Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Republican Health "Alternative": Empowering Ourselves to Death

Original Link:

By Maya Schenwar

As Democratic Congress members fumble for the mythical health reform solution that will satisfy everyone and their insurance agent, many have accused Republicans of lacking a plan of their own.

They are mistaken. Hidden in the cobwebby depths of the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions lies the conservative answer to health care. It's a plan that would cost about $940 billion less than the House Democrats' bill, and cut deficit spending by tens of billions over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office - all while keeping large employers and insurance moguls happy as clams on subsidized Prozac.

The downside? It would leave more than 52 million nonelderly Americans uninsured. That's an improvement of roughly zero percent.

The legislation, ambitiously dubbed "The Empowering Patients First Act," was introduced by Rep. Tom Price, chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, in July. It has lately been resurrected as the paragon of reform done right by right-wing columnists, as well as conservative bastions such as the Heritage Foundation and the Christian Coalition.

The Empowering Patients bill would grant tax credits to people purchasing insurance - not much use to unemployed and low-income Americans. It would allow health insurance companies to sell policies across state lines, knocking off state oversight of insurers.

The legislation would not require that employers offer coverage, nor would it impose regulations preventing insurance companies from cherry picking healthy clients.
It would require that no federal funds be used to pay for abortions unless "the pregnancy endangers a women's life or was the result of forcible rape."

And, to help fund the minimal expense of the bill, it would instate "medical liability reforms" that would force down the cost of compensation for malpractice lawsuits and make it harder for patients to sue for injuries incurred during treatment.

Feeling empowered yet?

"[The bill] would be compatible with Americans' core values and enhance - not reduce - the role of personal responsibility," insisted a Heritage Foundation memo. "It would foster key principles that are at the foundation of the American political tradition."

In a way, Heritage has a point. It's true that, traditionally, this country has left many of its people helpless in the face of illness, disability and chronic conditions. It's true that our government has, thus far, largely thrust health care into the realm of "personal responsibility," letting 45,000 Americans die each year simply because they lack insurance.

But are those really America's core values? Whatever happened to caring for the wretched refuse of our teeming shores? More importantly, what about the fact that, according to multiple polls, a majority of Americans support a universal, Medicare-for-all health system?

A late December article in the New England Journal of Medicine argued that expanding health coverage is absolutely in line with "American values":

Our discussion about health care reform is enriched ... when we recognize that a value such as "liberty," though it surely includes the freedom to choose a physician - and the freedom for physicians to choose their practice setting and patients - also encompasses more than that. Under our current system, a young entrepreneur with a brilliant idea for a new business, a creative vision that can create jobs and wealth, can't necessarily follow that vision: if this person has a job at a large firm that provides good health insurance and has a child or a spouse with a chronic illness, the aspiring entrepreneur's freedom to pursue his or her dream is severely limited by the "job lock" imposed by our current patchwork of health insurance.

Even the Declaration of Independence would agree: Liberty is not much good without its sidekicks, "life" and the "pursuit of happiness" - both of which are tough to achieve if you're sick or dead.

The Empowering Patients First Act - and the whole concept of a conservative "alternative" to health reform - is a philosophical farce. In order to foster real empowerment, we must make health care coverage easily accessible, so Americans can get busy doing other things with their lives - things that are more creative, more fun and more useful to society than shopping for unaffordable health care.

Instead of insisting that Republicans have no "alternate plan," Democratic Congress members and President Obama need to emphasize the very real difference in priorities at stake. As with health care itself, health reform should not be sold as a product; it should be explained as a basic right - even an "American value."
A basic right cannot be abandoned because of convoluted political calculations, or because Congressional morale is down, or because cable news viewers have had enough of it for one season and would rather be checking out the situation on MTV's "Jersey Shore."

President Obama and Congressional Democrats must not apologize for continuing their push for reform.
Instead, keeping in mind the terrifying "alternative vision" that conservatives have in store, Democrats must stress the value of insuring as many Americans as possible, granting them the liberty to lead healthy, productive lives.

This means passing a clean reconciliation bill that retains the core elements of reform, including a public option, Medicaid expansion and tough insurance market regulations.
It also means keeping the goal of a single-payer system - the true "empowerment plan" - in the public consciousness.

If we let conservatives usurp the rhetoric of liberty, freedom, empowerment and responsibility, we risk ending up "liberated" from our health insurance (and our libraries, schools, roads, post offices and scenic, side-of-the-road historic monuments).

Patients: empower yourselves! Push this country toward the kind of health care that frees you to get the treatment you need, regardless of how much is in your bank account.

The Devastating Decision

Original Link:

By Ronald Dworkin

Against the opposition of their four colleagues, five right-wing Supreme Court justices have now guaranteed that big corporations can spend unlimited funds on political advertising in any political election. In an opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy and joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas, the Court overruled established precedents and declared dozens of national and state statutes unconstitutional, including the McCain-Feingold Act, which forbade corporate or union television advertising that endorses or opposes a particular candidate.

This appalling decision, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, was quickly denounced by President Obama as “devastating”; he said that it “strikes at our democracy itself.” In his State of the Union speech of January 27, he said, “Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests—including foreign corporations—to spend without limit in our elections.” He is right: the decision will further weaken the quality and fairness of our politics.

The Court has given lobbyists, already much too powerful, a nuclear weapon. Some lawyers have predicted that corporations will not take full advantage of it: they will want to keep their money for their business. But that would still permit carefully targeted threats. What legislator tempted to vote for health care reform or Obama’s banking reorganization would be indifferent to the prospect that his reelection campaign could be swamped in a tsunami of expensive negative advertising? How many corporations fearful of environmental or product liability litigation would pass up the chance to tip the balance in a state judicial election?

On the most generous understanding the decision displays the five justices’ instinctive favoritism of corporate interests. But some commentators, including The New York Times, have suggested a darker interpretation. The five justices may have assumed that allowing corporations to spend freely against candidates would favor Republicans; perhaps they overruled long-established laws and precedents out of partisan zeal. If so, their decision would stand beside the Court’s 2000 decision in Bush v. Gore as an unprincipled political act with terrible consequences for the nation.

We should notice not just the bad consequences of the decision, however, but the poor quality of the arguments Justice Kennedy offered to defend it. The conservative justices savaged canons of judicial restraint they themselves have long praised. Chief Justice Roberts takes every opportunity to repeat what he said, under oath, in his Senate nomination hearings: that the Supreme Court should avoid declaring any statute unconstitutional unless it cannot decide the case before it in any other way. Now consider how shamelessly he and the other justices who voted with the majority ignored that constraint in their haste to declare the McCain-Feingold Act unconstitutional in time for the coming midterm elections.

Citizens United, a small nonprofit corporation almost entirely financed by individual contributions, had made a very negative film about Hillary Clinton. It asked the Court only to rule that its method of distributing that film, on a video-on-demand service, was not outlawed by the Act. It offered several arguments, some of them plausible, for interpreting the Act that way. So the Court did not have to decide whether to overrule the Act: it could have agreed with Citizens United while reserving that larger question. But after they first heard arguments in the case, the five justices declared that they wanted, on their own initiative, to consider declaring the Act unconstitutional. They introduced that unnecessary issue themselves and then scheduled an emergency special hearing during the summer so that they could strike down the statute as quickly as possible.

