I try to keep this blog away from politics, but for issues of sufficient magnitude and importance, I have to bend that rule on occasion.
If you’re American (and maybe even if you’re not), you’ve probably heard by now about the Supreme Court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which ruled that money was speech, and since corporate persons (i.e. corporations) are people, and freedom of speech is guaranteed to all people by the constitution, corporations must be allowed to contribute any amount of money they wish to political campaigns.
The ruling isn’t necessarily wrong. The Supreme Court’s job is to interpret the law, and the law is clear: corporations are considered people, and all forms of expression (by long and valid precedent) must be considered equivalent to speech for legal purposes. The ruling just said that corporate contributions to political campaigns are a protected form of expression and cannot be limited, which does have internal logic.
But if it’s not wrong, it’s still very wrong-headed. Large corporations are ludicrously powerful compared to essentially any physical person. They can’t be put in jail, and in fact have never been effectively punished in the US for anything. And by definition, the public ones aren’t allowed to have consciences: they must do anything and everything they can get away with to make the most money they can for their shareholders, whether it’s moral or conscionable or not. Now this ruling effectively gives them carte blanche to buy elections. It’s a recipe for a capital-D-Disaster.
I’m not the only one to see this, I’m happy to say. The ruling has galvanized people across the country, and resulted in Move to Amend, an organization dedicated to getting a Constitutional amendment stating that legal fictions like a “corporate person” are not entitled to the Constitutional rights of real people.
It won’t be easy, but it can be done. I urge all American citizens to sign the petition, as I have, and I urge everyone to support Move to Amend in any way that they can. I plan to encourage Stephen Colbert (of the comedy news show “The Colbert Report”) to use his newly-formed Colbert SuperPAC to endorse it as well, to help get the word out — it’s perfectly aligned with its purpose.
If the Citizens United ruling is allowed to stand, we all stand to lose.