Thursday, February 4, 2010

Constitutional amendment may dislodge SCOTUS ruling

In the House of Representatives this week, a Constitutional amendment was introduced in order to curb new political speech and personhood rights of corporate interests in campaigns and elections. The proposed amendment would read:

"The sovereign right of the people to govern being essential to a free democracy, Congress and the States may regulate the expenditure for political speech by any corporation, limited liability company, or other corporate entity.

"Nothing contained in this article shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press."

Such a change to the Constitution is much needed. In its recent ruling on campaign finance restrictions for corporate entities, the Supreme Court called any constraints on financing for elections or campaigns unconstitutional, opening the floodgates for future elections to be funded primarily by corporate elites.

Proponents of the Supreme Court ruling maintain that corporations have a right to free speech. If they want to donate to a political campaign they feel would best represent their interests, then why can't they dig into their coffers a little bit? They believe that a corporation, being a group of people, is entitled to free speech rights just as much as a regular citizen is.

But those points are shaky, at best. The whole money-as-speech debate ignores the fact that those with more money effectively have more speech. Such a notion is dangerous to our rights -- a thousand voices coming together can hardly match the weight of speech that a company like Phillip Morris can conjure up.

A group of people coming together, however, might be considered by some on the right as the same as a corporation using its capital in order to influence an election. There is a stark difference, though, between a non-profit advocacy group taking donations from its members and a private, for-profit entity using all of its profits to sway an election.

That corporation represents the interests of the few -- namely, those who are part of the executive board. The non-profit advocacy group, however, represents the interests of all who donate to it -- they wouldn't be donating unless they supported the specific cause that the group supported.

The Court's ruling was, undoubtedly, far-reaching and questionable at best. To ensure that the people's voices are still heard in Washington, a Constitutional amendment is the sure way to go. We need to preserve our voice, and ensure that it won't be drowned out by the corporate elites that have the means to suppress us now.

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