I’m a person. You’re a person. We vote. Corporation are not people. But the U.S. government thinks they are.
Last year’s Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission established corporate personhood for purposes of campaign finance. That decision effectively abolished limitations on the campaign contributions that a candidate can receive from a single source. A candidate’s millionaire friends can channel as much money as they want to the campaign through Super Political Action Committees, which, while they are not technically affiliated with the campaign on paper, are run by former campaign directors as a campaign program bloated with funding. These “Super PACs” are responsible for the prolific ads in states with early primaries.
With Citizens United, the influence of money in politics and its corruption of democracy are complete because now corporations are “people” entitled to the “free speech” of supporting candidates with financial contributions. Corporations are not people; they are collective bodies guided by the sole mandate to increase its profits. Isn’t it obvious how a corporate body established for profit will abuse the opportunity for “free speech” in our political process?
I had the rare opportunity to ask Justice Scalia how he, a strict textualist, found basis for corporate personhood in the Constitution. His answer? The First Amendment protects free speech by people, and does not distinguish whether they must be individuals or can be groups. Seems to me like strict-constructionism has devolved into an argument you might find on the History Chanel:
“Well, there is no evidence that the founding fathers DID NOT want corporations to choose the president. There is also no evidence that the founding fathers weren’t Aliens, so they probably were.”
Candidate befriends a business. Candidate promises deregulation. Corporation gives millions of dollars to the Super PAC supporting that candidate. Candidate is in corporation’s pocket. Super PAC runs non-stop ads with inflammatory remarks and dramatic music. Average American’s opinion is influenced. Votes are bought. Candidate wins. Corporation runs government.
Now, as the Republican primary moves forward, the candidate with the largest war chest of these unlimited corporate funds (Mitt Romney) is the obvious frontrunner. This isn’t democracy. It’s concentration of power in the hands of those who already have it. I’m convinced that corporate power over elected representatives is responsible for terrible legislation like SOPA. It’s abhorrent, but it is also the future. As we the people continue to lose the political institutions established to protect our rights as human beings, our lives and the lives of our children will increasingly be run by some company’s bottom line as we are subjected to the ultimate passivity: consumerism. Buy what they sell us. Elect who they tell us.