Citizens United: Corrupt, Not Insane

Odd Man Out discusses Sen. Bernie Sanders’s support of the introduction by two Democratic Represenatives of a constitutional amendment that would have the effect of overturning the Citizens United decision allowing corporations to spend almost unlimited money in political campaigns. OMO also quotes regrettably retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens in his dissent against Citizens United:

At bottom, the Court’s opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.

I always have reservations about proposed constitutional amendments. Too many right-wing nutjobs see every proposed constitutional amendment as a green light to start tinkering with our founding document in ways far removed from the spirit of that document. But I admit that for the first time since the failure of the Equal Rights Amendment, I am actually tempted to support an amendment that would eliminate… yes, I said eliminate, which is more, I believe, than what this proposed amendment would do… all corporate opportunity to influence any political campaign by donating money or by spending their own money on, say, TV ads.

Corporations are not persons, no matter what Justice Roberts may have contrived to rule:

  • Corporations are immortal; we mere persons are for better or worse mortal.
  • Persons experience many sources of motivation; corporations, by their founding charter, have one and only one motivation: to make money for their stockholders, public interest be damned.
  • Individuals have limited money with which to broadcast their opinions on political races and issues; corporations generally have vastly more wealth than all but the wealthiest individuals.

There are many ways in which, despite the Roberts Court’s decision in Citizens United, corporations are utterly unlike persons. But these three corporate characteristics… immortality, a legally obligatory focus on shareholder income, and a vast predominance in available resources over those of individuals… are the three that must be overcome if we are to regain our potential as human individuals to influence our own representative democracy. Otherwise, we’ll be overshadowed by the so-called Golden Rule: whichever corporation has the gold, makes the rules. I don’t think that’s what our founders had in mind for us, and I know it’s not what the 99 percent have in mind.

I welcome your (reasonable) opinion on the efficacy and advisability of a constitutional amendment overturning the substance of Citizens United. As usual, no demagoguery and no bullshit, please; your right of free speech does not include a right to be broadcast on this blog.

(H/T Avedon for the link.)

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