Sunday, January 24, 2010

Wassup With The Supremes??

Okay, just what the hell is in the water in Washington, D.C.? Can someone, ANYONE, please tell me how a Corporation = Human? Seriously, because I'm not seeing it. I cannot imagine what kind of machinations through which the Supreme Court went to come to the conclusion that it is unconstitutional to limit corporations from buying off elections. I'm sorry, say, WHAAAA? That is just crazy talk. Corporations equal people. Uh, yeah, No.

Greg Palast had an excellent post on this startling decision (first printed at Alternet.org), "Manchurian Candidates: Supreme Court Allows China And Others Unlimited Spending In The U.S." That pretty much says it all, doesn't it? Palast went on to say:
In today's Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Court ruled that corporations should be treated the same as "natural persons", i.e. humans. Well, in that case, expect the Supreme Court to next rule that Wal-Mart can run for President.

The ruling, which junks federal laws that now bar corporations from stuffing campaign coffers, will not, as progressives fear, cause an avalanche of corporate cash into politics. Sadly, that's already happened: we have been snowed under by tens of millions of dollars given through corporate PACs and "bundling" of individual contributions from corporate pay-rollers.

The Court's decision is far, far more dangerous to U.S. democracy. Think: Manchurian candidates.

I'm losing sleep over the millions — or billions — of dollars that could flood into our elections from ARAMCO, the Saudi Oil corporation's U.S. unit; or from the maker of "New Order" fashions, the Chinese People's Liberation Army. Or from Bin Laden Construction corporation. Or Bin Laden Destruction Corporation.

Right now, corporations can give loads of loot through PACs. While this money stinks (Barack Obama took none of it), anyone can go through a PAC's federal disclosure filing and see the name of every individual who put money into it. And every contributor must be a citizen of the USA.

But under today's Supreme Court ruling that corporations can support candidates without limit, there is nothing that stops, say, a Delaware-incorporated handmaiden of the Burmese junta from picking a Congressman or two with a cache of loot masked by a corporate alias...(click here for the rest of the post).

Ah, yes, President Wal-Mart - now THERE'S some democracy for ya...

Palast continues:
Candidate Barack Obama was one sharp speaker, but he would not have been heard, and certainly would not have won, without the astonishing outpouring of donations from two million Americans. It was an unprecedented uprising-by-PayPal, overwhelming the old fat-cat sources of funding.

Well, kiss that small-donor revolution goodbye. Under the Court's new rules, progressive list serves won't stand a chance against the resources of new "citizens" such as CNOOC, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation. Maybe UBS (United Bank of Switzerland), which faces U.S. criminal prosecution and a billion-dollar fine for fraud, might be tempted to invest in a few Senate seats. As would XYZ Corporation, whose owners remain hidden by "street names."

Let's just hold the phone for a minute here, Mr. Palast. While Obama no doubt did get a lot of smaller contributions through PayPal, there were also a LOT of questions about from where some of those contributions came since, according to the Obama Campaign itself, their tracking left a bit to be desired. But thanks for playing. Still, there is a point to be made:
George Bush's former Solicitor General Ted Olson argued the case to the court on behalf of Citizens United, a corporate front that funded an attack on Hillary Clinton during the 2008 primary. Olson's wife died on September 11, 2001 on the hijacked airliner that hit the Pentagon. Maybe it was a bit crude of me, but I contacted Olson's office to ask how much "Al Qaeda, Inc." should be allowed to donate to support the election of his local congressman.

Olson has not responded.

Um, okay, I'll say it - it wasn't crude, it was CRUEL. I get his point, but really, that was uncalled for in my book. Still, the concept regarding foreign contributions is disturbing at best:
The danger of foreign loot loading into U.S. campaigns, not much noted in the media chat about the Citizens case, was the first concern raised by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who asked about opening the door to "mega-corporations" owned by foreign governments. Olson offered Ginsburg a fudge, that Congress might be able to prohibit foreign corporations from making donations, though Olson made clear he thought any such restriction a bad idea.

Tara Malloy, attorney with the Campaign Legal Center of Washington D.C. says corporations will now have more rights than people. Only United States citizens may donate or influence campaigns, but a foreign government can, veiled behind a corporate treasury, dump money into ballot battles.

Malloy also noted that under the law today, human-people, as opposed to corporate-people, may only give $2,300 to a presidential campaign. But hedge fund billionaires, for example, who typically operate through dozens of corporate vessels, may now give unlimited sums through each of these "unnatural" creatures.

And once the Taliban incorporates in Delaware, they could ante up for the best democracy money can buy.

