(Article changed on April 3, 2014 at 13:59)
Corporations are not people
(image by UnitedForThePeopleGA)
Oregon voters will likely have a clear choice in the US Senate race in November. Unless Senator Merkley's Republican challenger is willing to endorse a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and the more recent McCutcheon decision overturning aggregate limits on donations to candidates and parties, it will be obvious which candidate is running to serve the interests of We the People rather than corporations and the obscenely rich. Merkley is a cosponsor of an amendment proposed by Bernie Sanders that would ban all corporate and union contributions and allow limits on individual campaign expenditures.
In District 4, Congressman DeFazio has done him one better. He has cosponsored an equivalent resolution in the House along with another that would abolish corporate personhood, the doctrine that holds that corporations have constitutional rights. That is a key element in a whole series of Supreme Court decisions based on the fallacy that money is speech. This means that those who can afford it are able to speak loud enough to drown out the voices of the People and those who represent them. Ending corporate constitutional rights is the second condition that an amendment should satisfy to most effectively deal with the problem of corporate control of the US government.
For those who are fuzzy on the details of the 2010 Citizens United decision, it reversed a century of law in removing all limits on "independent" expenditures by unions and for-profit corporations to influence political campaigns. McCutcheon takes the idea that money is speech to its logical extreme in allowing the wealthiest Americans to spend unlimited amounts in direct contributions to parties and to give the personal maximum to as many candidates running for federal office as they choose. That means that not only is the presidency for sale to the highest bidder (as we saw recently when Sheldon Adelson invited prospective Republican candidates to apply for his support), but Congress is up for grabs as well.
The only way to counter an activist Supreme Court that is denying Americans the right to control corruption in campaign finance is to pass a constitutional amendment such as the one that Merkley supports. It is up to voters to see that this issue receives the attention it deserves during the campaign season. The only way that Merkley will succeed in his efforts to rein in the power of the banksters, fight free trade agreements that violate national sovereignty of accomplish any of the other objectives that Americans demand is for us to support him in his efforts to pass an amendment. The Oregon Democracy Coalition (ODC) is working to help make support for an amendment a campaign issue.
If you are a resident of the United States, you can help.
ODC takes the position that the first step in dealing with corruption in government is to put into the constitution the principles that money is not speech and that corporations (including unions) do not have constitutional rights, including the "right" to put money from their general treasuries into elections. They are organizing around the state to get people to show up for campaign appearances and other events featuring candidates to ask them if they will support a constitutional amendment of this type. They encourage people to start groups in their home towns to fill these forums with people willing to put this question to them in public settings.
ODC also encourages individuals to write letters to the editor and to talk to local political, social justice, church and other groups about the issue. It is helpful to get organizations to endorse such coalitions and their efforts. This is the social justice issue of our times. It is ironic that the idea of corporations has its origin in the 14th Amendment, which was intended to ensure the rights of former slaves. As interpreted by the Supreme Court, it would mean that average Americans have essentially become slaves of corporate interests who control Congress. It is impossible to have a representative democracy unless voters have the opportunity to hear from candidates whose campaigns are not being financed be deep-pocketed special interest groups. Failing to deal with this issue would mean the failure of the democratic experiment in government.