Justice Kennedy, in his opinion for the 5-4 majority, tried to explain why that was necessary. It would have been possible, he conceded, to interpret the McCain-Feingold Act’s prohibition of corporate “broadcast, cable, or satellite” electioneering that is “publicly distributed” as not applying to video-on-demand TV. But he declined this strategy because transmission technology could be expected to change, so that the Court would be required to revisit the issue time and time again. He did not explain why the Court could not have drafted a general principle interpreting the statute to guide future decisions as technology develops, as it has in so many other cases. For example, the Court’s doctrine of “reasonable expectation of privacy” is designed to adapt to evolving technology of surveillance and spying.

The conservative justices also had to overrule two of the Court’s prior decisions—its 1990 Austin and 2003 McConnell decisions. In his Senate hearings, Roberts declared his great respect for judicial precedent: he said that just because he thought that an earlier Court decision had been wrongly decided or poorly argued would be no reason to overrule it. It would have to have proved unworkable or its basis in principle would have to have been eroded by other intervening decisions. Kennedy offered no evidence that restrictions on corporate electioneering had proved unworkable, which is not surprising because such restrictions had been in place since 1907.

Instead he argued that the two decisions were themselves inconsistent with other precedents. But as Justice John Paul Stevens pointed out in his long and impressive dissenting opinion, Kennedy was able to cite only one past decision actually to that point: the Court’s 1978 Bellotti decision, in which it in fact denied what Kennedy takes it to have held. “Our consideration of a corporation’s right to speak on issues of general public interest,” the Court stated in that case, “implies no comparable right in the quite different context of participation in a political campaign for election to public office.” Kennedy disregarded that clear statement because, he said, it occurred in “a single footnote.” But that is a natural place for a clarification; and Kennedy’s suggested distinction between text and note is entirely novel. Some of the Court’s footnotes have proved much more important than the decisions to which they were attached.

The main theoretical flaw in Kennedy’s opinion is different, however. The opinion announces and perpetuates a shallow, simplistic understanding of the First Amendment, one that actually undermines one of the most basic purposes of free speech, which is to protect democracy. The nerve of his argument—-that corporations must be treated like real people under the First Amendment—is in my view preposterous. Corporations are legal fictions. They have no opinions of their own to contribute and no rights to participate with equal voice or vote in politics.

Kennedy’s opinion left Americans very little room to protect themselves against this further degradation of their democracy. But it did leave some. He acknowledged that the ruling does not prevent Congress from requiring reasonable disclosures and disclaimers in corporate advertising. I believe Congress should require a prominent statement in every such ad disclosing any corporate sponsors and declaring that their support represents the opinion of the corporation’s officers, who have a duty to promote the corporation’s own interests, and not necessarily the opinion of any of their shareholders who are actually paying for the ad.

I hope to discuss this and other suggestions for legislation—as well as the poor quality of the arguments offered by Justice Kennedy, and the potential consequences of the decision—in more detail in a future issue of The New York Review.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Citizens United upholds institutional corruption

Original Link:

By Aminu Gamawa

What started as a 90-minute political campaign documentary against then- presidential candidate Hilary Clinton ended in the Supreme Court with a decision that was described by some critics as one of the worst since Dred Scot. “Hillary: The Movie,” was produced by Citizens United, a conservative nonprofit, as part of its campaign against the former democratic presidential aspirant, and was released during the Democratic presidential primaries in 2008.

The judgment, which relaxes the restriction on power of the corporations to directly spend on advertising during federal elections, was described by Harvard law Professor Lawrence Lessig as “proverbial fuel on the fire”. He notes that the issue is not whether corporations are silenced or their First Amendment right to free speech upheld. More importantly, the outcome is an assault on democracy, capable of promoting a system that will further erode the public trust in their elected officers. Lessig cautioned that decision would undermine the participation of the citizens in the democratic process and that it gives unfair advantage to corporations, whose financial prowess will give them a stronger voice than the electorate.

Lessig heads Harvard’s Safra Center for Ethics, which studies the intersection between politics, interest groups and corruption in the U.S. politics. As part of the reading for a course convened by the program, I came across a very interesting article by an expert on political corruption, Zephyr Rain Teachout (found in the Cornell Law Review, Vol. 94, No. 341, 2009, for those who are interested), which I found very relevant to the Court’s decision in Citizens United.

Teachout writes that the Framers of the Constitution were obsessed with corruption and saw it as one of the greatest threats to democracy. They designed the system in such a way that corrupt leaders will not only loose their positions, but also their reputation. The Founding Fathers built mechanisms into the Constitution to safeguard democracy by ensuring transparency, accountability and citizens’ participation in the political process. The independence of the political office holders from other special interests was of paramount importance to the Framers.

Teachout writes that “corruption was discussed more often in the constitutional convention than factions, violence, or instability. It was a topic of concern on almost a quarter of the days that the members convened. Madison recorded the specific term corruption fifty-four times, and the vast majority of the corruption discussions were spearheaded by influential delegates Madison, Moris, Mason, and Wilson. The attendees were concerned about the corrupting influence of wealth, greed, and ambition.” It is not an overstatement to say that the Framers actually saw the Constitution as an instrument to fight corruption.

The Framers defined political corruption to include “self-serving use of public power for private ends, including, without limitation, bribery, public decisions to serve private wealth made because of dependent relationships, public decisions to serve executive power made because of dependent relationships, and use by public officials of their positions of power to become wealthy”.

Their efforts to curb corruption in the political process is visible in issues including the regulation of elections, term limits, limits on holding multiple offices, limitations on accepting foreign gifts, the veto power, the impeachment clause, and provisions for the separation of powers, among other measures, with a view to ensure that leaders represent the interest of their constituency and not personal interests. In the words of Teachout, “taking seriously the architecture [of the Constitution] requires more than passing knowledge of what motivated the choice of architecture. Political corruption is context without which other specific words don't make sense; it is embodied in the text itself through other words that can’t be understood without understanding corruption”.

History has shown that when leaders put their self-interest above those who elected them, it undermines the trust of the people in the process and inevitably leads to collapse of the democratic system. The Roman and Greek empires are classic examples. The danger of democracies leaving political corruption unchecked is succinctly captured by Teachout: “voters will stop voting, people will stop running for office, and citizens will stop making serious efforts to read news and understand the public issues of their day, because they will believe that such efforts are futile,” she writes.

In McConnell v. FEC, 540 U.S. 93, which the Court overturned in Citizens United, the Court had made the following powerful comments:

“Just as troubling to a functioning democracy as classic quid pro quo corruption is the danger that officeholders will decide issues not on the merits or the desires of their constituencies, but according to the wishes of those who have made large financial contributions valued by the office holder. Even if it occurs only occasionally, the potential for such undue influence is manifest. And unlike straight cash-for-votes transactions, such corruption is neither easily detected nor practical to criminalize. The best means to prevention is to identify and remove the temptation.”

