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Thats my opinion Donating Member (804 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-26-11 01:03 PM
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Last year the United States Supreme Court delivered a body blow to our democracy. It ruled 5 to 4, in a highly charged and politically driven decision, that corporations and labor unions were, in fact, persons, and had the same rights as do individuals to put almost unlimited money into political campaigns without revealing the source. The key question before the Court in the Citizens United case was whether the guarantee of free speech specified in the First Amendment defined money as speech. Certainly the framers of the Bill of Rights were attempting to save this newly formed nation from the despotism in which the King could punish the employment of any language critical of the crown. Nowhere in the early colonial documents, however, is there an indication that our nations founders were identifying money as speech or businesses as persons.

Apart from the legal ramifications lies the question: is limitless corporate money being poured into political campaigns healthy or unhealthy for American democracy? It is the answer to that question which will determine the next steps that need to be taken.

In the past few political campaigns there has emerged a new powerful media player. It is the TV ad. Most American now view the candidates through highly polished and carefully designed thirty-second pictorial sound bites. These marvels of technology tend to aim at the lowest common denominator. They tell enough truth to be believable, but enough untruth to be scandalous. No one watching themwhich is almost everybodycan come away with the slightest understanding of where the pictured candidate really stands on issues and philosophy, or what an opponent really holds. The most important national issues, whose determination will set in place the countrys future, are thus obfuscated in an effort to sell a carefully wrapped package. And this is where multi-billions of Americas dollars are spent. It is estimated that of all the money put into political campaigns, over 85% goes to TV advertising. While there are exceptions, almost always the winners are those who have the most to spend. And that means politicians are trapped into paying attention to the biggest checkbooks.

It is increasingly clear that money buys elections. While this has been true for a long time in American politics, now, with the legal capacity to dump unlimited anonymous dollars into electoral campaigns, be big money will increasingly control Americas future. And that means conservative corporate interests. As Bob Edgar of Common Cause puts it, We are moving from a government of, by and for the people, to a government of, by and for corporations.

Since the Citizens United decision is now the law of the land, what are the options left for the American people to correct this anti-democratic travesty? Perhaps the first partial remedy lies with Congress, which can circumscribe the way money is given. Certainly most of those in both parties would support appropriate disclosure laws. And if unions and corporations give massive funds, the corporate shareholders and the union members ought to have a voice in how those funds are spent. After all, it is their money. And then there are laws in the several states which can modify how money is given. Nevertheless, in the long run to save American democracy from being a plutocracy, there may need to be a Constitutional Amendment. While the Bill of Rights is sacred, particularly the First Amendment which guarantees freedom of speech, the Citizens United decision is egregious enough that it may ultimately be necessary to bring America back from domination by monied interests through a Constitutional Amendment. There are already several groups around the nation working on such a proposal. Among them is a California think tank, The American Institute for Progressive Democracy. You might want to take a look at its web page. Among other things you will find the availability of a disc covering a recent symposium on the subject. [email protected] As a matter of record, I am a member of the Board of Directors of this group.

It this decision is not addressed, first legislatively and finally constitutionally, we may kiss away what we have come to known as our American democracy.

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