If successful, recent legislative action may serve as a much-needed safeguard against the assured tidal wave of billions of corporate dollars flooding national elections.
In January, the Supreme Court struck down a long-standing ban that limited corporations’ political involvement. The ruling, Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, reversed a 100-year ban and allowed for corporate “electioneering communication,” as well as the right to endorse or oppose candidates.
In its ruling, the court concluded that the First Amendment right to freedom of speech was also granted to corporations, which are artificially created persons that cannot die, but can accumulate wealth and purchase property indefinitely.
Controversy rightly followed the ruling, as many thought politicians would bend backwards for their corporate sponsors. Many feared American democracy would be undermined.
However, the Disclose Act, sponsored by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) aims to remove any veil of secrecy that sponsors of elections advertisements could hide behind.
Under the proposed legislation, a union or company that wants to run a political advertisement would need to identify who sponsors the ad. Shareholders and the public would also be privy to the amount of money spent on the advertisement, as it would be public record.
This is an important legislative action that can prevent abuse and manipulation of the political system by corporate entities with unlimited resources at their disposal.
If passed, the bill would require advertisement sponsors to identify themselves in a message similar to what is already in place for ads approved by political candidates.
Anonymous attack ads may leave viewers unsure of the alternative motivations. As a result, one is unable to draw a conclusion based on critical evaluation.
It’s likely a passionate political ad would lose some of its steam when the president of a major corporation smiles and says he approves of the message.
Opponents argue that this law prevents a corporation from practicing its constitutional rights.
Opposition from the Chamber of Commerce, the National Rifle Association and other groups is strong, and they are lobbying hard to have the bill scrapped or amended so that it loses its effectiveness.
They do have much to fear, as voters aren’t likely to be sympathetic toward the powerful special interest groups that would lose out.
Being informed is the most important attribute of a voter. This bill highlights that notion and acts to protect the fundamental principle of democracy.
Legislators need to do the right thing by keeping to their campaign promises to represent the people and act in the best interests of the constituency that has put them in power – not pander to lobbyists, special interests and big money’s attempts to secretly manipulate the public.
Justin Rivera is a senior majoring in history.