Lorraine Reich: It’s more than corporate money in elections
Here we go again. The corporate influence on elections and public policies is again in the news.
The 2021 version centers on major corporations speaking out against proposed and passed voter-suppression laws in Georgia and elsewhere.
When some corporations suspended contributions to Republican politicians who voted against certifying Biden’s election, the GOP expressed outrage that corporations dared to take “political positions” against them.
The GOP simultaneously bemoaned the prospect that the tsunami of corporate campaign contributions might be cut off or reduced. Just shut up and donate, was the message from Mitch McConnell.
“My warning to corporate America is to stay out of politics,” but “I’m not talking about political contributions,” he stated in response to Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines and other national and transnational corporations that criticized new voter-suppression laws across the country. This is a brand new same old story.
Remember the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which entrenched the notion that money is First Amendment protected free speech? This ruling allowed individuals and corporations to legally spend vast amounts of money in elections, much of it on attack ads targeting candidates on issues the funders oppose.
This decision incensed the public, which feared that the megaphone of mega money would drown out the voices of the vast majority of individuals who don’t make big donations.
Here we are again. The public is justly critical of the massive hypocrisy displayed by Mitch and his GOP cohorts who welcome the cascade of corporate and CEO cash, while simultaneously expressing indignation when their corporate donors express political free speech opinions the GOP does not like.
Recall that the GOP did not attack corporate so-called free speech rights when corporations released press statements supporting the 2017 tax cut legislation for corporations and the wealthy.
As with Citizens United, the hypocritical application of the court invented so-called corporate free speech rights invites us to expose and abolish the totality and illegitimacy of anti-democratic corporate constitutional rights.
But even if corporate political free speech rights is abolished, corporate entities will still possess other century-old Supreme Court-invented anti-democratic constitutional rights that shield them from public accountability, and gives them undue political power and ensures that corporate profits preempt the rights of individuals, communities and even the natural world.
Among these never-intended corporate constitutional rights:
First Amendment right not to speak — used to overturn state laws requiring the labeling of a dangerous ingredient on food products and chemicals determined to cause cancer.
Fourth Amendment search and seizure rights — used to prevent surprise inspections of corporate property, even routine inspections, removing the ability of inspectors to detect dangerous conditions (food contamination, dangerous working conditions) before they are temporarily removed or covered up.
Fifth Amendment takings rights — used to overturn public regulations that protect private property from corporate actions. Fossil fuel corporations would undoubtedly challenge laws to “keep fossil fuels in the ground” to prevent impending climate collapse as a taking of corporate property without just compensation.
Fourteenth Amendment equal protection rights — used to overturn laws providing protection to local businesses (and local economies) over chain stores, and due process rights used to overturn over 200 state and federal economic regulations.
The corporate hijacking of these constitutional amendments provide business corporations overwhelming unaccountable power to overturn democratically enacted laws at every level of government.
The solution is the We the People Amendment (HJR 48), recently introduced by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., with 56 House co-sponsors. The constitutional amendment would abolish both the “money equals speech” and corporate constitutional rights doctrines.
It’s a response to the fundamental truth that solutions must be equivalent in scale to problems, which in this case are the massive corrupting influences of money in elections from the super rich and corporate control over so many aspects of our lives, as well as plundering of the natural world.
Corporations shouldn’t be allowed to meddle in elections. It’s up to human persons to fundamentally define what our legal creations can and cannot do. Enactment of the We the People Amendment is a necessary and urgent step toward authentic democracy for all people. Support HJR 48 by calling your congressman and senator today!
Lorraine Reich is a member of Move to Amend, Nevada County.
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As a 20-year resident of our fine city of Grass Valley, I got a good giggle out of Christian Stewart’s commentary about opposition to mining from a recent emigrant and a rightly concerned community.