A bit hyperbolic, but, well, yeah - they can, as can any other corporation-person, or country-person:
In July, the Chinese government, in preparation for President Obama's visit, held diplomatic discussions in which they skirted issues of human rights and Tibet. Notably, the Chinese, who hold a $2 trillion mortgage on our Treasury, raised concerns about the cost of Obama's health care reform bill. Would our nervous Chinese landlords have an interest in buying the White House for an opponent of government spending such as Gov. Palin? Ya betcha!

Given how things are going right this minute, a lot of people would probably be happier with a President Palin. Ask some Tea Partiers. But his point, and it is a good one, is this:
The potential for foreign infiltration of what remains of our democracy is an adjunct of the fact that the source and control money from corporate treasuries (unlike registered PACs), is necessarily hidden. Who the heck are the real stockholders? Or as Butch asked Sundance, "Who are these guys?"

We'll never know.

Hidden money funding, whether foreign or domestic, is the new venom that the Court has injected into the system by its expansive decision in Citizens United.

We've been there. The 1994 election brought Newt Gingrich to power in a GOP takeover of the Congress funded by a very strange source.

Congressional investigators found that in crucial swing races, Democrats had fallen victim to a flood of last-minute attack ads funded by a group called, "Coalition for Our Children's Future." The $25 million that paid for those ads came, not from concerned parents, but from a corporation called "Triad Inc."

Evidence suggests Triad Inc. was the front for the ultra-right-wing billionaire Koch Brothers and their private petroleum company, Koch Industries. Had the corporate connection been proven, the Kochs and their corporation could have faced indictment under federal election law. As of today, such money-poisoned politicking has become legit.

So it's not just un-Americans we need to fear but the Polluter-Americans, Pharma-mericans, Bank-Americans and Hedge-Americans that could manipulate campaigns while hidden behind corporate veils. And if so, our future elections, while nominally a contest between Republicans and Democrats, may in fact come down to a three-way battle between China, Saudi Arabia and Goldman Sachs.

And again, to be fair, it isn't just Republicans who are going to benefit from this new "Corporations are People, TOO!" ruling by the Supremes. Democrats will benefit, too:
Campaign Finance: The Supreme Court has ruled that corporations have a constitutional right to free speech. But Democratic leaders refuse to accept the decision, and their predictable reaction is to undermine it.

Rather than praising Thursday's 5-4 decision to reverse the 1990 court ruling that banned corporations and unions from contributing directly to political campaigns as an advancement of liberty, President Obama condemned it.

"The Supreme Court," he said, "has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for Big Oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans . ..

"That's why I am instructing my administration to get to work immediately with Congress on this issue. We are going to talk with bipartisan congressional leaders to develop a forceful response to this decision."

Go get 'em, Obama! Yeah, show some muscle on this!!! Oh, but wait - is this just more talk? It appears so:
The president is betting the public will accept his rhetoric without checking his facts, and the facts in this case show that lawyers and law firms, not "Big Oil" or "Wall Street," are the biggest political contributors. According to opensecrets.org., 83% of their donations are going to Democrats in the current election cycle,

This is not unusual. In the 2008 cycle, Democrats took in 78% of lawyer and law-firm political dollars. In 2006, the ratio was 62% Democrats to 36% Republicans. Two years earlier, it was 80% to 20% in favor of the Democrats.

Maybe the president just doesn't consider lawyers and law firms to be special interests. OK, so how about the securities and investment industry, a sector Democrats have demonized and unfavorably link to Republicans? Is this group a special interest?

The president can define special interests any way he wants. But he can't redefine the fact that 73% of the political donations from the securities and investment industry -- the "Wall Street" he apparently holds in such low regard -- are going to Democrats in the 2010 cycle. In 2008, 64% went to Democrats, in 2004 it was 61% and in 2002 56%. In the 2006 cycle, the parties evenly split donations from the sector, each taking in 47%.

Oh, well, um - yes it would seem this is indeed more "words, just words," from the man behind the curtain. What a big surprise - not at all. But there's more:
As telling as that is, our fact-checking exercise revealed another valuable nugget. Of the 50 industries and sectors categorized as contributors by opensecrets.org, Democrats are the top recipients during this cycle in all but two (emphasis mine). Oil and gas, one of those named a "powerful interest," is ranked as the 14th largest political contributor, and the auto industry, which ranks 46th.

In short, the stampede of special interest money began long before the court's ruling, and Democrats are the biggest beneficiaries
(emphasis mine).

Oops. Wait, look over THERE! Or, there! Or anywhere but here!! Um, do you smell something burning? Oh, yes - their pants are on fire:
The president knows this, and so does Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. Yet Schumer calls the court's ruling "poisonous" and, according to The Hill newspaper, promises to hold hearings "to explore ways to limit corporate spending on elections."

Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, also knows that his party is swimming in special-interest money. But he vows hearings as well.

