A new era is upon us.
The U.S. Supreme Court passed judgment over Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission. To sum up the repercussions, corporations will be allowed to advertise — without limits — for political candidates seeking office.
What does this mean? Well since the media has decided to explain the situation in terms only a lawyer could understand, I will take some time now for perspective.
In 1947 — thanks to the Taft-Hartley Labor Act — corporations and labor unions were prohibited from making any contribution or expenditure to federal campaigns. Those were the days. The big businesses started creeping in by 1971 with the Federal Election Campaign Act, which allowed for contributions through political action committees, commonly referred to as PACs. Only corporate executives, shareholders and their families can give to PACs and not in excess of $5,000 individually. Of course, there are loopholes, but this process only accounted for 30 percent of campaign finance for nearly 40 years. With the exception of FECA, no law has provided any freedom for political corporate spending. All that changed last Thursday.
With the recent decision by the highest court in the land, corporations will freely, and legally, influence elections so significantly that the capitol might as well be Exxon’s or AIG’s headquarters. How did this happen? And why?
The justices in favor of Citizens United argued for First Amendment rights. A corporation, according to our law and statutes, is a person or individual. Thus, under the Constitution of the United States, we must provide corporations and any other special interest groups with the same rights any U.S. citizen is guaranteed. Our Founding Fathers would be proud. We have finally allowed big businesses the right to freedom of speech. Don’t be surprised to see companies shouting in favor of their ideal candidate over the TV and radio airwaves.
I really feel bad for the FEC. I’m sure they thought this was a slam dunk case. Clearly Citizens United broke a law dating back more then 60 years ago and their only defense was “it’s unconstitutional.” So FEC goes to court expecting “swish.” Of course they lost — “swish” to “brick.” The beginning of the end; congressmen to corporate spokesman.
Unfortunately this is not just a domestic problem. Foreign influence will find its way into the U.S. political arena, whether it is U.S. companies backed by international corporations or alien enterprises themselves. The court decision passed will tragically allow foreign entities an opportunity to influence domestic policy.
Think of it like this: Russian companies could run ads for Sarah Palin to improve her 2012 presidential campaign. After all, during her governorship, Russia and Palin were basically neighbors.
Sadly, Sarah Palin and others like her will benefit in the upcoming elections. Republicans will reap the benefits in 2010, 2012 and on. One thing is for sure: Democrats need to recognize corporate advertising power and quickly change their game plan. Make no mistake though, future incoming Republicans to Congress will raise thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court. Republicans will be storming into office in no time because business taxing is not in their agenda. Unions and special interest groups will advertise for Democrats, but corporate money is more vast. It’s like comparing a single tree to an entire forest.
Don’t fret though. Oakland University has been given a golden opportunity. Funds are hard to come by nowadays, especially for Michigan. The board of trustees can run a couple ads for one or all of the gubernatorial candidates this year in exchange for special treatment when educational funds are being dispersed to state, private and local schools.
See, everything is not all bad. OU just needs to get a good beat on the projected winner, advertise for him or her and BHAM! Medical school paid for … literally.
Like I said, this is a new era. As OU students, we need to make a choice. I will be honest: ads only work on the ignorant. The information is out there to make an informed decision about political candidates. Do we want career politicians bowing to the power of corporate influence, or do we want leaders who will fight for their personal values? As far as I’m concerned, the normal politician just went from crooked to corporate puppet. As Americans, think before being persuaded by an ad. You never know. Wal-Mart could be buying your vote.