Hidden beneath the Unites States Supreme Court’s rulings this term on health care reform and the Arizona immigration case is another case that was equally, if not more, important.
It was the case where Montana challenged the 2010 Citizens United ruling that declared corporations as people and thereby opened the floodgates to unlimited campaign spending. Montana explained that it passed a law a century ago to limit the amount of money in campaigns because corporations, particularly in the mining industry, were buying Montana elections and Montana officials. And Montana asserted its right to continue limiting the amount of outside money and corporate political expenditures it would allow in its elections.
In a 5-4 decision June 25, the Supreme Court refused to revisit or modify the Citizens United ruling, dismissing the Montana case.
Following the ruling, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer said the decision will leave America with two political parties, the Corporate Party and the Corporate-Lite Party.
In an interview with PBS earlier in June, Republican Senator John McCain called the Citizens United decision, “the most misguided, naive, uninformed, egregious decision of the United States Supreme Court, I think, in the 21st century. To somehow view money as not having an effect on elections, a corrupting effect on elections, flies in the face of reality… Look, I guarantee you, there will be scandals. There is too much money washing around political campaigns today.”
Can the United States even think about lecturing other nations about the shortcomings in their political systems when we now have the Corporate Power in total control over ours? One of the most important concepts in our political system is one man, one vote. To allow the Sheldon Adelsons and the Koch brothers of the world to start pouring tens of millions of dollars into campaigns turns the concept of one man, one vote right on its head. To allow the wealthy to exert such an oversized influence on elections is to create a totally unlevel playing field, just as surely as voter suppression does.
And what do these millionaires and billionaires want in return for their “investment?” They want puppets that they can control, and they want a deregulated, laissez faire atmosphere in which to operate. If they gain the control they seek, this will have a negative impact on everything from food safety to environmental standards.
There is also the great prospect of foreign money finding its way into our elections, as Senator McCain indicated. Do we really need China telling us who to elect as president or governor?
To declare that free speech compels the finding that there can be no limits placed on how much corporations and individuals can spend in political campaigns, is to unleash unintended consequences that will cripple the political discourse in this nation. And if corporations are in fact people, should we start counting them on the U.S Census form?
The Citizens United decision overturned the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform that had been working reasonably well since 2002. This means that Congress pretty much cannot do anything about the court ruling. However, the citizens can create a backlash against the unseemly amount of money now in our political system. The voters can reject candidates who take gobs of outside money, and voters can choose candidates who are not so obviously bought and paid for.
The U.S. population is over 313 million and counting. It is amazing that such a large and diverse population can fit into two major political parties to begin with. After all, a tiny country like Denmark has nine political parties represented in its parliament or the European Parliament. Probably we need more than two parties. But with all the corporate dollars pouring into our political system, we’ll in effect have even fewer parties than before.