Ignoring the threat of corruption to democracy is, therefore, a serious problem that cannot be taken lightly. I agree with Teachout when she writes that “internal decay of our political life due to power-and-wealth seeking by representatives and elites is a major and constant threat to our democracy. History provides some powerful tools to allow us incorporate the anti-corruption principle into the constitutional law of democracy. We should pay attention to it”. The recent decision of the Supreme Court ignores this history, undermining the Constitution’s efforts to curb corruption at the highest level.

The 5-4 conservative majority decision was delivered by Justice Anthony Kennedy ’61, and concurred in by Justice Samuel Alito, Chief Justice John Roberts ’79, Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Antonin Scalia ’60. Justice Sonia Sotomayor began her Supreme Court career with a dissent. She joined four other liberal justices in disagreeing with the majority decision. The dissenting judgment delivered by Justice Stevens severely criticized the majority court for ignoring the dangerous consequence of the decision on democracy:

“At bottom, the Court's opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics,” Justice Stevens wrote.

The decision overruled a decade of precedent laid down in McConnell, a 2003 decision that upheld the part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, which restricted campaign spending by corporations and unions, as well as Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, 494 U.S. 652, a 1990 decision that upheld restrictions on corporate spending to support or oppose political candidates.

In his weekly address on Saturday, President Barack Obama ’91 criticized the decision as “a huge victory to the special interests and their lobbyists”. The President expressed his disappointment with the ruling, saying that he could not “think of anything more devastating to the public interest. The last thing we need to do is hand more influence to the lobbyists in Washington, or more power to the special interests to tip the outcome of elections”. He noted that even foreign corporations would now have say in U.S. politics; candidates that disagreed with corporations would come under serious attack from the corporations during election.

Obama went on to observe that “all of us, regardless of party, should be worried that it will be that much harder to get fair, common-sense financial reforms, or close unwarranted tax loopholes that reward corporations from sheltering their income or shipping American jobs offshore”. He also cautioned that the decision makes it “more difficult to pass common-sense laws” to promote energy independence or expand health care.

The danger is clear!

The competition will now be intense among the corporations to producing the highest number of Senators and Representatives. Doesn’t this undermine the role of the public in the American democracy? Can individuals’ contribution to candidates now count in the campaign process? Will this be the last Congress that is truly elected by the people? How much would this decision contributing in promoting institutional corruption? I am sure most politicians will be more concerned about pleasing the corporations than their constituencies. It will be dangerous for any of them to fall out with the corporations.

American democracy has been a model to many countries across the globe. But the recent decision by the Supreme Court legalizing direct corporate participation which over turn a time revered restriction on the corporation is a worrisome development that deserve concern of anyone that is interested in American democracy’s future. Citizens United has introduced a new era in the U.S. politics.

The Constitution’s “We the People” has gradually become “We the Corporations”. Equating corporations with human beings undoubtedly undermines the participation of individual citizens in the political process. Election into political office under the new regime will largely depend on having the highest donation from the corporations. Corporations and their interests, which sometimes include interest of foreign nationals, will now have the strongest voice in the U.S. politics.

It will not be surprising to see Blackwater, Wal-Mart, Exxon and other corporations being better represented in Congress than citizens, whose interest and participation the Constitution seeks to preserve. This is an unwelcome development that anyone concerned about preserving the U.S.’ long-cherished democracy must oppose.

The matter of democratic integrity, transparency and accountability transcends the usual liberal/conservative or Democrat/Republican divide. It is an assault on democracy and negation of the text and original understanding of the Constitution as understood by the Founding Fathers, who strived to craft a document that would preserve democracy by protecting the interest of the electorate over and above other interests.

One might ask if there is anything Congress can do. Even before the decision was announced, an advocacy group called Change Congress was working to pursue the passage of a bipartisan bill called the Fair Elections Now Act. The bill is sponsored by congress men Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Arlen Specter (R-PA), and Reps. John Larson (D-CT) and Walter Jones (R-NC).

“Under this legislation, congressional candidates who raise a threshold number of small-dollar donations would qualify for a chunk of funding—several hundred thousand dollars for House, millions for many Senate races. If they accept this funding, they can’t raise big-dollar donations. But they can raise contributions up to $100, which would be matched four to one by a central fund. A reduced fee for TV airtime is also an element of this bill. This would create an incentive for politicians to opt into this system and run people-powered campaigns.”

President Obama said that he has instructed his advisers to work with Congress on a forceful, bipartisan response. In a New York Times op-ed, David D. Kirkpatrick wrote that because of the enormous threat of this decision to democracy, some members of Congress are working hard to introduce new laws that will, cure the defect by either

• Imposing a ban political advertising by corporations that hire lobbyists, receive government money, or collect most of their revenue abroad;

• Tightening rules against coordination between campaigns and outside groups so that, for example, they could not hire the same advertising firms or consultants; or

• Requiring shareholder approval of political expenditures, or even forcing chief executives to appear as sponsors of commercials their companies pay for.

What is really necessary need, as Professor Lessig puts it, is an alternative, “Not the alternative that tries to silence any speaker but an alternative that allows us to believe once again that our government is guided by reason or judgment or even just the politics of the people in a district and not by the need to raise money.”

Democracy in America Is a Useful Fiction

Original Link:

By Chris Hedges

Corporate forces, long before the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, carried out a coup d'état in slow motion. The coup is over. We lost. The ruling is one more judicial effort to streamline mechanisms for corporate control. It exposes the myth of a functioning democracy and the triumph of corporate power. But it does not significantly alter the political landscape. The corporate state is firmly cemented in place.

The fiction of democracy remains useful, not only for corporations, but for our bankrupt liberal class. If the fiction is seriously challenged, liberals will be forced to consider actual resistance, which will be neither pleasant nor easy. As long as a democratic facade exists, liberals can engage in an empty moral posturing that requires little sacrifice or commitment. They can be the self-appointed scolds of the Democratic Party, acting as if they are part of the debate and feel vindicated by their cries of protest.

Much of the outrage expressed about the court's ruling is the outrage of those who prefer this choreographed charade. As long as the charade is played, they do not have to consider how to combat what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin calls our system of "inverted totalitarianism."

Inverted totalitarianism represents "the political coming of age of corporate power and the political demobilization of the citizenry," Wolin writes in "Democracy Incorporated." Inverted totalitarianism differs from classical forms of totalitarianism, which revolve around a demagogue or charismatic leader, and finds its expression in the anonymity of the corporate state. The corporate forces behind inverted totalitarianism do not, as classical totalitarian movements do, boast of replacing decaying structures with a new, revolutionary structure. They purport to honor electoral politics, freedom and the Constitution. But they so corrupt and manipulate the levers of power as to make democracy impossible.

Inverted totalitarianism is not conceptualized as an ideology or objectified in public policy. It is furthered by "power-holders and citizens who often seem unaware of the deeper consequences of their actions or inactions," Wolin writes. But it is as dangerous as classical forms of totalitarianism. In a system of inverted totalitarianism, as this court ruling illustrates, it is not necessary to rewrite the Constitution, as fascist and communist regimes do. It is enough to exploit legitimate power by means of judicial and legislative interpretation. This exploitation ensures that huge corporate campaign contributions are protected speech under the First Amendment. It ensures that heavily financed and organized lobbying by large corporations is interpreted as an application of the people's right to petition the government. The court again ratified the concept that corporations are persons, except in those cases where the "persons" agree to a "settlement." Those within corporations who commit crimes can avoid going to prison by paying large sums of money to the government while, according to this twisted judicial reasoning, not "admitting any wrongdoing." There is a word for this. It is called corruption.

