In January, a conservative Supreme Court ruled that corporations – which are artificially created persons that can purchase property and hold assets, but not die – also have political rights, reversing a 100-year ban on “electioneering communication.”
President Barack Obama rightly addressed the topic in his weekly radio address Saturday, reiterating the need for congressional action to protect the American democratic process from corporate forces that could shape U.S. domestic and foreign policy with their vast resources and influence.
According to a recent Survey USA poll, 77 percent of all voters oppose corporate spending in elections, seeing it as the unethical bribery of politicians.
Not surprisingly, 70 percent of Republican voters also opposed the practice.
However, because of a Republican filibuster – a political tactic that involves long speeches to delay and defeat bills – recent legislation that would have required sponsors of political ads to identify themselves was shot down, allowing for anonymous attack ads that leave voters unaware of sponsors’ ulterior motives.
Republican legislators risk appearing as if they are already in the pockets of big business by taking such a strong stance against measures that their own party’s voters want that would prevent abuse of America’s political system.
The consequence of non-action is obvious, especially in Florida.
After the disastrous Deepwater Horizon oil spill revealed the vulnerabilities of offshore drilling, corporations like BP could spend immeasurable sums of money on non-stop ads attacking – on whatever grounds they could find – any politician who dared to jeopardize their lucrative trade, concluding that the cost of the ads outweighs the potential cost of not operating in their desired manner.
Even more troubling is that corporations, which could be under the control of foreign governments, may use the ruling to attack politicians who favor a political agenda that runs counter to their aims.
Beyond compromising the sovereignty of the U.S. and jeopardizing its democratic process, the ruling threatens national security when foreign enterprises are allowed to propagandize and manipulate the voting public.
Republican politicians’ support of corporate spending free-for-alls is inexcusable and runs counter to the best interests of the U.S and its citizens.
Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo and Citigroup have already pledged to refrain from engaging in electioneering communication, but this cannot be expected of other industry leaders that are salivating at the opportunity to effectively shape political outcomes.
Action is needed. Voters must express their discontent with the ruling by contacting their representatives and expressing their displeasure at the polls in November.