Friday, October 15, 2010

Corporate big bucks literally buying U.S. politicians

Critics were absolutely correct when they predicted that U.S. elections would be drowned in corporate dollars if the U.S. Supreme Court removed prohibitions on corporations and labor unions to pay for political advertising.

Since the justices ruled last January in the Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission case, an almost incalculable flood of millions of dollars have been pouring into coffers of front organizations to pay for advertising.

The Republican Governors Association collected $31 million in 3 months; $13 million went to the Democratic Governors Association. One group, American Crossroads, expects to raise $65 million by Nov. 2. Media Matters Action Network has counted 60,000 conservative political ads just since August.

Unless laws are changed to restore some sort of limits, spending on the next presidential year elections will be stratospheric and truly a threat to the concept of grassroots financing of American politics.

Once average voters realize how politics have been commandeered by corporate dollars, chances of a backlash will be intensified. Even members of Congress whose campaigns benefit from this largesse are bound to see reform as needed.

This flood of dollars comes with a high price. It's variously called "marching to the drumbeat of others," "paying the piper," and "dancing with who brung you."

In writing checks to newly chartered organizations that provide anonymity, almost all big-buck business donors have an agenda more beneficial to themselves than to the public at large.

Some demands they'll levy on their political beneficiaries include less workplace safety and health regulation, reduced taxes, more privatized government services and programs, and reduced environmental protection. The drill is familiar. If congressional candidates financed by this tidal wave of money are triumphant, Americans can anticipate a revival of the Bush-Cheney business agenda.

Worse, evidence has surfaced that some groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have collected major political campaign donations from foreign business interests. Existing law allows them to hide sources of donations.

Influencing American democracy through anonymous financing is not the American way. Accountability by, and identity of, donors must be restored.

The notion that corporations should enjoy the same rights as individual voters is an outlandish judicial conclusion. No group of voters has the collective financial power of a single major corporation.

Good government cannot afford to be entrusted to the often selfish visions and policies of executives whose principal aim in life is profits, not the public trust.

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