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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

Supreme Court cases and arcane matters of campaign finance don’t usually move the needle of public awareness from “Huh?” to “Hot damn!” But the perversion of our politics and government by deep-pocket corporations has been like sticking the public’s tongue in an electric socket. People are energized by it, and they’ve turned such terms as Citizens United, the Roberts Court, the Koch Brothers, SuperPACs and corporate personhood into curse words. The issue has even become a comic punch line: “If corporations are people,” asked a letter writer to the New York Times, “can I marry one? Is General Electric single?” And here’s one from my state: “A corporation is not a person until Texas executes one.”

Waiting for the Powers That Be

In response to such strong public outrage, our elected stalwarts in Washington have risen up and responded decisively, by doing exactly nothing.

Republican leaders, long wedded to the corporate plutocracy by ideology and money, openly cheered the court’s move. President Obama squawked briefly about the judicial hijacking of our democracy, and the Democratic party’s congressional leaders flapped their arms in anger for a while – but then they just let it go, slinking quietly away from the issue. (Importantly, a feisty Progressive Caucus in Congress continues to push the issue aggressively.)

The new tea party Republicans, who had barged into the congressional club with thundering claims that they had come to “take our country back” and “restore power to the people,” have been conspicuously silent on this most fundamental issue of the people’s power. Instead, they’ve slipped comfortably into it, with not a peep of protest over the fact that five unelected government officials have dictated that Big Money is a person with political rights to buy our government.

Now comes 2012, and tea partiers, Republicans and corporate Democrats alike can be seen scurrying around like hunger-crazed squirrels in a frenetic grab-fest for the tens of millions of dollars – even hundreds of millions – that Mitt’s people are gleefully throwing around.

The money dump is well underway, and it’s massive. The tip of this destructive iceberg is a legalistic gimmick known as the SuperPAC. Authorized by Citizens United, these are super-sized, super-energized, political action committees. Unlike the regulated PACs of yesteryear, SuperPACs can – and will – invest tens of millions of dollars right out of corporate coffers – as well as from unions and individuals, but corporations are the monster players – and put the whole load directly into ads and other efforts to elect or defeat any candidates they choose.

How big of a load? Just one of these money monsters, Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, raised a whopping $28 million from corporate interests to elect Republicans in last year’s elections. But that’s a mere trickle compared to the tsunami now headed our way; Rove’s Crossroads PAC is presently amassing a democracy-shattering $240 million for 2012.

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