In a decisive 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court last week hurled the United States back into the 1800s.
The court’s conservative majority, acting under the shadow of the First Amendment, voted to give corporate America the same rights as you and me when it comes to backing politicians.
That means companies the size of General Electric can now use their enormous treasuries to push in candidates who will be friendly to them.
Basically, the court said the corporations and labor unions have the same free speech rights as citizens.
The decision eliminated the longstanding ban against corporations and unions spending directly on campaigns.
What does this mean?
It means giant corporations and powerful unions can spend whatever they want to defeat or elect a candidate. This includes purchasing advertisements, political donations, hosting rallies – basically anything.
It means that if a congressman or congresswoman attempts to stand up to an industry, its lobbyists can say “we’ll spend whatever it takes to defeat you,” and they can.
No where in the Constitution are corporations or companies guaranteed rights promised to others.
The corporate ban was implemented in 1907, just as corporations began reaching heights of power and wealth. For more than a century, that law was reaffirmed.
The court’s majority is deeply, deeply wrong on the issue.
Even Sen. John McCain was dismayed by the decision, telling reporters he was surprised by the court’s “extreme naivete.”
And in Justice John Paul Stevens’ dissent, he warned that the decision will affect the integrity of the court in addition to taking a toll on democracy.
The decision also reeks of a similar one made about 10 years ago, in Bush v. Gore. In that landmark decision, the court halted valid votes from being counted to ensure a conservative president would take office. That was also a 5-4 decision.
If nothing else, the past 18 months have proved how very shameless large corporations, especially those on Wall Street, are. They’ve managed to shatter the economy, which will undoubtedly leave a negative impact we will feel for the rest of our lives.
But we’re supposed to view those corporations and others like them as our equals when it comes to free speech?
I don’t think so.
Members of both houses of Congress and of both parties must come together if they wish to clean up our election process.
But getting Congress to impose further regulations isn’t the answer. The answer is getting the court’s decision overturned.
This decision is a stark reminder of the branch of government that tends to fall to the backs of peoples’ minds, especially in these times of Congress wrestling with the White House.
So next time a seat opens up, the people have to get more involved in the approval process, which won’t be an easy feat, but it will be a worthwhile one.
Pat Oldendorf is a junior English major from Lockport. He is the Scout editor.
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