Corporatism vs. Democracy in America

January 23, 2010

“In a day when special interests already hold our democracy by the throat, the court has helped them tighten their grip…The hypocrisy here is striking.  And the impact of this ruling is frightening.”
Reckless Supreme Court Ruling on Campaign Finance:  Special Interests Win, We Lose
Star Ledger Editorial Board (NJ), January 22, 2010

The Supreme Court has handed lobbyists a new weapon. A lobbyist can now tell any elected official: if you vote wrong, my company, labor union or interest group will spend unlimited sums explicitly advertising against your re-election.
– David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times, January 21, 2010

“The Court’s ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions around the Nation.  The path it has taken to reach its outcome will, I fear, do damage to this institution.”
– Justice John Paul Stevens in his 90-page 
dissenting opinion


“The conceit that corporations must be treated identically to natural persons in the political sphere is not only inaccurate but also inadequate to justify the Court’s disposition of this case.  In the context of election to public office, the distinction between corporate and human speakers is significant.  Although they make enormous contributions to our society, corporations are not actually members of it.  The cannot vote or run for office.  Because they may be managed and controlled by nonresidents, their interests may conflict in fundamental respects with the interests of eligible voters.  The financial resources, legal structure, and instrumental orientation of corporations raise legitimate concerns about their role in the electoral process.  Our lawmakers have a compelling constitutional basis, if not also a democratic duty, to take measures designed to guard against the potentially deleterious effects of corporate spending in local and national races…

Essentially, five Justices were unhappy with the limited nature of the case before us, so they changed the case to give themselves an opportunity to change the law…

The Court operates with a sledge hammer rather than a scalpel when it strikes down one of Congress’ most significant efforts to regulate the role that corporations and unions play in electoral politics.”

-  Justice John Paul Stevens in his 90-page dissenting opinion in which he wrote that granting First Amendment rights to ”corporate speech” would have been “inconceivable” to the Framers of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court decision allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on political advertising is the death knell for democracy* in America.  If voting machines killed the democratic franchise in the United States, this decision by the Supreme Court is a dump truck dumping tons of dirt on its grave.  This is the legal acceptance of what can only be called the rule of corporatism in America.  American voters do not generally elect their presidents and representatives based not on their real merits or political skills but mainly on the image of the candidate received through television advertising and televised debates, which are controlled by the two major political parties.  President Obama (my former senator who failed to respond to my letters) was not elected on his proven merits or political achievements (which are very scanty) but on a carefully crafted image of the candidate created by corporate lobbyist David Axelrod, his senior media strategist and political advisor.  This ruling gives corporations an even bigger voice than they already have in politics by allowing them to run televised political ads before an election.  This is a extremely flawed interpretation of the freedom of speech and cannot be allowed to stand if the United States is to retain any semblance of being a democratic republic.

“Joined by the other three members of the court’s liberal wing, Justice Stevens said the majority had committed a grave error in treating corporate speech the same as that of human beings.”
New York Times, January 22, 2010

Corporations are not individuals or citizens.  They are super-sized entities that are international in scope and size.  Many of them are not beholden to any nation.  Corporations simply cannot be equated with citizens as they do not belong to any nation.  Corporations are concerned with gaining power and wealth and have core interests that are clearly contrary to the national good or public interest.  With this ruling corporations will be able to use their general funds to play a super-size role in any political contest in the nation.  How can any candidate of the people compete against someone who has the backing of a huge corporation with a war chest of millions of dollars to spend on advertising and television ads?  Corporations have business interests in every congressional district in the nation.  This ruling will enable them to exercise a massive influence in every congressional race.

“If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech.”
– Justice Anthony M. Kennedy writing for the majority

Corporations can not be granted the same rights as those enshrined in the First Amendment for citizens of the United States.  To rule that corporations have the right of free speech in federal elections and then allow them to spend freely from their immense financial resources on political campaigns at every level across the United States is a most absurd interpretation of the Constitutional right of Freedom of Speech.  Justice Kennedy’s statement above does not take into account that churches are “associations of citizens” that are fined (taxed) for engaging in political speech.  Churches in the United States do not have the right to political speech.  Why should corporations, which are often foreign-owned and controlled, be allowed to have the loudest voice in U.S. elections while churches are forced to be silent?  This decision destroys the notion that America is a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”


* The term democracy should not be taken to mean that the United States is a “democracy” in the literal or classical Greek meaning of the word.  Switzerland is a democracy in the real meaning of the word.  The Swiss citizenry is truly involved in making political decisions for the nation.  The United States was created as a republic with democratic elections in which representatives are chosen.  The right to choose political representatives through open and transparent elections is the “democratic franchise”, something which has completely disappeared in most counties of the United States with the use of computerized electronic voting systems.

Recommended Reading:

Kirkpatrick, David D., “Lobbyists Get Potent Weapon in Campaign Ruling,” New York Times, January 21, 2010

Hasen, Richard L., “Money Grubbers – The Supreme Court kills campaign finance reform”, January 21, 2010

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