Eric Harrington – 1st amendment 2010, or “he who has the most money, has the loudest voice..”
Thursday, January 21st, 2010, may mark the end of any chance for working-class people to actually have a voice in US politics.
In a bitterly divided, sharply partisan split, the US Supreme court ruled that corporations, unions, and all other organizations possess the same rights of free speech as individuals. The decision reversed a century-long trend towards limiting the political influence of corporations and unions in the political process.
The court in 5-4 split, straight down partisan lines, overturned two previous decisions and threw out parts of a 63-year-old law that said companies and unions can be prohibited from using money from their treasuries to produce and run campaign ads.
It leaves in intact a prohibition on direct contributions to candidates from corporations and unions.
The significance of this ruling and its effect on the political process cannot be overstated. In a strong dissent, Judge John Paul Stevens wrote “The court’s ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions around the world.”
The nature of this case has been cleverly framed as a decision on preserving free-speech and defending the 1st amendment — and free speech is the foundation of a free society — but free speech is really not what this law is about. It is the final step in giving corporations or groups of people all of the rights and protections of an individual, and it virtually insures the U.S. will finally become the corporatocracy that wealthy Conservatives and their brainwashed middle class supporters have fought for for a century.
I say the final step, because while there still are other protections afforded an individual that are denied a group, they do not matter. Nothing else really matters because once the election process can be controlled by corporations, and hence the candidates, they can ultimately change anything they want, any way they want.
The problem with giving corporations (and groups in general) the free speech rights of an individual, is they allow individuals to leverage the money of a corporation, including the stock holders who may not even agree, under the protections of an individual. It creates in effect a super individual, with far more political power than an ordinary citizen and it goes against everything that democracy stands for.
It is ironic that while laws were created and remain intact that prevent corporations from influencing their employees votes, the floodgates have effectively been opened for them to influence everyone’s vote through unlimited spending on carefully crafted and often misleading “issues” campaign ads, right up to Election Day.
It can be argued that that is what free speech is all about, discussing issues. But as anyone knows who has watched the television circus they call an election in the US, and the almost comically juxtaposed positions the two parties seem to have on anything and everything, ”issues” ads are simply a clever cover for spending millions to elect a candidate or defeat a bill that might hurt business. And the more influence corporations have over an election, the more influence they will have over that candidates choices after the election.
With corporate lobbying and political influence of the finance industry being a key factor in the recent economic collapse, and the accompanying cries for limiting corporate lobbying, it is characteristically bold of the Republican arm of the Supreme Court to open the door to virtually unrestricted corporate political lobbying to the American populace. And it effectively bypasses the limits on personal campaign contributions which sought to minimize the influence of money in politics. You can’t give it to them, but you can spend it on them. Just spend millions on some issue you know the candidates are clearly divided on and Viola! you can influence the election without giving a penny to a candidate.
I’m sure some will suggest that not only Corporations but Unions and PACS also have such rights, and that provides some balance, but again, it all comes down to money. He who has the most money has the loudest voice, and the American swing voter, i.e. “the undecided” always seem to be the hardest of hearing.. And who has more money than Big Oil, Pharma, Banks and Insurance? And while voters and even candidates at least have to be citizens and live here, corporations who run these “issues” ads do not. Thats the coup de grace of this horrific decision. It allows foriegn companies the same unchecked influence over our elections. But the powers who promoted it don’t care, their interests are bigger than mere countries..
Until the disproportionate influence of corporate wealth is removed from the political process, the American middle class will continue its slow slide into poverty, as America becomes a true blue Corporatocracy. It is a sad, sad day..