Recently five men in black robes took an action that may change the course of history. In ruling that corporations and unions have the same rights as persons to contribute unlimited amounts of money to political campaigns, the Supreme Court overthrew a century of practice and decades of legal rulings.
They were pledged to honor previous decisions, follow the intentions of the writers of our Constitution, and avoid making laws from the bench. Could such blatant “activism” by judges be consistent with the intentions of the writers of our Constitution? Certainly not with Thomas Jefferson, who wrote in 1816, “I hope we shall ... crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government in a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country."
What can we expect from this decision? The good news is that many groups are mobilizing to fight back, proposing such solutions as a constitutional amendment to invalidate the “personhood” of corporations and unions, or to establish public funding of elections at all levels.
If this ruling is not counteracted, the corrupting influence of corporate money will increase enormously over its already unacceptable level. If the oil and gas industry chose to do so, it probably, for a few thousand dollars, could install a county commission agreeable to its wishes. The right people elected to the state Supreme Court could ensure that only corporate-friendly decisions were taken.
A government answerable to “We the corporations” rather than to “We the people” will be secretive and oppressive in order to maintain its power, hasten the shift of money from the middle class to the wealthy, drain our resources through subsidies and repeated bailouts, and spend even more on the military to monopolize resources and forcefully expand markets.
What a distortion of democracy to equate the rights of individual persons and corporations! The latter are artificial organisms, like Frankenstein’s monster, and like that creature may take revenge on their creators. For us, we must educate ourselves on the issues and support the many efforts under way to recover our democracy and put corporations in their proper place.
Robert E. Pearson