If you think the Supreme Court defended free speech with their Citizen’s United ruling earlier this year, you are well on your way joining the Tea Party to be a dupe for the wealthy classes. What the ruling did was protect the causes of multi-millionaires and corporations who use their riches to promote the issues on their wish list. And to the surprise of few, the corporate interests are often antithetical to the interests of the people. The BP disaster, mining accidents, the corporate friendly health care bill, and the bank bailouts are examples of this conflict of interest between corporate America and the people.
Just look at the Koch brothers. They are using their billions to fund Americans for Prosperity, who in turn fund the Tea Party Movement. The Tea Party fights against health care and the Koch brothers are major health care industry players. Are you surprised? Thanks to the Supreme Court ruling on Citizen’s United, they will now be able to buy millions of more ads to keep health care rare and expensive as well as deregulating the oil industry for the Brothers big oil holdings.
Ever since the Supreme Court gave free and fair elections the final death knell in their Citizens United Ruling, concerned citizens and a few Congress people who are not yet wholly owned subsidiaries of Fortune 500 companies have been looking for a remedy to this undemocratic decision.
The ruling eliminates most limits on corporate donations to campaigns and thus opens the doors to massive influence pedaling by big business. With this decision, the Supreme Court is perpetuating the false notion that money is free speech. Here is their simple-minded logic:
There should be no limit on free speech
Free Speech = $$$
Thus, there should be no limits on $$$ in campaigns because
$$$ = Free Speech
The false premise that money is free speech has no basis in logic, reality, or society. Alas, the Supreme Court is NOT full of economists; it’s full of legally trained minds have learned legal double speak at the best universities in the nation. They are not living in the real world where money is used to manipulate elections and buy legislative support. Or perhaps they know exactly what they are doing and are acting on behalf of the moneyed classes of which they have full membership.
Money is mainly used as exchange for goods and services in our society. That does NOT make it equal to “free speech”. Money can be exchanged for advertising for one candidate or another. Buying ad time, speech, does not make the money itself speech. People confuse money with the thing that they are buying. Buying a wrench with my money doesn’t make money a wrench. Using money to buy airtime, speech, does not mean that money IS speech. But the Supreme Court, living in the world of their own, thinks the phrase “money talks” is literal. When was the last time you actually heard your twenty-dollar bill talk to you or speak freely? Do you think that a dollar bill should have free speech rights? If so, I suggest therapy.
So the question comes down to how much money we can spend on campaigns. The Citizens United Supreme Court ruling says that there is no limit what so ever. What does that mean for the rest of us that want to donate to a campaign? It means that unless we are billionaires, our voice doesn’t matter. Our “speech” will be drown out by the millions of dollars from those that can afford to buy influence under the existing rules.
When advertising and the ownership of mass media outlets can limit the choice of candidates and unduly influence who becomes our elected official, there is a violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
“It nullifies and makes void all State legislation, and State action of every kind, which impairs the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States, or which injures them in life, liberty, or property without due process of law, or which denies to any of them the equal protection of the laws.” (link)
Laws that allow unlimited contributions to campaigns by the wealthy and corporations nullify the individual right to vote and can be seen as a violation of the Constitution under the 14th Amendment.
In the famous Reynolds V Sims Supreme Court case of 1964, the court ruled against unequal proportioning of state legislative districts. They ruled that all districts should have equal representation (population), “one man, one vote”. Now with the Citizen’s United Ruling, that idea is thrown out the window. Now the ruling could read, “one vote per person, but you can buy, through unlimited resources (money), as many votes as you wish if you are a millionaire.”
If you don’t think money matters that much, why do candidates with the most campaign money win 73-98% of their seats, depending on the year? It is money, not issues, that wins the race. Certainly, having good ideas used to garner you more campaign money. Not anymore. More than ever a candidate will now have to promote the causes of people and companies with millions to give your campaign since the SCOTUS ruling. Remember, the donations are now unlimited and people with millions can afford to give more than average Americans.
Three websites on the influence of money on elections that I recommend are: White House for Sale, Common Cause, and Open Secrets.
