“I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.” ~ Thomas Jefferson
In Billionaires And Bagmen Sean Cogan and his friends talk about how many of our rights as citizens have been systematically been taken by the super-rich and their handpicked legislators, regulators and judicial appointees. One of the biggest boondoggles is the Citizens United case…
Are corporations “citizens”? Do these fictitious entities have the status of real people? And if so, do they have Constitutional rights…like Freedom of Speech? That’s what the Supreme Court case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010 was all about.
A brief explanation about the players. Citizens United is a conservative Political Action Committee (PAC) underwritten largely by the Koch brothers. They were challenging part of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform act (BCRA) that prohibited expenditures by corporations and unions on electioneering communication such as broadcast, cable or satellite communications that mentioned a candidate within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary. Citizen’s United wanted to air an unflattering documentary about Hillary Clinton within 30 days of the Democratic primary in 2008. A lower court had ruled it was in violation of BCRA. Citizens United appealed to the Supreme Court.
Citizens United argued that these restrictions violated their First Amendment rights. What did the Supreme Court say? “Absolutely.” In a 5-4 decision, the justices said that the First Amendment prohibited government from restricting independent political expenditures of corporations, labor unions and other associations. Essentially they said corporations are obviously the same thing as people, and could spend as much money as they wanted on political activities. They provided a “fig leaf”: the Court also said donations had to made independently of a party or candidate.
The result has been by 2014 outside spending has more than doubled since 2010 (analysis of the 2014 Senate races by the Brennan Center for Justice). It now represents more than half of all the funding that candidates get. As the rules are currently written, these PACs are able to circumvent restrictions preventing them from directly coordinating with campaigns, even though they’re often run by members of candidates’ inner circles.
Of the $1 billion spent in federal elections by super PACs since 2010, nearly 60 percent of the money came from just 195 individuals and their spouses, according to the Brennan Center report. Thanks to Citizens United, supporters can make the maximum $5,200 donation directly to a candidate, then make unlimited contributions to single-candidate super PACs.
Not only that, the only way to ever change this decision is with a constitutional amendment. With the billionaires who control the super PACs essentially buying the politicians—their bagmen–who are in Congress, what do you think are the chances of that happening?
So the US Supreme Court has effectively sealed the deal that corporations are obviously the same thing as people. And if you look at the facts, they really aren’t so different: They kill. They cheat. They bribe. They steal. They avoid paying taxes…
They ARE people.
And so, they have Freedom of Speech. And as any fool knows using your wealth to pay off politicians is the most important of any person’s constitutional rights. Whether it’s in the United States or in some foreign country run by drug lords that is home for a multi-national corporation. They are people too!