A few weeks ago, the United States Supreme Court overturned limits on corporate political spending. The ruling eliminated a long-standing legal precedent that had been upheld for over a century. Apparently, the basis of the court's decision is that a corporation has the same constitutional right to free speech as a person.
Some fear that the ruling will open completely, the already swamped financial floodgates for corporations so that they greatly expand their already powerful influence over political elections. Some fear that corporations may exert financial intimidation so powerfully that they could keep some candidates from even trying to run for office because they know that they will be defeated. Some fear that we will no longer be a democracy and instead become a plutocracy where a small group of very wealthy people will control everything in our culture.
What a crazy and unrealistic forecast, I say. That assertion is patently illogical. The next thing you know, people will be telling me that taxpayers will bail out failed corporations while corporate executives will walk away with multi-million dollar bonuses. Hey, wait a minute...
Fearful speculations aside, this change does give rise to new concerns about the relationship between government and wealthy corporations. Across time, American political giants have warned of the dangers that unfettered influence by corporations might bring to our political process. Presidents Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower all spoke of keeping undue influence of corporations in check.
President Obama condemned the ruling saying, "With its ruling, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power in Washington everyday to drown out the voices of everyday Americans."
Not everyone agrees that unrestricted corporate spending will harm our political process. Corporations have been hedging their political bets by giving money to both parties and I would expect that practice to continue. Some believe that the ruling will be good for the political process. Corporations won't have to go through a political action committee to support a candidate so there will be greater transparency. We will know what corporation paid what to whom.
Some believe the ruling will have a powerful effect on incumbents. Incumbents enjoy an advantage already in most campaigns; corporations may give them whatever they want to create policies favorable to that corporation. At the same time, high profile incumbents may become targets of corporations that do not like the political positions taken by the incumbent. A group of corporations could join together to destroy almost anyone that opposed their collective view.
I believe that American voters will elect whom they please, corporate funding be damned. President Obama is a perfect example. Five years ago, would any of the pundits have chosen him as the next President? I don't know if the Supreme Court ruling will make our political process better or worse. On the surface it looks like one more reason for American voters to become even more cynical and possibly angrier at national politicians. Let's hope that Mickey Mouse doesn't decide to run for President in the next election. What do I know about politics anyway? Remember, all kids count.
Scot Hurlburt can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org