Corporate takeover of US elections?

Most of us agree that a company is not a human being. But the January Supreme Court ruling equalling a company to an individual citizen, opened the gate to unlimited spending by corporations and unions in political campaigns.

A company is not a human being. There's need for transparency in US politics.

Is this really good for society? How can a corporation have free speech rights that are violated by them not being able to spend money on political campaigns? “This will multiply their influence over decision-making in our government”, president Obama said and warned of a potential corporate takeover of US elections.

Obama is right when he says that the integrity of US democracy is at stake. So it’s welcome that democrats recently introduced legislation to blunt the impact of the Supreme Court ruling. “Under the bill Congress is considering, foreign corporations and foreign nationals are restricted from spending money to influence American elections, just as they were in the past – even through US subsidiaries”, the president said.

It’s definitely essential to limit companies abilities to influence political campaigns. If not, US voters will not be voting for a candidate but a corporation. And you only have to read a bestselling novel to be reminded how disastrous that could be.

Cannot understand how Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell can criticize the bill as an effort to defy the court and disregard the protections for free speech? The democrats said organizations had the right to express their opinions but rules are necessary for transparency, which in my opinion is correct. Unless, of course, organizations have something to hide.

Shouldn’t US voters know what corporation or interest group they are voting for? One American expressed his views very clearly on Reuters: “Our politicians should dress like racing drivers – they openly show the logos of who is paying the bills. At the race track the sponsors want to be known. In Washington the sponsors do not want to be known. I do not think Washington understands integrity or “transparency”.

The bill, if passed will require:

  • Contributors to disclose within 24 hours to the Federal Election Commission their campaign-related activity as well as transfers to other groups of any money that could be used in an election.
  • Mandate greater disclosure and allow shareholders, union workers and members of other organizations to know where the money goes; would also require these groups to make their political spending public on their websites.
  • Due to the appearance of corruption and possible misuse of taxpayer funds, government contractors with a contract worth more than $50,000 will not be allowed to spend money on elections.
  • Corporations that have not paid back federal bailout money would not be allowed to spend money on elections, either.
  • Tighten restrictions on foreign influence in U.S. elections. Corporations that have a foreign entity controlling 20 percent of their voting shares — or foreign nationals comprising a majority of their board of directors — would be barred from spending in U.S. elections. So would those that have a foreign national directing the company.

Sounds healthy and candid to me. And to make informed choices, the voters certainly need to know. As you know, the largest corporation in the world is the Chinese army with its multitude of companies. Without such legislation they could easily through one of their companies have an influence on US elections. There are, for instance, suspicions that one of their companies in India is up to mischief.

Seriously if corporations take over elections, what is the point of having elections? Democracy is supposed to result in the people being represented. So the bill would be a welcome antidote to the court’s damaging decision to open elections to unlimited attack and advocacy ads financed from the shadows by special-interest money. Let the voters know which financiers are sponsoring which candidates.

Or maybe this bill just isn’t enough? Another US Reuters reader was much more candid: “Yes – our politicians are bought and paid for. However, rather than take the cynical view that this is how things are and use that as a justification – let’s fix it! Until “we the people” insist that our elected representatives stop taking money from corporations and unions – we have no democracy. We also need to stop PACS – which are thinly veiled corporations and unions. We need contributions by individuals only. Only then will we begin to have representation of the people. I believe they have a term for that – democracy”. Or to quote another American: “To hell with limiting their contributions, they are not human beings. They should not be making any donations whatsoever. Only individual citizens are supposed to have that right”.

Photo: Flickr – Jason + Amanda – Allergifriendly

10 thoughts on “Corporate takeover of US elections?

  1. I am not surprised at all with this decision. USA is a corporate democracy, always has been and probably always will be. Unless Tea Party folks grow in number

    ALL wars waged by USA have been to protect the interests of US Business and Capitalism. They had nothing to do with ‘liberation’ of other people as jokingly claimed. Case in point, A gem of a book: ‘War is a Racket”, by Major General Smedley Butler, America’s most decorated soldier ever.

  2. You're 100% right ,Catarina.

    Clearly Senator Mitch McConnell wants corporate vested interests to be able to buy legislators at will (like they used to do in the 1890s, as Jack Beatty's book "Age of Betrayal" describes so vividly:…

    AND McConnell wants them to be able to do it all in secret, all with the blessing of a corrupted legal system. The Republican opposition to the bill requiring disclosure makes no sense in any other terms.

    I liked the idea of having legislators, like racing cars, decorated with the logos of their sponsors / owners: it should be compulsory by law for them to display the logo of every donor they they have accepted more than $20,000 from. In many cases, the lists would correlate remarkably with the votes.

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  3. I agree, Catarina – it's ridiculous for companies to be allowed to donate funds for politicking. In my view the whole Lobby thing in the US is also out of control, too, and individual contributions should similarly be strictly limited otherwise instead of "Government by the people for the people" as it is supposed to be, we see a case of "Government by the wealthy for a few narrow interests at the expense of the others."

    Full disclosure is a must, as are strict limits on contributions.

  4. I am not sure if trying to clean out the relatively limited corruption/undue influence within the US election process will be enough to deal with the real problem, given the scope of interdependencies of countries around the world. Are we also going to object to the role of multinational corporations in elections in Japan, Germany, China, and Brazil?

    1. Businesses will always have a huge impact on the governing of a country, and that's absolutely fine. However, for the Supreme Court to equal a corporation to a human being is going to far, don't you think? It is fine however, as long as it is transparent so the people know what they are voting for. They have no elections in China. And the systems are different in Germany, Japan and Brazil due to the fact that lobbying isn't so rampant there.

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