One attempt to defend the electoral process from a flood of corporate and special interest money is the Disclosure Act. It is coming back to the Senate in September where the Republicans blocked it with the undemocratic filibuster rules. We must act now to call every Senator to get it passed.
The DISCLOSE Act would require corporations and interest groups to identify themselves when they sponsor political ads and, in the case of smaller organizations, to reveal their donors.
… Not one Republican voted to proceed with debate–not even after the Democrats modified the bill, in order to address GOP arguments that it would treat unions differently from other groups. (link)
The DISCLOSE Act is a package of campaign finance reforms that includes prohibiting foreign entities from spending on American political campaigns, stopping certain contractors who get large sums of government money from lobbying, and requiring many groups to disclose their funding in campaign materials. (link)
So, the party of patriots, the Republicans, wants to block a law that would reduce foreign influence in our elections. That doesn’t seem very patriotic.
Senate Minority Leader McConnell (R-Ky) tells out right lies about the disclosure act.
– McConnell claimed the legislation is designed to “protect unpopular Democrat politicians by silencing their critics and exempting their campaign supporters from an all out attack on the First Amendment.” [7/26/10]
I am sorry to tell you Mitch, but the Disclosure Act only says ads have to “disclose” their funding. Since when did disclosure come to mean “ban”? It’s time we sent you back to school.
– “the DISCLOSE Act is not about reform. It is nothing more than Democrats sitting behind closed doors with special interest lobbyists choosing which favored groups they want to speak in the 2010 elections … In other words, a bill to shield themselves from average Americans exercising their First Amendment rights of freedom of speech.” [7/27/10]
Lobbyists love Republicans and Democrats equally, depending on the industry. And how many of your “average Americans” have millions of dollars to spend on ads and campaigns? This is about defending the millionaire who without, you would not win an election. You are lying Senator, and you are lying to defend your millionaire donors at the expense of America.
–“This is a transparent effort to rig the fall election.” [7/27/10]
Rigging elections by making donors disclose? I don’t even understand where you got that one.
People against disclosure call it an attack on free speech. Right-wing web sites are touting the failure of the Disclosure Act as a victory for free speech and America.
“The DISCLOSE Act was written to silence YOU……and the National Association for Gun Rights” says one pro-gun site (link).
In reality, it only asks for disclosure of donors names. Is it that the gun lobby is ashamed of their constant stance in favor of guns and against gun victims while leaving no room for reasonable regulation of guns? Is that why they are against disclosure? I thought the “guns first and only” crowd was proud of their stance. If so, they should support the disclosure act.
The measure would implement strict disclosure laws on campaign ads, require corporate leaders to appear in ads much like candidates and severely restrict foreign-owned companies and those that do business with the government. Advocates cast it as a positive response to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC ruling, while opponents say the bill would freeze corporate speech. (link)
Corporations are not people. They don’t live and breathe or have families to support. Why do Republicans defend corporations? It’s because they can’t win without the help of large money donors, the more, the better.
Most people can’t spend millions on attack ads, and nothing in the law stops the ads. All it does is say that people promoting a candidate or cause have to reveal their names in the ad. How does that silence powerful multi-million dollar organizations?
Write or call or email your Senators to support the disclosure act. Don’t you want to see the Koch Brother promote Sharon Angle have to say at the end of their ad, “We support his message”?
Congressional switchboard 800-828-0498
Just ask for the office of your Senator or Representative
House of Representatives: http://www.house.gov/house/house_comments.shtml
or send note online: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact
Here are some phrases that might help with your letters:
Will you side with people, or the corporations?
Are you owned by corporations, or do you work for the people?
We didn’t elect you to protect corporate interests. Show that you care for the citizens by voting for the disclosure act.
I will rip out your spleen if you don’t vote for the Disclosure Act.
The only way to get this passed might be for the Banks, big Pharma, insurance companies, and the defense industry to tell Congress that if they don’t pass this bill, they will cut of the donations to them.
More News on the Disclosure Act