Corporations have 35,000 lobbyists in Washington and thousands more in state capitals that dole out corporate money to shape and write legislation. They use their political action committees to solicit employees and shareholders for donations to fund pliable candidates. The financial sector, for example, spent more than $5 billion on political campaigns, influence peddling and lobbying during the past decade, which resulted in sweeping deregulation, the gouging of consumers, our global financial meltdown and the subsequent looting of the U.S. Treasury. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America spent $26 million last year and drug companies such as Pfizer, Amgen and Eli Lilly kicked in tens of millions more to buy off the two parties. These corporations have made sure our so-called health reform bill will force us to buy their predatory and defective products. The oil and gas industry, the coal industry, defense contractors and telecommunications companies have thwarted the drive for sustainable energy and orchestrated the steady erosion of civil liberties. Politicians do corporate bidding and stage hollow acts of political theater to keep the fiction of the democratic state alive.

There is no national institution left that can accurately be described as democratic. Citizens, rather than participate in power, are allowed to have virtual opinions to preordained questions, a kind of participatory fascism as meaningless as voting on "American Idol." Mass emotions are directed toward the raging culture wars. This allows us to take emotional stands on issues that are inconsequential to the power elite.

Our transformation into an empire, as happened in ancient Athens and Rome, has seen the tyranny we practice abroad become the tyranny we practice at home. We, like all empires, have been eviscerated by our own expansionism. We utilize weapons of horrific destructive power, subsidize their development with billions in taxpayer dollars, and are the world's largest arms dealer. And the Constitution, as Wolin notes, is "conscripted to serve as power's apprentice rather than its conscience."

"Inverted totalitarianism reverses things," Wolin writes. "It is politics all of the time but a politics largely untempered by the political. Party squabbles are occasionally on public display, and there is a frantic and continuous politics among factions of the party, interest groups, competing corporate powers, and rival media concerns. And there is, of course, the culminating moment of national elections when the attention of the nation is required to make a choice of personalities rather than a choice between alternatives. What is absent is the political, the commitment to finding where the common good lies amidst the welter of well-financed, highly organized, single-minded interests rabidly seeking governmental favors and overwhelming the practices of representative government and public administration by a sea of cash."

Hollywood, the news industry and television, all corporate controlled, have become instruments of inverted totalitarianism. They censor or ridicule those who critique or challenge corporate structures and assumptions. They saturate the airwaves with manufactured controversy, whether it is Tiger Woods or the dispute between Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien. They manipulate images to make us confuse how we are made to feel with knowledge, which is how Barack Obama became president. And the draconian internal control employed by the Department of Homeland Security, the military and the police over any form of popular dissent, coupled with the corporate media's censorship, does for inverted totalitarianism what thugs and bonfires of books do in classical totalitarian regimes.

"It seems a replay of historical experience that the bias displayed by today's media should be aimed consistently at the shredded remains of liberalism," Wolin writes. "Recall that an element common to most 20th century totalitarianism, whether Fascist or Stalinist, was hostility towards the left. In the United States, the left is assumed to consist solely of liberals, occasionally of 'the left wing of the Democratic Party,' never of democrats."

Liberals, socialists, trade unionists, independent journalists and intellectuals, many of whom were once important voices in our society, have been silenced or targeted for elimination within corporate-controlled academia, the media and government. Wolin, who taught at Berkeley and later at Princeton, is arguably the country's foremost political philosopher. And yet his book was virtually ignored. This is also why Ralph Nader, Dennis Kucinich and Cynthia McKinney, along with intellectuals like Noam Chomsky, are not given a part in our national discourse.

The uniformity of opinion is reinforced by the skillfully orchestrated mass emotions of nationalism and patriotism, which paints all dissidents as "soft" or "unpatriotic." The "patriotic" citizen, plagued by fear of job losses and possible terrorist attacks, unfailingly supports widespread surveillance and the militarized state. This means no questioning of the $1 trillion in defense-related spending. It means that the military and intelligence agencies are held above government, as if somehow they are not part of government. The most powerful instruments of state power and control are effectively removed from public discussion. We, as imperial citizens, are taught to be contemptuous of government bureaucracy, yet we stand like sheep before Homeland Security agents in airports and are mute when Congress permits our private correspondence and conversations to be monitored and archived. We endure more state control than at any time in American history.

The civic, patriotic and political language we use to describe ourselves remains unchanged. We pay fealty to the same national symbols and iconography. We find our collective identity in the same national myths. We continue to deify the Founding Fathers. But the America we celebrate is an illusion. It does not exist. Our government and judiciary have no real sovereignty. Our press provides diversion, not information. Our organs of security and power keep us as domesticated and as fearful as most Iraqis. Capitalism, as Karl Marx understood, when it emasculates government, becomes a revolutionary force. And this revolutionary force, best described as inverted totalitarianism, is plunging us into a state of neo-feudalism, perpetual war and severe repression. The Supreme Court decision is part of our transformation by the corporate state from citizens to prisoners.

Does Fox News coverage = GOP campaign contribution?

Original Link:

By Eric Boehlert

With its open and aggressive cheerleading -- not to mention on-air fundraising -- for Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown last week, Fox News crossed yet another threshold in its unabashed transformation into a purely political entity. Now completely turning its back on producing any semblance of independent journalism, Fox News eagerly flaunts its role as GOP kingmaker.

That relentlessly partisan approach continues to raise fundamental questions about what role Fox News plays in our political culture and, thanks to its shameless GOP boosterism, whether the cable channel and its programming should fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Election Commission. Meaning, does Fox News' gung-ho GOP campaign coverage double as a contribution to the Republican Party, a contribution that should be regulated?

The Commission defines "contribution" to include any gift of money or "anything of value" made for the express purpose of influencing a federal election. A key Commission exemption for decades, though, has been granted to the news media, since they have been seen as "neutral" and not controlled by political interests. Therefore their editorial product could not be considered a "contribution" or "expenditure" to any campaign.

The exemption was created, in the words of the Commission, to ensure "the unfettered right of the newspapers, TV networks, and other media to cover and comment on political campaigns," which makes perfect sense, since there's nothing wrong with newspapers endorsing candidates or columnists berating incumbents. The exception has allowed journalists (and more recently bloggers) to report and pontificate about campaigns without having to worry about federal finance laws and whether their editorial efforts cross the line into candidate contributions.

That approach worked well because for decades there has been both a spoken and unspoken understanding among professional journalists as to what kind of guidelines and standards ought to be upheld in the pursuit of the news. That was especially true of cable and network news broadcasters, who wield so much influence in our TV-centric culture.

As former Federal Communications Commission chairman Reed Hundt once wrote:

Part of this tradition is that broadcasters do not show propaganda for any candidate, no matter how much a station owner may personally favor one or dislike the other. Broadcasters understand that they have a special and conditional role in public discourse... Virtually all broadcasters understand and honor it.

