Other Voices: Who cares if corporations rule our lives?
The Jan. 14 U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing corporations and unions unlimited financial involvement in Federal elections will open floodgates of cash from corporations and ultimately influence our electoral process.
Not since the misapplication of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution giving corporations the same rights as humans has the court so blatantly overstepped its role by legislating from the bench, as it has in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case.
Unfortunately, the most likely result of this decision will be the formation of scores of political advocacy groups designed specifically to receive and spend vast sums of anonymously donated corporate money on national campaigns.
One such group, American Future Fund, located in Iowa, is already challenging President Obama’s economic policies and health care proposals, and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in Massachusetts to affect the outcome of that Senate race. To be fair, the court decision also allows unions to contribute to these advocacy groups; but the reality is that unions will be outspent by corporations whenever and wherever they attempt to promote an issue or candidate.
Shortly before he was assassinated, President Lincoln stated, “I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money-power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”
In 1886, the Supreme Court issued a decision in Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad, declaring the corporation a natural person under the Constitution, entitled to the protection of the 14th Amendment.
Since then, and as consequence of other Supreme Court cases, growing distrust of mega-corporations and the government negotiating “voluntary” codes of corporate conduct, the influence of money in politics has been somewhat controlled.
Now, a corporation, whether based in the United States or anywhere in the world, that relies on its profit by potentially harming people, the land, the oceans, or the air we breathe, will be able to use their financial strength to influence voters and, by extension, politicians we choose, or the initiatives we support or oppose.
You may be thinking that you won’t succumb to the slick advertising of corporations. Well, you’re right. You probably won’t; but can you guarantee that all voters will be as well educated and fully informed as you?
So, why aren’t people angry? Do we not care that corporations control everything we do, the food we eat, the health care (or lack of healthcare) we buy, the gas we put in our cars, the air we breathe?
We may not feel corporate control of our lives; but slow and subtle change will eventually cause us serious harm.
When the food industry (agribusiness) began its campaign to infuse high fructose corn syrup into our diets, we didn’t know then (as we do now) it would lead to obesity and diabetes, two of the most expensive and life threatening conditions Americans face today.
We didn’t know the advent and global expansion of the internal combustion engine could suffocate our planet. But we do now.
The Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission must be overturned. Our rights as individual citizens hang in the balance. We cannot allow corporations to steal our individual liberty. Our democracy stands on the principle of one-person, one vote – not one dollar, one vote.
Please join us in writing, phoning and/or e-mailing our U.S. Congress and Senate representatives demanding our right to fair elections. You know corporate lobbyists aren’t waiting – we must act now.
Jim Firth is first vice president of Nevada County Democratic Central Committee.
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