If Democrats are acting as if they fear what the ruling will mean, it's because they probably do. They feel their funding advantage, which already includes so much indirect union money that the court's overturning of the ban on direct union contributions won't help them, is now at risk.

But their complaint about a stampede of special interest dollars is hard to take seriously, and not only because of how much special interest money they're already getting. While supporters of campaign finance laws say money is the corrupting element, they ignore the second part of the equation and the more corrosive factor: lawmakers' votes.

Their implication is that big money buys votes in Congress, and they might be right. But trying to cut the flow of political money won't stop the practice; it will only drive it underground. The way to stop the corruption is to prosecute lawmakers who sell their vote.

Though tainted by undue persecution, political dollars are a necessary part of our system. They illuminate the issues for everyday Americans and give challengers a chance (to) drive out entrenched incumbents. No one, not even a group of individuals, should be barred from taking part in this exercise of freedom.

Still don't think I can concur that a group of individuals is the same as a corporation. But other than that, this piece does highlight that it isn't just Republicans who are going to benefit from this unprecedented decision by the Supreme Court, but ALL politicians will benefit.

But will WE?

8 comments:

Mary Ellen said...

Good morning, Rev.Amy!

Your point about the PayPal was right on. I remember the times when bloggers, just to see if it would go through, would give donations in the name of Osama bin Laden and Sadaam Hussein and they went right through--no questions asked.

And, of course, we all know the amount of money that big Pharma dumped into Obama's campaign and we all know the back room deal he made with the regarding this so-called health care reform bill.

My question is, if Corporations are to be considered as "individuals" with the right to free speech, and if they are brought before a Congressional hearing or any court hearing in a law suit, will they have the right not to answer on the grounds it will incriminate them? Will they, as a corporation, have the same rights as individuals in court?

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

Hey, ME!

YES, I knew you would remember that: that McCain and Clinton verified every contribution AS IT CAME IN, but the Obama Campaign didn't check at ALL. Many believed that they were also getting money from abroad, and/or from people using those throwaway credit cards, etc., etc. Yep - yet another completely corrupt election in which the powers-that -be turned a deaf ear/blind eye to their shenanigans.

Absolutely - the health sector bought Obama: http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/sectors.php?sector=H
(I have used Open Secrets before, but one of the faithful readers at NQ found this today). No doubt, they bought themselves a president.

One who is now thinking abt dumping the pre-existing provision for the healthcare bill, one of the only decent things abt it!! What is WRONG with these people??

Excellent questions abt the corporations, too, ME. Makes me wonder just how the Supremes came up with this conclusion - not that I am cynical or anything...

SFIndie said...

Abe Lincoln must be turning over in his grave. His Gettysburg Address has to be among the most powerful words ever spoken (equal, in my opinion, to "I Have A Dream", especially "...that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Sorry Abe, looks like your vision of government just perished. Now, it's government of the corporations, by the corporation, for the corporations, in the name of all holy money.

Behind Obama's words he must be jumping for joy. All that money he can now get from his sleazy foreign contributors.

I don't even know what to say. Democracy is dead. Long live Plutocracy.

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

Indeed, SF - democracy as we have known it is a thing of the past. Not that Obama, and previous candidates, haven't gotten money before - obviously, they have. But this changes everything. In a big way.

Yes, Lincoln is surely rolling over in his grave, joined by all of the founders of this country.

Powerful comment, SF - thank you...

Logistics Monster said...

Rev,

When I read this decision, as many cans of worms as it is going to open, I had to applaud the SC for actually following the law and the Constitution. Corporations were set up to be free standing entities unto themselves to remove the liability to the owners. As a former sole proprietor, and now the owner of a corporate entity, I understand why they need to exist. So going by the letter of the law, this decision makes sense, BUT all the laws that apply to individuals should apply to the corporations also. So $2300 limit, yes? That is a real simple explanation, but it tracks. I am sure someone better informed than I can explain it better.

Hope that helps.

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

LM, thanks for that perspective. I can understand the need to remove liability, and everything, but the can of worms this opens is a mighty big one. Not like Obama wasn't getting a ton from trial lawyers or unions, anyway, but you get my drift.

A frequent commenter at NQ, jbjd, an atty, basically said what you said (I think - I could be wrong reading the legalese), but mentioned they essentially rescinded one of their own rulings to get there. Interesting.

So, YEAH - wouldn't that be something - to limit them to the same amt we can give??

Logistics Monster said...

Not going to happen because no politician wants to turn that spigot off - but if one is following the letter of the law, then $2,300 it must be.

I think the real point is that is doesn't really matter. That cash is going to get into the hands of the corruptocrats no matter what we do. Sad day, it is.

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

You said it, LM - "corruptocrats" indeed.

Wow...Just shaking my head...