But as we've been stressing for the past year, the radically transformed Fox News no longer plays by any discernable rules. I mean, allowing one candidate, on the eve of a special election, to repeatedly raise funds on the air? That's unthinkable in any other newsroom in America. Yet that's the platform Fox News opened to Scott Brown in his quest to defeat Martha Coakley in Massachusetts last week. That is, when Fox News wasn't regularly smearing Coakley.

So the question must now be raised: Is Fox News' relentlessly one-sided coverage the equivalent of a massive campaign contribution to the GOP? And based on some recent regulatory language used by the FEC, the answer might just be "yes."

This type of issue has been raised in the past. For instance, in 2004, the National Republican Congressional Committee filed a complaint with the FEC accusing two co-hosts at Los Angeles' KFI-AM of "criminal behavior," claiming they were attacking Republican Congressman David Dreier while endorsing his Democratic opponent.

Following that same 2004 campaign season, the conservative Center for Individual Freedom filed a complaint with the FEC, claiming that CBS's controversial report on President Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard (i.e. Memogate) constituted an "illegal expenditure" on CBS's part to Sen. John Kerry's campaign because the network knowingly aired a false broadcast intended to curtail Bush's re-election bid.

The Commission swatted those complaints away because for decades it has given a wide berth to who qualifies for the media exemption, specifically allowing outlets to remain eligible "without regard to whether programming is biased or balanced," insisting that approach falls within "legitimate press function."

Frankly, I think most people -- and certainly most journalists -- would prefer to keep federal authorities out of newsrooms. They'd prefer not to have the government involved in making editorial judgments in terms of who's a journalist and who is not. (One of the beauties of journalism has always been that no higher authority makes that call.) And honestly, prior to Fox News' relentless, and unapologetic, partisan campaign on behalf of Scott Brown, I had always sort of shrugged off the suggestion that any form of biased news coverage or punditocracy doubled as a "contribution" or should be regulated by the government.

And I certainly didn't think much when conservative writers last year raised the dark specter of the Obama administration unleashing the FEC on Fox News, and alleged that that's why the White House criticized Murdoch's channel and labeled it illegitimate -- so the FEC could swoop in to "stifle speech" the government doesn't like. (I don't see any evidence that that's the case.)

But now I'm having second thoughts, simply because of how dramatically Fox News has ramped up its obvious pro-GOP campaign coverage just within the last couple of months. Recall that in November, Fox News pushed a handful of Republican and conservative candidates in New Jersey, Virginia, and New York. The openly one-sided coverage, in which Fox News hosts and analysts urged viewers to donate, volunteer, and vote for the featured candidates, ran counter to every conceivable journalism doctrine. (Surprise!)

Honestly, the November coverage paled in comparison to last week's Fox News GOP orgy, where the cable outlet pushed Brown's candidacy incessantly -- as well as exclusively -- and then celebrated his win just as fanatically.

If Fox News made such a huge leap between last November and this January, imagine what Fox News' programming will look like this coming autumn, when the entire House of Representatives is up for re-election, as is one-third of the Senate. In other words, the Brown production was merely a (tame?) preview of what's to come. Fox News obviously liked what it saw with the Brown victory, and if it's not already collectively drunk with kingmaking power, it will soon become completely inebriated, and its relentless pro-Brown campaign will likely look reserved come November. And the "contributions" will be almost too many to count.

Which brings us back to the point Media Matters has been stressing for months, and which the serious media elites have been slow to acknowledge: Fox News is the Opposition Party. Period. And that's why Fox News ought to no longer qualify for the FEC's media exemption. That's why Fox News' cheerleading-on-steroids for Republican candidates obliterates all previous guidelines set by the Commission.

Note that in March 2006, the FEC moved to include bloggers, and others doing online activism, to be part of the established media exemption. Even though individual blog sites might be uniformly partisan, that didn't mean their content represented an expenditure to the bloggers' favorite candidates or political party. The FEC used its standard criteria and ruled that because blogs were "neutral," meaning they were not controlled or owned by a political entity, they shouldn't be subject to federal campaign finance regulation.

So, because Fox News is "neutral" and is not owned by a political entity (although you could certainly argue it's controlled by the GOP), then it has free reign in terms of the media exemption, and is free to transform itself into GOP Central and the FEC shouldn't say boo, right? Case closed, correct?

Not quite.

Let's look at the case of the recent start-up company Melothe Inc., which petitioned the FEC for a press exemption. Melothe described itself as a Web-based TV station that would go inside the campaigns of Democratic candidates and provide Web video and programming that would be of special interest to Democrats and progressives.

But Melothe did not qualify for the exemption, as explained in a November 13, 2008, memorandum, signed by FEC's general counsel. Even though the FEC and the courts have used a very liberal definition of "press entity" for the exemption, the Commission ruled that Melothe did not qualify because it would essentially be indistinguishable from the interests of its chosen candidates.

Sound familiar?

See if the highlighted passages below from the FEC memo remind you of a certain "fair and balanced" cable channel:

Melothe, Inc. proposes to work with the campaigns of only Democratic candidates and, potentially, only one candidate of that party. The commission recognizes that lack of objectivity is news and commentary does not automatically disqualify an entity from coming within the press exemption. ... Here, however, the featured campaign's message would be indistinguishable from that of Melothe, Inc. itself, indicating it would function not as a press entity but a press arm of the candidate's campaign.


Melothe, Inc.'s proposal, however, further indicates that Melothe, Inc. intends to engage in core campaign activities that are not legitimate press functions. Melothe, Inc envisions that program hosts, interviewers and news anchors will regularly solicit contributions, with links to the candidate's contribution page appearing on the screen during programming. ... In these respects Melothe, Inc. would be functioning not as a press entity but as a fundraising arm of its chosen campaign.

The FEC's conclusion:

Here, the Commission finds that the purpose of the venture would be to actively participate in the chosen campaign's activities, to promote the chosen candidate and the campaign's message, and to solicit money and support on behalf of that candidate. This purpose and function cannot be viewed as normal business activity of a press entity.

If you weren't already aware, Fox News pretty much did all those things on behalf of Scott Brown.

The FEC made the correct, sensible decision in 2006 when it extended its media exemption to include bloggers, even though many of them broadcast a proud partisan voice online. There's nothing wrong with a strong editorial voice. What Fox News is doing today, however, goes so far beyond broadcasting an editorial voice, skating so close to GOP campaign management, that it should no longer enjoy the distinction of a media exemption.

Indeed, with its radical transformation into a purely political entity, Fox News has changed the rules governing politics and the press. It's time for the FEC to recognize that, look at Fox News with a fresh set of eyes, and act accordingly.

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by NiceguyEddie (January 26, 2010 9:01 am ET) 7 6
You raise some interesting points. You'll be hard pressed to find a more ardent defender of free speech than me, nor many people who despise Fox, Murdoch, Ailies, O'Rielly, Beck, Hennity, Hume, etc... more than I do. But this is not really a partisan or even political problem.

