Yegparian: Money Ain’t Speech

Somebody’s gotta get this message through to the Supremes, ‘cause they seem poised to destroy much of the walls preventing the moneyed class from taking everything over in the U.S. and immersing all but a tiny sliver of the population into destitution.

I’ve written about campaign finance issues more than once.  Those who’ve followed this column know I support publicly financed campaigns with concurrent free air time so candidates can get their message out and voters can hear where candidates stand on the issues and vote accordingly.  Money, in the context of elections, skews this.  Whoever has the most can usually drown out others’ voices simply by buying more of a presence.

Who has the most money?  The wealthy, of course, but even more so, corporations, that have been granted “personhood” for over a century.  Yet they are not people, really.  So, 102 years ago, they were prohibited from contributing money to the campaigns of candidates for federal public office (many states have this prohibition in place too).  Why? Because, they had, and still have, essentially unlimited money.  I just read that corporate profits (U.S. of course) were $600 billion last year.  Now compare that to the $1.5 billion spent in the 2008 election cycle, a sum that was unprecedented.  Yet, that’s only a quarter of a percent of the corporate profit number.  With minimal damage to the bottom line, corporations could buy up every member of Congress through their campaign contributions.

Imagine how much worse things would be than they are now!

Well, you may not have to use your imagination, since it might come true thanks to the reactionaries on the U.S. Supreme Court.  Last week, the court took up a case it could have made a decision on back in March.  But, they asked for further arguments based on which they will determine whether this century old precedent, along with the McCain-Feingold bill passed a few years ago, will stand.

In all this, we will be asked, once again, to accept that corporations are “persons”.  Perhaps for the purpose of some legal interactions, that fiction is useful.  But when it comes to the political arena, it is very destructive.  Real persons vote, volunteer for, and/or contribute to political campaigns and causes based on a broad range of concerns, principles, and motives.  Corporations are constituted to provide legal/financial protection to their, not infrequently wheeler-dealer or even crooked (banks, financial houses, insurances companies- ring any bells?), executives.  More importantly, they are intended to maximize profits for their owners/shareholders.  Corporations don’t care about “We the People of the United States”, “a more perfect Union”, “Justice”, “domestic Tranquility”, “the common defence”, “the general Welfare”, or “the Blessings of Liberty” for “ourselves and our Posterity”.  In case you don’t recognize these phrases, they’re from the preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America.  Therefore, corporations can not, and must not, be viewed as co-equals to citizens/voters, since corporations care only about money.

Also, foreign nationals are not allowed to vote in any U.S. elections (though in the past, in some jurisdictions, resident aliens could vote in non-federal elections).  Similarly, only citizens and resident aliens may make financial contributions to election campaigns.  The idea is that those with no allegiance to the country/jurisdiction ought not to be voting for its leaders.  But today, given the nature of corporations, most are multi or trans-national.  Many corporate execs may not be U.S. citizens.  How would it be right/appropriate to grant them significant, even overwhelming, say and sway in who gets elected to Congress and or as President?

This is a clear and present danger to anyone who cares about liberty and a decent chance at getting ahead (economically/financially) in the U.S.  If corporations are allowed to pour their financial might into the elections arena as a result of the overturning of this ban, they WILL buy up congress.  It would probably take a bloody revolution to restore liberty.

It is patently obvious to me that the extremists on the Court (Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas,) appointed by equally extremist presidents (Bush II- the first two, Reagan, and arguably Bush I, respectively) are out to repay their moneyed masters for their appointments to the Court.  In this case, Anthony Kennedy seems to be siding with these extremists, based on his otherwise laudable views in defense of free speech.  But it’s impossible to overstate how wrong the Supreme Court has been, since its January 1976 Buckley vs. Valeo decision, in essentially equating money with speech (because they argued, money buys speech).  It’s painfully clear that the extreme rightists in the U.S. are running very scared since Obama won the presidency and Democrats enlarged their majority in both houses of Congress.  This is their last and only chance to steal back the power and abusive privileges they enjoyed under Bush II.

Now, not only citizens of the U.S. are at risk, but because of the country’s preeminent role in the world, all of humanity.  It strikes me that there’s only one remedy.  House and Senate leaders should make absolutely clear that any Supreme Court Justice voting in favor of overturning the ban on corporate campaign contributions will be impeached, and subsequently hopefully removed from office, for transgressing against the will of the People, Congress, and President AND for treasonously permitting the influence of foreign nationals on federal level elections.

Now why should you care?  How does this affect Armenian interests in addition to purely good government and citizen interests?  If you think getting Genocide resolutions, Artzakh support, aid to Armenia, or Javakhk defense actions through Congress is difficult now, imagine what it will be like with the oil, defense, and other Turkey/Azerbaijan-loving corporations having virtually every member of the House and Senate in their pockets.  As always, write and act on this issue.

You’ll regret it if this decision comes to pass.

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6 Comments

  1. Armen said:

    I read your article and since I thought I had missed it the first time, I did a word search on the term “union.” Its conspicuously absent in the body of your article and I find that amazing as you seem to have no problem with unions in this country spending millions of dollars pushing their narrow interests while disallowing their members from opting out without jumping through hoops. It is high time that the field was evened and corporations were allowed to spend money on political campaigns just as unions have.

    More fundamentally, money IS speech. Why can Michael Moore produce movies savaging George Bush and whoever else he doesn’t like while Citizens United can’t do the same with Hillary Clinton? Being able to spend one’s money to advocate political positions is as clear an example of freedom of speech as it gets.

    It is hypocritical to focus on corporations as the source of evil in the political system while ignoring unions, special interest groups (think plaintiff’s attorneys) and other who have bought hundreds of politicians through the years.

  2. Ruben said:

    Garen is a good writer. As long as you go into his articles knowing he is an extremist left wing ideologue, you will know you can’t take everything he says seriously.

  3. John K. said:

    Excellent article Garen regardless what those bozos think. The constitution clearly says “WE THE PEOPLE”. Since when corporations became PEOPLE? My kids graduated from college with 3.8 GPA and can’t find jobs because these same corporations shipped the jobs overseas. We should kick all the incumbents out of office next year because they don’t serve “WE THE PEOPLE”. The only thing they are interested in is to get reelected and they bend over backwards to the highest bidder. If you people are happy with the staus-quo then you deserve what you are getting.

  4. Stepan said:

    Armen, unions do represent millions of workers. Of course, any organization with a specific agenda will represent its “narrow” agenda. The good thing about unions is the fact that their “narrow” agenda addresses the needs of millions of workers. And as for your comment lawyers… Lawyers are lawyers… they are all crooks.

  5. ermeni said:

    John K.,
    Seems you are pretty upset about the job situation for your 3.8 gpa kids. Sorry to hear that. Perhaps times are changing like they did in the past. Armenians left their homeland over 100 years ago to work to find jobs. They came to America before the massacres, went to Africa, even Singapore and India. Maybe they will go overseas to find jobs like they did before? Things have a way of repeating itself.
    Ermeni

    Ruben, i agree with you that Garen is a good writer and an “extremist left-wing ideologue.” It is an editorial and his opinion, I guess. Armen is just pointing out the other side.

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