Keith Harris – 2/12/10

Corporate America has just scored yet another victory at the expense of the American people. With its precedent-shattering decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court has essentially given corporations and unions a free pass to spend as much as they are willing on electoral campaigns. The 5-4 decision might well represent the last nail in the coffin of our nation’s democratic integrity.

The five judges who favored the ruling contend that the right of corporations to spend freely on campaigns is protected under the first amendment. Of course, when this amendment was first drafted, its authors could not possibly fathom the scale of modern American corporations, which have the resources, and now the right, to hijack American democracy. But that is inconsequential. It is more important to recognize that corporations are not people. The Bill of Rights was not created to protect them. Rather, the Bill of Rights exists to prevent abuse of the weak by the powerful. In this case, the powerful are the corporations who, despite being run by a minority of wealthy Americans, now have an even greater say in American politics due to this ruling, which effectively makes political voice a function of wealth.

The contention of this ruling’s proponents is that corporate campaign spending limits obstructed the freedom of corporations and their owners. In truth, they did. It is, however, equally true that the preservation of democracy requires that certain restrictions be placed on the few in the interest of protecting the many. Protecting the freedom of individuals should be of key importance to any governing body. However, individual freedom can only be justified up to the point that it becomes subversive to the welfare of the majority. The ruling of the Supreme Court violates this vital principle.

The new rights given to corporations would be bad enough if they only provided for the unlimited support of candidates, but it gets even worse. Corporations can now spend vast sums of money to campaign against any candidate. This means that on any of those already rare occasions that an individual with integrity enters the political ring, he or she is likely to be bombarded with negative ads to prevent any chance of their success. Furthermore, now any candidate who takes action against corporations during his or her term risks a vengeful ad campaign prior to subsequent elections.

As absurd as the aforementioned argument in favor of limitless corporate campaign spending is, even more ridiculous arguments exist. Namely, some contend that corporations will not abuse their newly given rights. To discount this argument, one need only understand the nature of corporations. Once again, corporations are not people. They do not have consciences. A corporation is a Machiavellian entity whose only end is profit. As such, the interests of corporations are inherently opposed to those of the common people.

This ruling is undeniably a huge blow to democratic equality in America. Unfortunately, it is only one more step in the commoditization of democracy. Even before the ruling, corporations and other special interest groups used lobbyists and other tools to ensure the compliance of politicians. In essence, the Supreme Court’s decision merely expedites the process. Nonetheless, the repercussions of this ruling are likely to be visible and substantial in our next election.