As you point out, someone who wanted to do the same thing for the Democrats was not granted the requested exemption. I'm not sure if that was the right decision or not, nor do I fully understand the implications of that decision on that organization. They can't STOP them from broadcasting, right? So... What limits WILL they have placed on them? Particularly in light of the recent Supreme Court decsision, which will no doubt serve as the precedent should the hypothetical Fox vs. FEC ever be taken that far.

And, while I may not agree with the decision in Melothe's case, it should be obvious to any prinipled observer that the same rules must apply to all, and thus the case is at least open to brand Fox a political, rather than a news organization. And while the con's can cry about the "liberal media" all day long, never once citing any examples that come anywhere near what Fox did for Brown (or Bush, or McCain, or Palin, etc...) how long will it be before a future, hypothetical REPUBLICAN President wants to open the case on Olbermann, Maddow & Schultz and "regulate" (silence?) them in the months leading up to the an election? The logic may be applied erroniously in that case, but the Roberts court has shown an almost sycophantic pandering to the Right, so I son't put anything past them at this point.

As much as I'd LOVE to weaken Fox, I'm still not sure this is really appropriate. I guess, if the case were made and won, WHAT WOULD IT MEAN FOR FOX? And what would the CONSTITUTIONAL ramifications be?

Supreme Court Ruling Spurs Corporation Run for Congress

Original Link:

Corporations are people too!

Following the recent Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission to allow unlimited corporate funding of federal campaigns, Murray Hill Inc. today announced it was filing to run for U.S. Congress and released its first campaign video on

“Until now,” Murray Hill Inc. said in a statement, “corporate interests had to rely on campaign contributions and influence peddling to achieve their goals in Washington. But thanks to an enlightened Supreme Court, now we can eliminate the middle-man and run for office ourselves.”

Murray Hill Inc. is believed to be the first “corporate person” to exercise its constitutional right to run for office. As Supreme Court observer Lyle Denniston wrote in his SCOTUSblog, “If anything, the decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission conferred new dignity on corporate “persons,” treating them — under the First Amendment free-speech clause — as the equal of human beings.”

Murray Hill Inc. agrees. “The strength of America,” Murray Hill Inc. says, “is in the boardrooms, country clubs and Lear jets of America’s great corporations. We’re saying to Wal-Mart, AIG and Pfizer, if not you, who? If not now, when?”

Murray Hill Inc. plans on spending “top dollar” to protect its investment. “It’s our democracy,” Murray Hill Inc. says, “We bought it, we paid for it, and we’re going to keep it.”

Murray Hill Inc., a diversifying corporation in the Washington, D.C. area, has long held an interest in politics and sees corporate candidacy as an emerging new market.

The campaign’s designated human, Eric Hensal, will help the corporation conform to antiquated “human only” procedures and sign the necessary voter registration and candidacy paperwork. Hensal is excited by this new opportunity. “We want to get in on the ground floor of the democracy market before the whole store is bought by China.”

Murray Hill Inc. plans on filing to run in the Republican primary in Maryland’s 8th Congressional District. Campaign Manager William Klein promises an aggressive, historic campaign that “puts people second” or even third.

“The business of America is business, as we all know,” Klein says. “But now, it’s the business of democracy too.” Klein plans to use automated robo-calls, “Astroturf” lobbying and computer-generated avatars to get out the vote.

This corruption in Washington is smothering America's future

Original Link:

By Johann Hari

How do you regulate banks effectively, if the Senate is owned by Wall Street?

This week, a disaster hit the United States, and the after-shocks will be shaking and breaking global politics for years. It did not grab the same press attention as the fall of liberal Kennedy-licking Massachusetts to a pick-up truck Republican, or President Obama's first State of the Union address, or the possible break-up of Brangelina and their United Nations of adopted infants. But it took the single biggest problem dragging American politics towards brutality and dysfunction – and made it much, much worse. Yet it also showed the only path that Obama can now take to salvage his Presidency.

For more than a century, the US has slowly put some limits – too few, too feeble – on how much corporations can bribe, bully or intimidate politicians. On Tuesday, they were burned away in one whoosh. The Supreme Court ruled that corporations can suddenly run political adverts during an election campaign – and there is absolutely no limit on how many, or how much they can spend. So if you anger the investment bankers by supporting legislation to break up the too-big-to-fail banks, you will smack into a wall of 24/7 ads exposing your every flaw. If you displease oil companies by supporting legislation to deal with global warming, you will now be hit by a tsunami of advertising saying you are opposed to jobs and the American Way. If you rile the defence contractors by opposing the gargantuan war budget, you will face a smear-campaign calling you Soft on Terror.

Representative Alan Grayson says: "It basically institutionalises and legalises bribery on the largest scale imaginable. Corporations will now be able to reward the politicians that play ball with them – and beat to death the politicians that don't... You won't even hear any more about the Senator from Kansas. It'll be the Senator from General Electric or the Senator from Microsoft."

To understand the impact this will have, you need to grasp how smaller sums of corporate money have already hijacked American democracy. Let's look at a case that is simple and immediate and every American can see in front of them: healthcare. The United States is the only major industrialised democracy that doesn't guarantee healthcare for all its citizens. The result is that, according to a detailed study by Harvard University, some 45,000 Americans die needlessly every year. That's equivalent to 15 9/11s every year, or two Haitian earthquakes every decade.

This isn't because the American people like it this way. Gallup has found in polls for a decade now that two-thirds believe the government should guarantee care for every American: they are as good and decent and concerned for each other as any European. No: it is because private insurance companies make a fortune today out of a system that doesn't cover the profit-less poor, and can turn away the sickest people as "uninsurable". So they pay for politicians to keep the system broken. They fund the election campaigns of politicians on both sides of the aisle and employ an army of lobbyists, and for their part those politicians veto any system that doesn't serve their paymasters.

Look for example at Joe Lieberman, the former Democratic candidate for Vice-President. He has taken $448,066 in campaign contributions from private healthcare companies while his wife raked in $2m as one of their chief lobbyists, and he has blocked any attempt in the Senate to break the stranglehold of the health insurance companies and broaden coverage.

The US political system now operates within a corporate cage. If you want to run for office, you have to take corporate cash – and so you have to serve corporate interests. Corporations are often blatant in their corruption: it's not unusual for them to give to both competing candidates in a Senate race, to ensure all sides are indebted to them. It has reached the point that lobbyists now often write the country's laws. Not metaphorically; literally. The former Republican congressman Walter Jones spoke out in disgust in 2006 when he found that drug company lobbyists were actually authoring the words of the Medicare prescription bill, and puppet-politicians were simply nodding it through.

But what happens if politicians are serving the short-term profit-hunger of corporations, and not the public interest? You only have to look at the shuttered shops outside your window for the answer. The banks were rapidly deregulated from the Eighties through the Noughties because their lobbyists paid politicians on all sides, and demanded their payback in rolled-back rules and tossed-away laws. As Senator Dick Durbin says simply: "The banks own the Senate," so they had to obey.

It is this corruption that has prevented Barack Obama from achieving anything substantial in his first year in office. How do you re-regulate the banks, if the Senate is owned by Wall Street? How do you launch a rapid transition away from oil and coal to wind and solar, if the fossil fuel industry owns Congress? How do you break with a grab-the-oil foreign policy if Big Oil provides the invitation that gets you into the party of American politics?

