Yesterday, January 21, 2010, the US Supreme Court dealt potentially a lethal blow to what’s left of American democracy. The slim majority of right-wing radical activists on the highest court in the land decided that corporations are people and that there should be no limitations on the amount of money they can spend on elections and candidates.
This means that corporations can now spend unlimited monies on any candidate and on any election they want. The 5 to 4 decision overturned decades of corporate restrictions and overturned a century’s-old limit on the role of corporate money in federal elections, on the books since Teddy Roosevelt was president.
Led by George W Bush’s Chief Justice, John Roberts, he and the four radical conservative justices (Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas) declared that the limits on so-called “independent expenditures” by corporations violate First Amendment free-speech rights, freeing corporations to spend money from their own treasuries on ads and other advocacy efforts.
The five conservatives put a radical pro-corporate spin on the First Amendment, and in doing so, placed into question rules designed to regulate even the worst campaign abuses by business interests.
Associate justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor joined John Paul Stevens in dissent.
The court’s ruling in the case of Citizens United v. FEC , in the words of Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, now will allow corporations to ” just open their treasuries (and) completely buy up all the television time, and drown out everyone else’s voices.”
Giving corporations the same rights as citizens is not what the Constitutional framers and those who fought over 200 years ago for the Bill of Rights meant when they passed the First Amendment. Corporations are not even mentioned in the Constitution. Here’s the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
See? Not one word about “corporations.” This radical interpretation of one of the most sacred and hallowed rights actually turned that right upside down. With this, citizens’ free speech rights will be severely curtailed and limited. Citizens’ free speech will be drowned out by the deluge of corporate ads and advocacy groups flooding the political marketplace.
The majority did allow restrictions on direct donations by corporations to candidates and political parties. But the behemoth corporations – with their immense resources and their driving aim to create an American political and government structure in their own image, now will be able to throw as much money as they want on television commercials and other forms of communication in order to mold elections as they desire.
This could very well be the end of what’s left in the American democratic arsenal. Progressive TV commentator Keith Olbermann called it “murder.”
This is a Supreme Court-sanctioned murder of what little actual Democracy is left in this Democracy. It is government of the people by the corporations for the corporations. It is the Dark Ages. It is our Dred Scott. I would suggest a revolution but a revolution against the corporations? The corporations that make all the guns and the bullets?
Maybe it won’t be this bad. Maybe the corporations legally defined as human beings, but without the pesky occasional human attributes of conscience and compassion maybe when handed the only keys to the electoral machine, they will simply not re-design America in their own corporate image.
But let me leave you with this final question: After today who’s going to stop them?
Some progressive reformers are now calling for the United States Constitution to be amended in order to restore the Teddy Roosevelt principle:
“All contributions by corporations to any political committee or for any political purpose should be forbidden by law.“
Activists created a Move to Amend campaign, which debuted as a website for activists moments after the court ruling came down.
The Move to Amend coalition declares:
On January 21, 2010, with its ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are persons, entitled by the U.S. Constitution to buy elections and run our government. Human beings are people; corporations are legal fictions. The Supreme Court is misguided in principle, and wrong on the law. In a democracy, the people rule.
We Move to Amend.
We, the People of the United States of America, reject the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United, and move to amend our Constitution to:
1. Firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.
2. Guarantee the right to vote and to participate, and to have our votes and participation count.
3. Protect local communities, their economies, and democracies against illegitimate “preemption” actions by global, national, and state governments.
Within hours of the decision, more than 3,500 Americans had signed on as backers of this particular initiative. At this moment (Jan. 22 at 2:00 pm PST) there were 21,771 signers. Go here to sign the petition.
If this whole thing is not reversed, the corporations will own outright the political system, which by definition is fascism. What do we say in answer to Keith Olbermann’s “who’s going to stop them?”
If we don’t answer “The People” and then in fact stop them, it’s all over. We then have to get ready for the New Dark Ages. Yet, there’s a little time left. Not much. Stand up for what’s left of American Democracy.