Saturday, February 13, 2010

a disadvantaged class?

Essential Lists | One of the most astounding passages in the Supreme Court's mind-boggling decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission -- the January decision holding that corporations have a First Amendment right to spend as much as they choose from their treasuries to support or oppose candidates for elected office -- is this:

"[T]he Government may commit a constitutional wrong when by law it identifies certain preferred speakers. By taking the right to speak from some and giving it to others, the Government deprives the disadvantaged person or class of the right to use speech to strive to establish worth, standing, and respect for the speakers voice. The First Amendment protects speech and speaker, and the ideas that flow from each."

This ode to the First Amendment is inspiring, until you recognize that the "disadvantaged class" reference is to corporations.

When it comes to speech protections, there are surely many rational ways to distinguish corporations from real, live persons. One is that corporations are not real, live persons! Another is that for-profit corporations exist for the purpose of making money, and that this monomaniacal focus distinguishes them in very important ways from humans, who care not only about making money, but building community, expressing themselves, fairness, equality, justice, protecting future generations, stewarding the planet and much more. And other consequential difference, compounding these other points of difference, is that large and even not-so-large corporations have a lot more money, and can easily mobilize resources on a scale that vastly outdistances anything that real people can do.

Thus the rather obvious conclusion that corporate money can distort elections and the political process. This is hardly speculative: large corporations dominated the political process even before Citizens United, a fact widely understood. Eighty-five percent of people in the United States believe big business has too much power in Washington.

What may not be quite so obvious is how extraordinary are the resources that corporations can mobilize as against what is now spent on elections.

Consider these juxtapositions -- (the list is impressive and footnoted w/links)