An impending Supreme Court decision could dramatically alter democracy in the United States. Corporations may soon claim victory in the 100-plus year fight over corporate political contributions and influence in elections. At stake are corporations’ rights to run their own political ads, contribute directly to campaigns and oppose or endorse candidates.
The Supreme Court decided in June that they would hear special arguments on whether to overturn previous decisions to regulate campaign finance spending by corporations.
Donations from private individuals could become obsolete as political candidates bend backwards to the will of their corporate sponsors, putting the government in the hands of a modern aristocratic class.
This decision came after the Court decided to review a ruling by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against the conservative nonprofit group Citizens United.
Citizens United produced a film called Hillary: The Movie, where former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was depicted as an untrustworthy and ruthless person. The FEC investigated the film and found that it fit under the category of corporate-sponsored “electioneering communications,” which required limits on how the film was shown and required the film’s producers to disclose all donors.
A lower court upheld the ruling, but the Supreme Court agreed to take the case in March. Now, rather than deciding if the film should be regulated by corporate campaign finance laws, the Supreme Court is considering doing away with corporate regulations altogether.
Corporation regulations, established in 1907, were reaffirmed in 2002 by the Supreme Court. However, there are those who want the court to go against its own precedent and return to dangerous times.
According a Seatle Times article, Solicitor General Elena Kagan argued in a brief to the court: “Corporations are artificial persons endowed by the government with significant special advantages that no natural person possesses.”
This is an excellent point: corporations have no responsibility to civic duty, or anything at all outside interest in profit gain. A corporation should not be an autonomous political being with the rights that citizens have to become active in politics. What is best for certain corporations will not be what is best for the nation.
The Supreme Court’s conservative leaning may play a supporting role in the corporate entrance in politics. According to the Washington Post, the court previously sided with employers for providing more protection from past discrimination suits, limited prisoner rights and appealed death penalties, and sided with developers over environmentalists.
The Supreme Court’s decision could change the political landscape drastically. Americans would see political propaganda and advertising in unrivaled proportions.
The Supreme Court should not go against its previous ruling that upheld the matter less than 10 years ago. They must not allow corporate interest to traverse the political sphere, subsequently sacrificing the political freedoms of the people.
Justin Rivera is a senior majoring in history.