Ever notice how people seem to listen to you more if you have a bag full of cash? Tom Donohue of the US Chamber of Commerce sure has. Politicians and corporations have as well. But it used to be, prior to 2010, that giant multinational corporations couldn’t use their equally giant bags of cash to directly influence how people voted in elections. Unfair for corporations you say? A travesty of justice perhaps? Luckily for our favorite corporate interests the Supreme Court overturned hundreds of years of pesky electioneering laws in the 2010 landmark court case Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission. The court ruled that corporations, because they are considered individuals under the law like you and me, are fully protected by the first amendment of the constitution, and therefore should be able to spend as much as they want on political attack ads during elections. Now we all have free speech. You have free speech, I have free speech, Monsanto has free speech, all are equal- just like the writers of first amendment intended hundreds of years ago. And we can all freely spend our billions of dollars on political ads that support our own politics, thus bringing balance to the system.
But under this system it seems like some “individuals” have more free speech than others. ExxonMobil for example made $30.46 billion dollars in profit in 2010. That is a big bag of cash and thus, a lot of free speech. And now, if a politician does something Exxon doesn’t like (forcing them to clean up an oil spill or curb carbon emissions for example), Exxon can bankroll millions of dollars in political ads in support of an opponent. Most non-corporate “individuals” can’t do that. Does that sound like a government for the people and by the people to you?
Speaking of Tom Donohue of the Chamber of Commerce, he represents an important facet of the hazardous fallout from Citizens United. It may be that Exxon doesn’t want to alienate consumers by picking sides in a contentious political match. Instead, they funnel money to trade and advocacy groups, like Donohue’s Chamber or Tim Phillips' Americans for Prosperity, who can then attack an offending candidate in any manner they choose, without impugning ExxonMobil’s good name. In fact one of the most insidious and corrosive of all of the Citizen’s United case’s effects is to increase the funding (and therefore importance) of corporate front groups like Americans for Prosperity and the Chamber of Commerce, who do not reveal their funding and are not accountable to the public.
In all seriousness the Citizens United v. FEC court case erodes the foundations of democracy in America. The decision has made it much easier for private interests with enormous wealth – like the now infamous Koch brothers – to use their riches to align public policy with their business ideologies, to the detriment of social, economic, and environmental justice.
On August 11, 2011, The Story of Stuff Project has planned an online day of protest against the landmark Supreme Court Case Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission. To mark the occasion, the 11th has been named “the Day when $$ equals speech." Check out the short film explaining Citizens United and add your voice to ours and tell our government that it serves real people, not corporations.
Tom Donohue, CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has decided that the American people share the responsibility of paying for the massive cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico following the blowout of BP's Deepwater Horizon Macondo well. As Huffington Post's Jason Linkins points out, apparently Donohue does believe in socialism to the extent that corporate liability can be extended to the public after nationally-recognized disasters.
"It is generally not the practice of this country to change the laws after the game," said Tom Donohue, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. ". . . Everybody is going to contribute to this clean up. We are all going to have to do it. We are going to have to get the money from the government and from the companies and we will figure out a way to do that."
John Boehner, who affirmatively responded to a journalist asking if he agreed with Donohue, later backtracked and stated that BP should be responsible for the cleanup bill. Perhaps the $1,000 donation from BP this election cycle wasn't enough to make Boehner hold his ground in defense of the polluter giant; had they spent over $22,000 like American Electric Power, $10,000 like Southern Company, or $7,500 like Koch Industries, perhaps he would have been more adament in his initial position. Check out Dirty Energy Money to see who else is lining Boehner's political pockets.
The full article and supplemental links can be found on the Huffington Post.
Picture source: Sun-sentinel