“With its ruling today, the Supreme Court 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.”
– President Barack Obama
“This activist and far reaching decision is even worse than we had feared. This opens the floodgates and allows special interest money to overflow our elections and undermine our democracy. The bottom line is, the Supreme Court has just predetermined the winners of next November’s election. It won’t be the Republican or the Democrats and it won’t be the American people; it will be Corporate America.”
-Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
As part of an organization that has spent the last twenty-five years successfully pushing America’s most powerful corporations to adopt more environmentally and socially responsible operating principles, today’s Supreme Court decision is heartbreaking to say the least.
Essentially, in today’s decision in Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission (FEC), the supreme court took the reins off corporate spending on advertisements to influence elections.
I suppose if the average person had millions to billions of dollars to spend in November’s mid-term elections than this would be a great decision for free speech and the voices of the people. Let’s get real. You and I are going to be watching corporations, Wall Street and other special interests run wild with their influence well protected by the safety blanket of the Supreme Court.
As the Washington Post explains the decision (in an admittedly more mild way): “It frees corporations, and by extension unions, to spend as much as they want to call for the victory or defeat of federal political candidates – by name – in commercials and literature. As long as there’s no coordination with the candidates or campaigns.”
The decision came by a 5-4 vote, and overturned a 20-year-old ruling barring such ads.
To put this in context, in the 2008 election the oil and gas industry spent over $35 million dollars in political contributions. The coal and oil industries are already holding our economy, our climate and our politicians hostage this just gives them a bigger gun. If you remember Big Coal’s 2008 ‘clean coal’ ad blitzes, I would say that is a vivid example of what we will see from now on, but imagine that on steroids.
The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) alone spent more than $4,650,000 lobbying the federal government in 2008. We have already seen the impact those contributions have had on our country’s ability to create good jobs, transition to a clean energy future and ambitiously address global warming.
It is clearer than ever that corporate interests rule on the most important issues of our time from health care to global warming.
So what should those of us working on social and environmental protections do now: we need to get bigger megaphones. As DSCC Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) put it: “Giving corporate interests an outsized role in our process will only mean citizens get heard less.”
I suppose we could take this as a sign that it’s time to throw in the towel, but what fun would that be?
Rainforest Action Network and allies like the Yes Men have had a long history of spoofing corporate advertisements to ensure that their hypocrisy is served up fresh and in their face. They may have more money, but we’re funnier. And all we have to do is tell the truth.
So, now is a good time to brush up on some billboard liberation and counter culture skills. Perhaps it’s even time to start a new group: “Citizens Committed to a Corporation’s Right Bear Arms.”