Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sold Down the River

The team that brought you the 2000 presidential election has just presented the American people with another juicy gift.  The U.S. Supreme Court, moved substantially to the right by George W. Bush's appointment of John Roberts and Samuel Alito, has just declared unconstitional almost every campaign finance law that restricts corporate contributions to elections.  Oh, and union contributions.  They still can't donate directly to candidates; but there are now no limits on the amount of money they can pour into advertising during an election.  Your state has local restrictions on corporate contributions?  Also unconstitutional.  The McCain-Feingold Act?  History.

Kiss American democracy goodbye, folks.  This is the end of government of the people, by the people, and for the people.  It has just been replaced by the Golden Rule - the guys who have the gold, make the rules.  Ordinary citizens can't possibly match the financial clout of corporations and corporate unions.

Do I seem just a little cynical about the good wishes of corporations and unions?  Well, I can't speak for unions, but I spent 38 years working for corporate America, and I never saw a single public-spirited action that the companies didn't think would contribute directly to their bottom line.  Corporate contributions to elections will focus on improving corporate profits, the public be damned.  A classic example:  the banking industry thought that the Glass-Steagall Act, which prevented banks from trading securities, was keeping them from making all the money they could possibly make.  They poured money into the Congressional campaigns of people who agreed with them.  Ten years ago, Glass-Steagall was repealed, and banks could own brokerages and trade securities.  I don't need to remind you what came out of that.

Do the citizens have any recourse here?  We can't afford to buy our own Congressman; the corporations have already bid the price up way too high.  Our only option is information.  Fortunately the laws that require disclosure of campaign contributions still stand.  As long as they do, we must ensure that we know where the corporate money goes.  If somebody's campaign was specifically supported by campaign ads from Glutco, Inc., we must make sure that candidate is identified as "the candidate from Glutco."  Knowledge is power; it seems to be the only power we have left.

In 1787, as he left the Constitutional Convention, somebody is said to have asked Benjamin Franklin, "What have we got, a Republic or a Monarchy?"  Franklin reputedly replied, "A Republic - if you can keep it."  Can we keep it?


  1. Anonymous1:41 PM

    This is nothing new. It just accelerates a trend of corporate control of government in this country. I like the term "corporate plutocracy" to describe it. [I like the term; not what it describes.] The only way I see out of it is if it goes so far that the American public gets disgusted and essentially statges a revolution. The chances of that happening -- slightly better than my winning the lottery (only because I haven't bought a ticket).

  2. There's always Indian reservations. Maybe you could find a distant 28th cousin who had a drop of Native American blood, then you could borrow some Mafia money and start a casino on protected land. The Ohlone Tribe used to crack open shellfish hereabouts. Maybe I can work that angle. Who needs America?

  3. As a matter of fact, if family legend is true, I am about 1/8 Cherokee. I just can't prove it (nobody in Missouri in 1910 wanted to admit to being part Cherokee...).

  4. Boggart8:38 PM

    No wonder people are embracing Avatar. It gives you a few hours where the ordinary people win. However, in my opinion, the Supreme Court sold out several years ago. This is more or less par for the course.

  5. Sure thing.

    Don't do business with any corporation that gives contributions, or any business doing business with THAT business.