Democracy: What’s It Worth If You Can’t Buy It?

Fortunate are we–or maybe “blessed” is a better word–to have a Supreme Court that defends the right of corporations to be heard above the clamor of the masses. This morning’s decision from our highest tribunal is titled Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (183-page PDF file). It could be called, “Democracy: What’s it worth if you can’t buy it?” I, for one, look eagerly forward to seeing companies like Chevron, like Halliburton, like Lockheed–I’m sure you’ve got your own list of favorites–burst the shackles of campaign-finance law and express themselves. Free at last!

Crybabies like high court dissenter Justice John Paul Stevens protest that corporations are fundamentally different from human individuals. For instance, they can’t vote or run for office. Further: “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.”

Yawn. Tell it to Teddy Roosevelt, Stevens. That’s how old that kind of thinking is. And if corporations can’t vote or run for office, well maybe it’s time for the court to change that, too. Precedents are for sissies–and bonfires.

Read the decision, kids, and the dissent. This is where our democracy, such as it is, is headed.

3 Comments

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3 Responses to Democracy: What’s It Worth If You Can’t Buy It?

  1. Steve Michel

    Unless this changes, our democracy, such as it is, is effectively lost. Combined with the requirement for a “supermajority” in the Senate, corporations can actually buy it pretty cheaply, too: just spend in some states like Wyoming, the Dakotas, etc. And you can put together a ruling minority pretty easily. And of course this goes beyond national elections, too: local limits are now verboten.
    It’s already shameful how little we know about corporate spending in politics (how much money have the oil companies spent to cripple global warming legislation?), but it’s about to get much, much worse.
    I’ve read science fiction distopias that are more optimistic than I feel right now.

  2. Dan

    Yes, it’s shameful and frightening. I haven’t read the full decision, but I don’t think it overturns reporting requirements (though Clarence Thomas filed a dissent saying that they should be struck down, too). There is some power to making that information public; still, I don’t think sunlight alone is a match for companies willing to spend whatever it takes to dominate a conversation.

  3. You think that guy from Illinois really meant, “and that government of the corporations, by the corporations, for the corporations….” This is quite depressing for the people and democracy.

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