All Hands in the Corporate Cookie Jar
Brenda Wright, Director of Democracy Program at Demos, has posted some insights at the American Constitution Society’s blog on the big campaign finance case, Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, to be argued before the Supreme Court tomorrow. Here’s her take:
Overruling those cases would mean that corporate political spending no longer needs to be funded by voluntary, intentional donations from shareholders or officers who actually support the corporation’s political activity, but instead could come directly from the corporate general treasury.
If the Court takes that step, perhaps it should do so by making an announcement in the style of Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent in Austin: “Attention all corporate executives in America: as partial thanks for the economic meltdown the country has just experienced, please roll up your sleeve, put your hand in the corporate treasury and pull out as much as you like for political spending on behalf of your favorite candidates.” After all, what could possibly go wrong from putting corporations in charge of politics?
“Market constraints” will not somehow prevent any negative consequences of unlimited corporate spending in politics, as some conservatives argue, says Wright. She points to the exponential growth in “soft money” contributions to political parties by corporations and unions between 1984 and 2000, increasing almost five-fold, from 5 percent to 42 percent of political party spending.
She adds ominously:
The general treasury funds of large corporations entirely dwarf the existing resources available for political expenditures, and thus will provide a virtually irresistible target for political actors clawing for advantage in federal elections.