If a news reporter announced one day on a CNN newscast that corporations are not people, I suspect most folks would be in total agreement with that assessment. In fact, most would likely wonder why such a statement was even necessary. That’s because nobody would ever even consider that a corporation could be considered a person. But on the contrary, if the same reporter said a corporation is actually a live, breathing person, with a soul to boot, I suspect most folks would say that reporter was either drunk or trying to be funny. But in 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case we mentioned in this issue (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission) that corporations have the same First Amendment right as an individual person has to influence election outcomes. So I guess the five justices who were in the majority in the case believe corporations are really people.
In any event, the High Court actually said a corporation enjoys its right under our Constitution and actually has the right to spend unlimited sums of money advocating for or against candidates. I never considered a corporation to have the Constitutional right of free speech that individuals have, but it appears I was dead wrong. We mentioned how the Court’s ruling has drastically changed the political landscape in the U.S. Now let’s explore that effect in more detail.
As a result of the High Court’s ruling, nearly $300 million of special interest money was poured into the Congressional elections in 2010 to fund attack ads that defeated many progressive opponents of the corporate agenda. But the sad fact is that the amounts spent in 2010 are just a fraction of what’s already being spent in this year’s GOP primary elections. The Republican primaries were totally dominated by Super PACs, funded by just a few corporations and super-wealthy individuals, spending millions of dollars on negative ads. We shouldn’t be surprised that most of the money spent was on behalf of Mitt Romney. Many political observers believe the amounts of super-PAC spending in the general election will exceed even the wildest predictions that have been made so far.
This sort of spending by Corporate America and the overwhelming influence of the Super PACs can’t be allowed to continue. But it won’t stop so long as Citizens United remains the law of the land. Public Citizen has been leading the fight to educate the public on Citizens United and the Democracy Is For People Campaign, designed to negate Citizens United, has been very active. More than one million signatures have already been secured on petitions calling for a Constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizen’s United ruling. In fact, a number of U.S. Senators and members of Congress actually signed the petition.
Over a dozen cities have passed resolutions in support of a constitutional amendment, including New York City, Albany, Los Angeles, Oakland, Duluth and Boulder. Several states are being targeted and activity in those states will intensify over the coming months. I am told the work of the campaign will be greatly expanded in the coming weeks.
Without a doubt, there will be big challenges in 2012 as the result of Citizens United. That’s because huge corporations are intensifying their assault on our democracy. While corporations deliver us many useful goods and services, it’s become most apparent that unrestrained corporate power will threaten our individual well-being, the well-being of the United States, and actually, the well-being of our planet. It’s time for the American people to get actively involved in the battle to save our Republic and fight to preserve the rights and liberties our Constitution guarantees to all Americans. No longer is it enough to observe what’s happening, complain loudly, and then go on to other activities. It will require much more than that. So, the bottom line is that it’s time for all of us to get involved and then to stay involved.
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