A coalition of organizations calling itself "united re:public" is soliciting signatures on a document "demanding the US Supreme Court stop billionaires from buying our politicians and our laws", which will be printed out and delivered to the Justices of the Court. As of this writing approximately 12,000 people have signed. The group is also offering everyone the opportunity to add comments about how they feel about the current situation, post the "Citizens United" decision. The comments will also be printed out and delivered with the public letter. Though most of the ~600 comments were brief, but heartfelt, I took the offer seriously and wrote a fairly full explanation of what I believe has gone wrong, as though I actually had the ear of the Justices. The following is what I wrote (divided on the website into two comments):
Supreme Court Justices, 2012 by Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images
All individual U.S. citizens associated in any way with corporations already, before the "Citizens United" ruling, had the right to use their own money to support candidates. They were also able to join others w/ similar political beliefs in not-for-profit issue-oriented groups to learn the positions of members of Congress regarding the groups' focal issues. In contrast, the financial support of for-profit corporations for candidates is very different from free speech in two ways: 1) the money usually is being used without the consent of most of its owners, and 2) the laws of incorporation specify that resources of for-profit corporations must be used solely to advance the profitability of the corporation, making any political speech it sponsors, in effect, commercial speech, very different in quality from the much more varied and nuanced opinions of the members of its mgmt. and shareholders. Thus the ruling is giving the force of law to a type of political activity that not only is not protected in the Constitution, but which actually overwhelms the free speech that is.
Since the ruling, it's become clear that members of Congress are too intimidated by the power of such large blocs of money even to attempt to follow the suggestions of the Court to require detailed disclosure of the source of campaign funds. This extreme imbalance of influence on the legislators has led to a clearly unconstitutional outcome. It is now possible for a candidate to benefit from huge amounts of undisclosed, foreign financial support to the disadvantage of an opposing candidate running only w/ money collected transparently from U.S. citizens.
The worst consequence of the "Citizens United" ruling, and it's very bad indeed, is the distorted way corporations BY LAW must use their political influence. State laws of incorporation are a contract between entrepreneurs and investors that the management of the corporation must use the resources of the corporation to maximize its profitability for the investors--not to redecorate the homes of its executives or to protect the viability of the environment or the economic well-being of the community or the country it is in, unless it can PROVE doing so increases profits (which is a practical impossibility). In exchange for limited financial liability for their actions, what corporate management can advocate with their political influence disregards most of what the vast majority of citizens considers our country's main goals. Most of the commenters to this document are not blind haters of corporations, capitalism, or the rich. They generally do not want to throw the baby--the whole idea of incorporation, out with the bathwater--extreme political influence by mega-corporations advocating their very narrow, permissable concept of what is desirable.
While they may not understand why, people like the commenters here know from long experience that corporate political influence usually works against the values proclaimed by the Declaration of Independence of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" which the founders tried to advance in the design of our government. Clearly, human life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness depend on more than a short term cash inflow to those w/ the means to invest in corporations, even for those investors, and more obviously for the rest of us. For starters, the air and water can't be poisonous, and one's home can't fall on top of one as a consequence of "fracking", or be taken by banks who had made fraudulent promises of affordability. Commercial speech isn't able to address any of these deadly wrongs. The liberty to share, on the public stage, one's political ideas about what measures would be for the country's "common good", can't be drowned out by the monopolization of that stage by commercial speech. Citizens' ability to petition their gov't for redress of grievances can't be denied because office-holders are dependent upon the favor of the management of mega-corporations in its proscribed corporate role, and the politicians daren't listen to conflicting positions. Finally, it is impossible to pursue happiness while suffering and ill due to insufficient access to healthcare, an inequity which, for financial reasons, corporate commercial "speech" can't help resolve.
The aggregated result of allowing the financial might of mega-corporations to advance commercial speech in politics to the point of drowning out the voices of even the most knowledgeable, patiotic and altruistic human citizens, is not only unconstitutional, it is against the spirit and practice of democratic republicanism. It has led, instead, to a horrific type of plutocracy in which human well-being is subsumed to some abstract accumulation of "wealth" for the few who will quickly find that it cannot create well-being in a world that is rapidly self-destructing.