Friday, January 29, 2010

The Supreme Court's Unprecedented Precedent Buster by Larry Stopper

The decision by the Supreme Court to allow corporations and unions to directly advertise for or against specific candidates in political races anywhere and at any time is the most dangerous blow to American democracy since Lincoln suspended the right of habeas corpus during the Civil War. It not only overturns more than one hundred years of Supreme Court precedent, but makes a mockery of the concept that each of us has a voice in our government.

As I and many other commentators see it, no longer will corporations have to hire lobbyists and press for earmarks in behind the scenes negotiations. Now they can just buy senators or representatives. Can anyone imagine a member of Congress from West Virginia opposing mountain top removal mining techniques? Will we now have senator Cargill from Iowa or senator Boeing from Washington State? Corporations are now free to spend as much as they choose on political campaigns and spend they will. It’s just an outrage.

It’s also completely disingenuous to compare labor unions with giant multi-national corporations in terms of resources. Does anyone believe that the airline mechanics union has the same resources as the airline industry? With this decision I’m willing to wager heavily, there simply will never be another law passed granting workers greater rights or protections.

There are many other areas of law today that stand a good chance of being gutted by this decision. Will we see increases to the minimum wage if the senators purchased by the fast food industry and the big box stores say no? Will environmental laws protecting against dangerous chemical contaminants be even possible if the senators from the energy, mining and chemical companies stand against them?

How is it that corporations have come to be viewed as human? I’m currently a partner in two different corporations. These are business entities. They don’t breath, speak, vote or participate in public life. Congress, the peoples representatives, has spent the better part of the last century regulating corporate financial participation in election campaigns. Now five justices of the Supreme Court have blown off a century of their own legal presidents and Federal law and declared corporations free to operate with almost no restrictions?

And where are the fake populists we’ve become so used to seeing on our TV screens. The ones who’ve spent the last year fighting to keep government off the backs of the people in the health care debate. How come there’s no outcry from them? This is not a liberal or conservative issue – this a democracy issue. Most of the corporations I fear are multi-national. I have no reason to assume they feel any loyalty to the United States.

Some of the world’s largest and wealthiest banks were at the center of the recent global financial crisis. These banks will now be free to spend billions, yes billions if they choose ,to help elect congressional representatives willing to prevent any strong regulation. Which means we are in danger of leaving these banks to go right back to conducting business as was usual before we plunged into the great recession.

In my opinion, this decision by the Supreme Court is the worst since the Dred Scott decision, and it poses a grave danger to what we have come to understand as democracy in the US.

                          Larry Stopper is a partner in two corporations in the Commonwealth of Virginia.


  1. Thank you. This is an excellent essay. I hope people listen.

  2. Yes, it's Orwellian. The consequences you foresee are worse than I imagined. I haven't read the opinions -- just commentary -- but I can't understand how the Court could overlook, not merely precedent, but the PLAIN MEANING, the PLAIN PURPOSE of the 1st amendment, which is surely to ensure that a dominant power does not silence the voice of ordinary citizens, and that a democracy can flourish. I have always felt that Americans tend to equate capitalism with democracy and now the Supreme Court has confirmed this, essentially, by ruling that money is free speech. It is sick-making. And also, I suspect that there are not only free speech cases that will be affected by this ruling. It is so broad that I think it's going to affect a lot of constitutional law, including freedom of religion cases.

    I echo Luzilli: thank you for a superb essay.

  3. I'm sad to see such a dearth of interest in this issue (only 2 comments in a week). This doesn't bode well for the most logical response to this descision i.e. a constitutional ammendment declaring corpoations to be non-citzen legal entities with NO CONSTITUTIONAL rights. What rights they might enjoy would be directly specfified in state and federal laws governing their incorporation and their regulation; and possibly indirectly through their shareholders (such as protection from search and seizure of corporate/shareholder property w/o due process). In any case corporate freedom of speech or voting rights are both equally absurd. And if the gang of five flaunts such an ammendment they could and should be impeached.

  4. Those poor misunderstood supremes. There recent descision to create uber citizens who are at once more powerful than a locomotive, richer than Croesus, immortal and totally unburdened by a concience has been roundly blasted by the little people.
    This misunderstanding may have been fostered by their own attempt to justify this act with the ludicrous assertion that beings which can neither speak nor die for their country deserve constitutional protections to do so. (What's next free speech for dogs!)
    The true and unswerving purpose of this conservative court has ever been to make America free for the unhindered accumulation of wealth for every capitalist with means and willingness to forsake all other interest to go for it. After all, wasn't America founded on the priciples of Establishing a 5-justice junta to speak for the nation, providing commoners for the defense of economic imperialism, promoting corporate Welfare, and securing the Blessings of Laize Faire Capitalism for ourselves and our posterity (this last word is often misinterpreted by those outside the Orwellean oracles to refer to flesh and blood offspring. This misconception will soon be clarified by our omnipitent Orweleans as actually meaning subsidiaries.)
    Thus the true and previously misunderstood (by the layity and inferior jurists alike) goal of the founding fathers was to ultimately produce the perfect society in which one capitlist can acquire the entire wealth of the nation. As the perfect pentagarchy well knows this goal would have doubtless been achieved long ago but for the improvident intervention of activist Presidents such as Teddy Roosevelt. (Our constructionist cronies, being pure and conservative, loath and dispise activism. So to put the nation back on the one true path of unrestrained capitalism, they have picked up the torch dropped by unappointed generations and will endeavor to bear any logical or linguistic burden to create a sufficiently unlevel playing field as to oppose any foe of the free and unrestrained use of Capital. And isn't that the American Way!
    Now I don't mean ,as you might expect that our now talkative corporate citizens will simply hire propagandists to overwhelm "common" sense, to pursuade the masses to vote for this or that candidate. Greater efficiencies are in store. Consider the inefficiency of each corporation bribing each candidate over each issue near and dear to their hearts (uh...make that interests). Far better for trusts to by shares in a corporate candidate which is bound by its articles of incorporation to vote in proportion to the shares applied to the issue. (such a corporate candidate may require a clarification of letter of the constitutional regarding qualifications to serve in national office by our legal leiges; but the right ruling is only an appropriate test case away. And if none presents itself these supremes have been know to reinvent a cause of action to suit the purpose before.)
    So onward we shall go' into that brave new world with freedom of speech and constitutional protection for All... corporate entities.

  5. Ahh, that is so cute, and hilarious. Your essay is well written, if from a heavy, heavy progressive or liberal bias. I find it amusing you are worried about Corporate entities influencing congress into doing horrible things, but you are not worried about the government's at the time of this writing, attempted power grab. Now for the moment the government has the power to force you to buy stuff, if the law stands. I refer to the mandate requiring all citizens to buy health insurance, for which their only justification is the commerce clause. If that clause allows them to force activity in the marketplace, they could just as easily require you to buy a chevy, to help GM which is now owned by the government, and not making a profit. And as for airline industries, you forget something called COST which is where most money from most corporations go, they can only spend out of PROFITS, and even then at the discretion of a board of directors, and if a publicly traded company, under the eyes of the SEC. You should submit stuff like this to the Huffington Post though, they are about as biased as your essay and would probably pay you good money for stuff like this.



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