By David Swanson
The damage from the Supreme Court’s decision in “Citizens United v. FEC” continues to spread as feared. Newly emboldened corporations are suing to overturn state laws that restrict corporate spending on politics:
“A pro-natural resource development group [how’s that for spin?] and a Bozeman painting company asked a Helena District Court on Monday to strike down Montana’s 1912 ban on corporate donations and expenditures to political campaigns to comply with a January U.S. Supreme Court ruling.”
Meanwhile, the new third branch of government (the other two being the Democratic and Republican parties), the institution that had predicted in an amicus brief that it would be the largest beneficiary of “Citizens United,” is now becoming just that. Here’s an LA Times headline:
U.S. Chamber of Commerce grows into a political force: A swelling tide of money could put the business group in a better position to sway elections.
It’s worth reading a bit of this:
“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is building a large-scale grass-roots political operation that has begun to rival those of the major political parties, funded by record-setting amounts of money raised from corporations and wealthy individuals. The chamber has signed up some 6 million individuals who are not chamber members and has begun asking them to help with lobbying and, soon, with get-out-the-vote efforts in upcoming congressional campaigns.
“The chamber’s expansion into grass-roots organizing — coupled with a large and growing fundraising apparatus that got a lift from Supreme Court rulings — is part of a trend in which the traditional parties are losing ground to well-financed and increasingly assertive outside groups. The chamber is certainly better positioned than ever to be a major force on the issues and elections it focuses on each year, analysts think.”
But this is not just about registering people to vote. It’s also about misinforming them so that they vote against their interests:
“[T]he recent Supreme Court ruling that corporations have a free-speech right to spend money to help elect or defeat candidates not only struck down a century of laws limiting such spending, but it also made many business executives feel more comfortable about using corporate money for political purposes. Industries that are the most directly affected by Washington policies and regulations — pharmaceuticals, for example — have always spent lavishly on lobbying and politics. But many others have held back, deterred by concern over violating the complex laws on campaign spending and by a general sense that putting money into politics might open companies to criticism. The Supreme Court decision appears to have allayed those concerns, according to corporate lawyers and others involved in the process.”
I think that’s a fair depiction, if you substitute the word “prosecution” for “criticism”. This issue has also been examined by the Huffington Post, which found that companies are now a lot less concerned about “criticism” when they pressure their employees to vote and canvas for political candidates. Want to keep that job? Get out and raise money for the people who will take it away from you! Want a promotion? Turn out the voters for Wall Street and wars, and maybe your kids will still get an education somehow.
Grassroots pushback is coming from many angles. At http://stopthechamber.com a campaign has been launched to dissuade any candidates from accepting money from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Meanwhile state and federal legislation is moving forward to partially undo the damage. And Constitutional Amendments to fix the problem in a major way are being introduced in Congress at a surprising pace. All of this activity is chronicled at https://freespeechforpeople.org on these pages:
House Amendments and Legislation
Senate Amendments and Legislation
State and Local and Organizational Resolutions in Support of a Constitutional Amendment