By David Swanson
Jamin Raskin, professor of constitutional law and the First Amendment at American University, has spoken out powerfully on behalf of a new campaign at FreeSpeechForPeople.org that aims to undo the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to remove limitations on corporations' election spending.
Here's a short video made together with Congresswoman Donna Edwards.
Here's Raskin on Democracy Now!
Interestingly, these are all relatively corporate-free outlets: Youtube, Democracy Now!, and C-Span: no advertising.
Think of the stupidest, most embarassingly dumb television commercial you've ever seen. Then think of the experience of traveling the country and seeing that exact same stupidity on billboards and buses, in magazines and on airport walls. Youtube videos parody the thing for laughs, it enters into "pop culture", and you realize that you could ask any person in the United States and they would know about that same stupid 30-second-long unfunny advertisement. That's the power that money has to put something into your head; and the Supreme Court has just imposed that power on our elections, meaning that our elected representatives -- if they don't already -- are likely to resemble unbelievably stupid advertisements.
Officially this conclusion was reached in the case of Citizens United v. FEC, but realistically it was not. The parties to that case never asked the Supreme Court to consider the issues it chose to pursue on its own. And the five-member majority chose to throw out long-standing precedents purely because the five of them felt like it. Or, as Justice John Stevens put it in his dissent,
"The only relevant thing that has changed since Austin and McConnell is the composition of this Court. Today's ruling thus strikes at the vitals of stare decisis, "the means by which we ensure that the law will not merely change erratically, but will develop in a principled and intelligible fashion" that "permits society to presume that bedrock principles are founded in the law rather than in the proclivities of individuals." Vasquez v. Hillery, 474, U. S. 254, 265 (1986).
Now it's going to be the proclivities of corporations, which Stevens describes thus:
"Although they make enormous contributions to our society, corporations are not actually members of it. They cannot vote or run for office. Because they may be managed and controlled by nonresidents, their interests may conflict in fundamental respects with the interests of eligible voters. The financial resources, legal structure, and instrumental orientation of corporations raise legitimate concerns about their role in the electoral process. Our lawmakers have a compelling constitutional basis, if not also a democratic duty, to take measures designed to guard against the potentially deleterious effects of corporate spending in local and national races."
A lot of efforts are pushing back against the trend of expanding corporate personhood, and I support most of them, including public financing of elections, free media for elections, shareholder control of corporations, public control of corporations, a variety of constitutional amendments including one to undo corporate personhood entirely, and an array of legislative steps, including Congressman Alan Grayson's bills to tax corporate political spending, to require public reporting of corporate spending on influencing public opinion, and to apply antitrust laws and other regulations to political committees.
But ultimately we're going to have to build a popular movement around an amendment to the Constitution that we can force through Congress and the states. FreeSpeechForPeople.org is a new campaign aiming to do this. Partners include Voter Action, Public Citizen, The Center for Corporate Policy, and the American Independent Business Alliance.
Watch this Youtube:
And here's Democracy Now!
Here's the transcript:
AMY GOODMAN: We begin our show today looking at yesterday's landmark Supreme Court ruling that will allow corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to elect and defeat candidates.