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Occupying Democracy

We the People, not We the Corporations

Photo: Matt Wuerker, License: N/A

Matt Wuerker

Photo: Matt Wuerker, License: N/A

Matt Wuerker

The good news is that across the country, the overwhelming majority of people (i.e., us living, breathing humans) despise the anti-democratic domination of our elections and, therefore, of our government, economy, media and environment by a relatively few self-aggrandizing corporate behemoths. This public anger has intensified since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

Corporations are people? Who came up with that?

Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas. On Jan. 21, 2010, these five Supreme Court justices defied the Constitution, common sense, the expressed will of the American people and nature itself to distort hundreds of years of judicial precedent in a case titled Citizens United v. FEC. The five decreed that – shazam! – artificial, lifeless corporate entities are entitled to the First Amendment rights of people, and are endowed with more electioneering rights than us real-life persons, enabling them to buy public officials and intimidate others by dumping unlimited sums of corporate cash into our elections. In one abrupt blow, these five men reversed more than a century of campaign-finance law and more than 200 years of broad public agreement that corporate interests should be subjugated to the public interest. Talk about your judicial activism.

Now, not only can the living, breathing executives of corporations continue dumping millions of their own dollars into elections – money that totaled more than a billion dollars in the 2008 election cycle – but henceforth, the trillions of dollars held by the corporate entities themselves can also be poured into electioneering ads and other forms of speech. All big-money corporations, from Wall Street to Walmart, now have permission to open the spigots of their vast corporate treasuries and funnel unlimited sums of cash into campaigns to elect or defeat candidates of their choice for any and every office in the land.

Rather than merely influencing our elected federal, state and even local legislators with direct campaign donations from company executives, corporations can now utilize their often billion-dollar-plus corporate treasuries to intimidate the people elected to serve all of the people. Big Insurance, Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Box Store, Big Banking, Big Whatever have suddenly been armed with the unlimited, devastating spending power of their practically bottomless corporate treasuries. Their lobbyists can bluntly say to a lawmaker, governor, mayor or other official, “After you support this little bitty tax break for us, we will spend a million bucks to re-elect you. If you don’t, we’ll spend the same amount to see you defeated.”

Ironically, Citizens United v. FEC has united America’s citizenry in broad, deep and vehement opposition to the absurd notion that a corporation is entitled to inclusion as one of us as in We the People. In poll after poll, huge majorities consistently scream against the ruling and demand strong action against it. A Hart Research survey in January 2011 – a year after the Court’s edict was issued – found that public opposition remained fervent, with 87 percent of Democrats, 82 percent of independents and 68 percent of Republicans favoring passage of a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and to make clear that corporations do not have the same rights as people.

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