His attempt at healthcare reform is dying because he thought he could only get through the Senate a system that the giant healthcare corporations and drug companies pre-approved. So he promised to keep the ban on bringing cheap drugs down from Canada, he pledged not to bargain over prices, and he dumped the idea of having a public option that would make sure ordinary Americans could actually afford it. The result was a Quasimodo healthcare proposal so feeble and misshapen that even the people of Massachusetts turned away in disgust.

Yet the corporations that caused this crisis are now being given yet more power. Bizarrely, the Supreme Court has decided that corporations are "persons", so they have the "right" to speak during elections. But corporations are not people. Should they have the right to bear arms, or to vote? It would make as much sense. They are a legal fiction, invented by the state – and they can be fairly regulated to stop them devouring their creator. This is the same Supreme Court that ruled that the detainees at Guantanomo Bay are not "persons" under the constitution deserving basic protections. A court that says a living breathing human is less of a "persons" than Lockheed Martin has gone badly awry.

Obama now faces two paths – the Clinton road, or the FDR highway. After he lost his healthcare battle, Clinton decided to serve the corporate interests totally. He is the one who carried out the biggest roll-back of banking laws, and saw the largest explosion of inequality since the 1920s. Some of Obama's advisers are now nudging him down that path: the appalling anti-Keynesian pledge for a spending freeze on social programmes for the next three years to pay down the deficit is one of their triumphs.

But there is another way. Franklin Roosevelt began his Presidency trying to appease corporate interests – but he faced huge uproar and disgust at home when it became clear this left ordinary Americans stranded. He switched course. He turned his anger on "the malefactors of great wealth" and bragged: "I welcome the hatred... of the economic royalists." He put in place tough regulations that prevented economic disaster and spiralling inequality for three generations.

There were rare flashes of what Franklin Delano Obama would look like in his reaction to the Supreme Court decision. He said: "It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies, and other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americas." But he has spent far more time coddling those interests than taking them on. The great pressure of strikes and protests put on FDR hasn't yet arisen from a public dissipated into hopelessness by an appalling media that convinces them they are powerless and should wait passively for a Messiah.

Very little positive change can happen in the US until they clear out the temple of American democracy. In the State of the Union, Obama spent one minute on this problem, and proposed restrictions on lobbyists – but that's only the tiniest of baby steps. He evaded the bigger issue. If Americans want a democratic system, they have to pay for it – and that means fair state funding for political candidates. Candidates are essential for the system to work: you may as well begrudge paying for the polling booths, or the lever you pull. At the same time, the Supreme Court needs to be confronted: when the court tried to stymie the new deal, FDR tried to pack it with justices on the side of the people. Obama needs to be pressured by Americans to be as radical in democratising the Land of the Fee (CRCT).

None of the crises facing us all – from the global banking system to global warming – can be dealt with if a tiny number of super-rich corporations have a veto over every inch of progress. If Obama funks this challenge, he may as well put the US government on e-Bay – and sell it to the highest bidder. How would we spot the difference?

Lobbyists For Foreign Corporations Begin Fight To Ensure Foreign Money Can Influence American Elections

Original Link:

By Lee Fang

Last week, the 5-4 Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision invalidated a sixty-three year-old ban on corporate money in federal elections. The ruling gives corporations essentially the same rights as individuals in their ability to spend freely on political advertising, even if those advertisements explicitly advocate the election or defeat of a federal candidate. One consequence of this decision is that foreign corporations with U.S.-subsidiaries are likely to be able to now spend unlimited amounts on American elections.

Congressional Democrats, led by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), are drafting legislation to curb the influence of foreign corporations and foreign governments following the decision. However, the National Journal reported today that corporate lobbyists representing foreign corporations are already organizing to defeat such a proposal. The Organization for International Investment, a trade group representing foreign banks, oil companies, and other foreign corporations operating in the United States, “lashed out” at Van Hollen’s proposals. “The concern over foreign influence in our political system is a red herring,” said Nancy McLernon, the head of OFII.

McLernon — who previously worked for Citizens for a Sound Economy, a stealth “grassroots” corporate lobbying group now known as Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks — is wrong to assert that the danger of foreign lobbying is simply a distraction. For instance, Saudi Arabia has already signaled that the progressive effort to build a clean energy American economy is its “biggest threat”:

Saudi Arabia’s economy depends on oil exports so stands to be one of the biggest losers in any pact that curbs oil demand by penalizing carbon emissions. “It’s one of the biggest threats that we are facing,” said Muhammed al-Sabban, head of the Saudi delegation to U.N. talks on climate change and a senior economic adviser to the Saudi oil ministry. [...] Climate talks posed a bigger threat, Sabban said, and subsidies for the development of renewable energy were distorting market economics in the sector, he said.

Presumably because of the Citizens United ruling, Saudi Arabian-owned subsidiaries operating in the United States can now spend unlimited amounts advocating the defeat of candidates who support clean energy legislation. According to a ThinkProgress investigation, foreign-oil backed lobbyists in America are already instigating efforts to kill clean energy legislation. Fortunately, President Obama is expected to address the issue of foreign corporations influencing American elections in his State of the Union address tonight.

Supreme Court Decision Will Open Floodgates for Big Oil, Corporate Spending Against Energy Reform

Original Link:

By Gene Karpinski

Today, in a dramatic overhaul of the campaign finance system, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Citizens United vs. FEC, with a 5-4 majority declaring that corporations are permitted to make unlimited independent expenditures to influence the outcomes federal elections.

This ruling will open the floodgates for oil companies like Exxon Mobil to spend vast sums of money to support candidates who stand with them and against a clean energy future. That's because for-profit corporations now have the ability to tap into their general treasuries for their electoral work, as opposed to having to work through more restricted connected federal PACs.

Consider the fact that Exxon Mobil's federal PAC spent just over $800,000 in the 2007-2008 election cycle. During the same time period, the oil giant spent more than $45 million on lobbying at the federal level, an advocacy area where there are no limits on how much can be spent. Even a small diversion of these funds from lobbying to elections would drastically increase the spending imbalance between Big Oil and those of us fighting for a cleaner, healthier planet.

The bottom line is that with unlimited spending permitted in the electoral arena, misinformation campaigns by Big Oil and other special interests will be amplified and more lethal, potentially drowning out the voices of the majority of Americans who support investing in clean American energy and reducing harmful carbon pollution.

While the Supreme Court has opened the door to oil industry-funded independent expenditures, we can work to reform the campaign finance system and curtail the influence of these corporate special interests. Since 1990, federal candidates have received more than $240 million in campaign contributions from PACs and individuals tied to the oil and gas industries. But by enacting a strong, voluntary public financing system, we can help candidates run for office without the influence of large corporate PACs and donors.

The Fair Elections Now Act (H.R. 1826 & S. 752) would enact public financing for federal elections and give candidates the option to run for office on a mixture of small contributions and public funds. The legislation puts a premium on grassroots fundraising, and enables candidates to run highly competitive campaigns without relying on large contributions.

