the highest levels of our federal government. Our Constitution begins with “We the People,” and that doesn’t include corporations. It should be as clear as a bell that neither Exxon nor any huge corporation is a person. Simply put – corporations are not people. Now that five justices on the Supreme Court have decided otherwise, it’s time for the American people to get involved and help overturn this horrendous decision. It will take an organized effort to get this done.
Source: Public Citizen
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