If You Thought Big Business Ran This Town Before …
As Dave just mentioned, the Supreme Court this morning freed corporations to make unlimited donations to candidates for the White House or Congress. The decision hinges largely on two theories: (1) That a corporation, legally, is a person as it pertains to free-speech rights, and (2) that money is a form of free speech.
The first is the more controversial, in that a corporation doesn’t have a pulse, doesn’t vote, doesn’t die and never goes to jail for wrongdoing. But nevermind all that. Most conservatives love this line of thinking. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), for example, just issue a statement hailing the “monumental decision.”
“By previously denying this right, the government was picking winners and losers,” McConnell said. “Our democracy depends upon free speech, not just for some but for all.”
He was referring to Humana, Citigroup and UST Inc.
Others, though, aren’t so sure. Writing the dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens warned that the ruling “threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions around the nation.”
And campaign finance watchdogs immediately cautioned that the ruling will only enhance the already enormous influence that corporations have over the legislative process. “This decision allows Wall Street to tap its vast corporate profits to drown out the voice of the public in our democracy,” Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause, said in a statement.
Consumer advocates are hoping Congress will take up a little-mentioned campaign finance reform proposal — the Fair Elections Now Act — that aims to level the election-year playing field by allowing candidates to tap public public funds if they disavow large contributions from individuals, and all contributions from lobbyists. The hope is that the public funds would attract candidates who otherwise might not have the resources to run for public office. And by limiting contributions to small sums from individuals, it would prevent candidates from relying too heavily on any one donor or interest group.
Popular candidates would still raise more money than others, — the goal is not to give everyone equal funding, just the opportunity for equal funding. The real aim, supporters say, is to prevent a minority of wealthy donors from holding excessive sway, perhaps at the expense of everyone else.
They shouldn’t hold their breath. Campaign finance reform is never popular among lawmakers who have been elected under current financing rules, and even less so in an election year when everyone is scrambling for the very donations that the bill would ban.