Sunday, January 24, 2010

SCOTUS Ruling: Free speech to corporations!

Earlier last week, I wrote an article about the (then) pending Supreme Court case regarding speech rights for corporate entities. When I wrote that article, the decision was not yet decided -- though it was fairly clear how the Court was planning to rule.

The following day, the Court ruled in a 5-4 split decision exactly the way that was expected: they granted corporations the right to use as much of their treasuries towards electoral campaigns as they wanted. And though they can't donate directly towards campaigns themselves, that decision might not be as far as we may think.

The ruling by the Court is disastrous, allowing corporations the right to use millions (if not, perhaps billions someday) of dollars towards political purposes, effectively shutting out the voices of everyday Americans. There's a stark difference, for example, between a single mother donating $25 towards a politician she supports vs. Clear Channel media company being able to produce a million-dollar "issue ad" against her candidate.

This isn't a free speech issue -- it's an equal rights one. At some point, Americans won't accept the idea of the money-as-speech argument. At some point, a certain number of dollars doesn't entail "speech" -- rather, it creates what the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign describes as a "megaphone for speech that amplifies the voices of those with deep pockets and drowns out the voices of those who don't."

This is precisely the problem in politics today -- politicians in Congress aren't worried with us, with the single mom with two jobs and $25 dollars to spare. They're worried about what big company CEOs are worried about, hoping to court some of the biggest donors to their side in order to maintain a campaign "war chest" that will help them defeat the other guy.

This is insane. Hopefully the American people will wake up to this, will understand how the real-world of elections works, and demand some real change. It's not a left-vs-right battle -- supporting reform would benefit both sides. Rather, it's a battle for equal rights, of equal standing as citizens in the face of a potential corporatocracy.

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