Thursday, November 08, 2012

Government for, by the Corporation: Why a Houstonian Dreads Citizens United

Most Texans think the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in the Citizens United case was a perfectly fine idea.

Since it allowed mega-rich corporations the legal status of individual persons and afforded them virtually unlimited free speech rights, there is now nothing to stop such business entities from spending as much as they want to buy politicians who will do their bidding in office.

One Texan not among them, though, is Cele S. Keeper, a social worker, group therapist and writer who, in her 85th year, grasps quite lucidly that the decision enables a corporate takeover of government at any level the corporations choose.

She spelled out her dread of the decision in a recent essay on the editorial page of The Houston Chronicle.  She marshals several arguments against the wisdom of Citizens United, and makes it clear that, if the decision stands, the country cannot.

I would argue that, short of a future reversal by the Supreme Court, the nation requires a constitutional amendment:  it would say that (1) corporations (and churches and political parties and unions) are never individual persons, (2) the Bill of Rights does not apply to them, and (3) Congress has a duty to regulate campaign spending so that no entity can ever corrupt the electoral process or buy its winners.

Keeper's excellent essay follows:

Foreboding thought for today: The Supreme Court's Citizens United decision may herald the unraveling of our precious democracy.

Now well after midnight, it certainly is keeping me awake. I'm trying to get my head around the idea that a corporation is a person who can buy chosen candidates to further its agenda and therefore buy duly elected representatives and senators who will then pass legislation that makes that agenda into law. That sounds not like a government takeover, but a takeover of government.

The Citizens United decision held that corporations are people and, thus protected by the majority's (5-4) interpretation of the freedom of speech clause in the First Amendment, are permitted to have a voice not unlike that of any individual voter.

Further, the court gave permission for the formation of Super PACs that can lavish money upon a candidate provided he or she has no contact with the chosen candidate's campaign apparatus. (That was a joke.)

Living in a perpetual conundrum in my 85th year, I love politics and loathe most politicians. In addition to the falsifying, denying, conniving, exaggerating, manipulating, self-serving diatribes to which they subject us while attempting to procure our votes, they are now (thanks to the Court's outrageous ruling) loaded up with gazillions of dollars supplied by corporations that need not disclose their identities and whose agendas are promoted by self-interest (read: influencing, even writing legislation.)

My single vote (and yours) has little or no influence beyond my family and friends. Although, of course, I can work with groups of like-minded folks to urge the election of a favored candidate.

But while earnest neighbors are walking the blocks in their precinct, knocking on doors, or addressing flyers and licking envelopes, a single TV ad by a Super PAC can be repeatedly pounded into the eyes and ears of thousands or millions of potential voters. Such ads are paid for by gobs of money channeled from outside the state in which the election is being held into a particular race to take down or propel a targeted candidate out of or into office.

If all of that's not bad enough, forget about accuracy, which is in short supply in the cacophony of babble on our television screens. Allegations, accusations, character assassinations are there for all viewers to gobble up. The credo of the spinmeister reads: "Never let the facts spoil a great ad."

And if I should be a stockholder (or more particularly, a board member) in a corporation that is pouring money into a Super PAC for its chosen candidate, what if its candidate and mine are not the same? Have I simply been outvoted?

Have I no recourse? Or does the board even participate in these decisions?

Give it some thought: "Government of the corporation, by the corporation and for the corporation." I just don't like the sound of it, so I will now join that exasperating bunch of people who tell us they know exactly what the Framers thought. Although all wealthy landowners, I simply don't believe these wise souls could foresee a corporate takeover of governance.

Further, have we citizens no recourse to get rid of this democracy-shattering decision?

And oh yes, sleep well.

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