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These arguments from some about why "Citizens United" isn't a big deal don't make sense

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rockymountaindem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 12:25 PM
Original message
These arguments from some about why "Citizens United" isn't a big deal don't make sense
Please allow me to contribute some logic to this debate (instead of whatever it is I usually contribute) and see if you good people can add anything or prove to me that I'm wrong.

There are two arguments I've read, from Glenn Greenwald and Juan Cole, I believe, about why the "Citizens United" ruling won't really change the rules of the political game. I can't remember which one made which argument, but I am 95% sure that reading their responses made me think about this, so I want to give them credit. Here goes:

Now, both of these arguments are predicated on the assumption that our whole system is already so totally influenced by corporate America and the ultra-rich that this decision is like a drop in the bucket, and won't make a big impact. That is alarming enough, but it's not what I'm here to talk about. The first thing I'd like to talk about is the idea that these corporations won't want to actually use the power they've just been granted to spend unlimited funds during campaigns, because they have public reputations and won't want to become embroiled in controversy and alienate any of their customers or damage their overall image. The second aspect is the idea that if we pass a law requiring shareholders to vote on campaign spending, we can help eliminate some of the danger posed by this bill. But I think I see a clear way that corporate masters can steer clear of both these hazards.

Let's say that four of my good friends and I are big-time corporate execs with scads of money, influence and everything else we think of when we say "the powers that be". But, to follow the argument of the reverse Chicken Littles, none of us wants to put our corporations' reputation on the line. Let's say for further sake of argument that a "shareholders' bill of rights" got passed yesterday and we need to take a shareholder vote in order to spend money on our favored candidate. Or, more likely, against a candidate we don't like.

So, instead of putting it all on the line, the five of us incorporate an entirely new corporation with us as the only shareholders. We have full ownership of this new corporate entity, and call it a corporate consulting firm. Then, using our influence and power, we get the board of directors of each of the megacorps we own to pay our consulting firm ten million dollars each in "consulting fees". All of this would be totally legit, of course. In our capacity as consultants, not CEO's, we could each go before the boards and lay some sage business advice on them, like "always have a fresh pot of coffee in the breakroom" before we collect the money.

Then our consulting firm would have fifty million bucks. If my four friends and I each work for a dollar, rent a PO box so it has a mailing address, and have total ownership, expenses will be minimal. Then we have all that money to run ads etc. on behalf of our *consulting firm*. The big publicly-owned corporations never have to get their hands dirty, and we still get to have all the influence we can afford. Essentially it is a form of money laundering, which from what I can tell (not a lawyer, here) seems totally legal now. There won't be any shareholders to consult because my friends and I have total ownership.

Of course, once our ads hit the air, there is a risk that some obscure internet blogger will discover that our little consulting firm is really just a clique of industrialists and financiers who have cooked up an ingenious plan to influence elections with none of the risk posited by Greenwald and Cole, and without having to worry about dealing with shareholders. Then they will publish blog posts all about our scheme, and try to tie it back to the corporations we really run. But then, the shareholders will have to try and do something against the board for wasting ten million bucks on bullshit advice about coffee, and we know how hard that is. And if our PR department deigns to respond, they can just churn out a press release about how this consulting firm I run has nothing to do with my capacity as the CEO of the big megacorp, so stop saying that. Maybe we can even sue and tie them up in court. But that probably won't be necessary, because those internet people don't amount to anything anyway, and their crazy conspiracy theories will never hit the big time media, which we also probably either own or play golf with the people who do.

Would that work?
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timeforpeace Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 12:34 PM
Response to Original message
1. Greenwald and Cole are right. Corps are all in already, and Obama and Dems took over Washington
within this environment. The results indicate this environment is not bad for Dems at all. Want to make the system totally "pure" and free of corp influence, fine, but be careful what you wish for.
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rockymountaindem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 12:44 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. Sure they got elected, but look at what they've been able to accomplish
"Health Care Reform" is a giant giveaway to insurance corporations, bankers can't be bothered to show up at White House summits, etc. I'm not talking about just the electoral process here, I'm talking about the actual system of governance.
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rgbecker Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 12:45 PM
Response to Original message
3. I think you figured it out. Where do you work, Wall street?
Edited on Mon Jan-25-10 12:47 PM by rgbecker
Personally I don't think the shareholders are going to do a thing about making any decision about who gets supported by the corp. Just look at how the present votes go for board of director, auditors etc.

As for worrying about how their clients or customers might feel about the corp backing a candidate, just look at how worried exxon/Mobil is about their wacko propaganda about climate change. Even the bedding company, sleep number, seems to have no hesitation about advertising and paying for Rush Limbaugh's crap. People can make no judgment about what they are hearing and who is actually making the claims. There is another current post about the power of propaganda/advertising showing there is little freedom of weeding out the lies from the political discourse. That also explains the crazy Brown victory in Mass. I've talked to a few who voted for him, and they are clueless on where he actually stands.
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