But the most effective response will come from average citizens getting involved in the electoral process. To counter Big Oil's onslaught of TV ads funded by their corporate profits, Americans across the country and from all walks of life need to become active participants in our democracy. This will mean educating yourself and others, going door-to-door, having conversations among families, neighbors and friends and empowering others to take action and get out the vote.

The League of Conservation Voters is committed to working to ensure that federal elections are not paid for by Big Oil at the expense of our democracy. And, as an organization with hundreds of thousands supporters across all 50 states, we will continue to organize at the grassroots level for sound environmental policies and in support of candidates who will implement those policies.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Did The Supreme Court Just Trash Democracy and the Free Market?

Original Link:

By Janine R. Wedel

In a much-debated 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court voted to strike down regulations that stretch well back into the last century (as well as a portion of the 2002 McCain-Feingold act) prohibiting corporations from using their general treasuries, without monetary limits, to finance ads that explicitly call for the victory or defeat of a candidate.

The vote, the balance of which was tipped by the court's conservative majority, has been touted by some as a victory for principles of freedom. Far from it. The decision is poised to aid and abet the further intertwining of state and private power--the quintessence not of a "free market" but of a communist state. And the decision offers the shadow elite even more opportunities, sans government oversight or public input, to skew public policies to their own agendas. Through direct campaign contributions they are now more empowered than ever to use their corporate affiliations for greater leverage elsewhere.

The justices have laid the groundwork for an even stronger "Government Inc." Most of the work of the federal government today is performed not by government bureaucrats but by a vast off-the-books "shadow government"--the consulting firms, companies, nongovernmental organizations, and "Beltway Bandits" that occupy entire high-rise bastions in the Washington suburbs. Many contractors work solely or primarily for the government. For instance, the consulting giant Booz Allen Hamilton, with more than 13,000 employees in the Washington area alone and whose clients include the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Department of Health and Human Services, acquires the bulk of its $4.5 billion in annual revenue from government contracts. And more than 90 percent of the business of the now infamous Blackwater (renamed Xe), the private security contractor whose questionable activities in Iraq have done severe damage to America's reputation, is in government contracts. Contractors, of course, are not subject to the same rules as civil servants; contractor executives, unlike government leaders, are seldom dragged before congressional committees for hostile questioning when their activities come under fire.

By allowing companies to spend without limit on their pet candidates, the court's decision promises to further embed such contractors, enhance the entrenched culture of dependency, and make already cozy arrangements completely incestuous.

The shadow government knows little competition--the embodiment of a market system--but is instead born and bred on government largesse. The shadow labor force, which has grown dramatically in the last two decades, now comprises three-quarters of the people who work for the federal government. It has also grown up from supplying things like food service, printing, and landscaping to also routinely performing core government functions. Contractors today draft official documents, choose and oversee other contractors, run intelligence operations, control homeland security databases, execute military and occupying operations, and manage federal taxpayer monies doled out under stimulus plans and bailouts.

Competition in the free-market sense--adherence to the "discipline of the market"--is not what drives the companies of the shadow government. Far-reaching legislative and policy changes instituted since the Clinton years have transformed contracting rules to make government contracting less "burdened" by competition and government oversight while also less transparent. The companies promote themselves through networking and politicking to "win" not-always-competed contracts and keep the largesse coming. It helps to enlist former government executives. Thus Booz Allen Hamilton, which a former CIA deputy director dubbed "the shadow intelligence community," has employed at least three vice presidents who previously served as intelligence agency directors and has hired, or had on its board, a number of former defense and intelligence officials. Such efforts are richly rewarded. In the Pentagon alone, for instance, the Center for Public Integrity found that, over a period of six fiscal years, no-bid contracts accounted for more than 40 percent of its contracting--with $362 billion going to companies without competitive bidding. Some companies are, in fact, the only game in town and have no competitors. Today one firm has acquired a virtual monopoly on electronic voting machines.

In the "blended" workforce of the shadow government, new forms of governance are being created that fuse the power of the state with the agendas of "private" companies. The public is familiar with the excesses of Xe (Blackwater), but companies such as Booz Allen, Accenture, Lockheed Martin, and Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) that daily stand in for government and influence policy may be far more insidious (communism turned on its head). Many public priorities and decisions are driven by private companies instead of government officials and agencies that must answer to citizens, with officials only signing on the dotted line. In numerous reports, government investigators (such as the Government Accountability Office, the watchdog agency of Congress, and inspectors general of government agencies) have asked whether government has the information, expertise, institutional memory and personnel to manage contractors--or is it the other way around? And who really sets policy--government or contractors? In even as critical a function as homeland security, much government work is substantially in the hands of contractors rather than those of government officials who are sworn to uphold the Constitution. In one instance, the GAO warned--albeit in its typical bureaucratese--about the Department of Homeland Security's loss of control over decision making, saying that the practices of the DHS encourage "the risk that government decisions may be influenced by, rather than independent from, contractor judgments."

By permitting companies to bankroll their candidates, last week's decision leads down the road to communism--in reverse--toward the mother of all state-private mergers. Now, even more than in the past (think Henry "Scoop" Jackson, the "Senator from Boeing"), a government contractor can virtually "buy" a legislator, with his blessing design or influence policy to have a built-in demand for the goods or services that it provides, and enjoy readymade support from the legislator both for favored policies and future government contracts. Ever-more interdependent government and business march in lockstep and unaccountable shadow government becomes ever bigger.

And what of the shadow elite? Thanks to the Supreme Court decision, they can capitalize on an even more hospitable environment. Flexians, of course, test all the rules--those of the government (accountability) and those of the private sector (competition). Snaking through government, business, think tanks, and media in not-fully-revealed roles--and always in pursuit of their own agendas--flexians now can also, almost unlimitedly, use their company affiliations to buy legislative influence and further enhance their agenda-serving opportunities. They can take off their gloves (if they ever wore any) because they have been handed more points of entry from which to maneuver policy toward their own agendas.

Far from sounding the bells of freedom, the Supreme Court has further imperiled government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Whether the world's model democracy can be counted on to act in the national and public interest is more questionable than ever.

The Conservative War on Democracy: The Puppet Supreme Court

Original Link:

By Bob Burnett

While the January 21st Supreme Court decision in the case of Citizens United vs. FEC can be viewed narrowly as granting corporations the right to spend unlimited funds in political contest, the 5-4 ruling is best understood as another victory by conservatives in their decades-long war on democracy.

Many Americans are unaware of this campaign. After all, the US is suffering from a savage recession while fending off attacks from murderous jihadis; meanwhile, a high level of distrust in government has many voters angry and disillusioned. Considering these grim conditions, it's understandable that most Americans remain oblivious of the biggest threat of all: the conservative crusade to turn our democracy into a plutocracy.

In 1971, conservatives responded to a call by Lewis F. Powell to reassert themselves by "financing think tanks, reshaping mass media and seeking influence in universities and the judiciary." The result was a well-financed, meticulously planned offensive waged on four fronts.

The primary mode of attack was economic. Conservatives waged no-holds-barred class warfare. Corporation taxes were lowered, as were those of the wealthiest individuals. This increased the gulf between the richest and poorest Americans, ripped apart the social safety net, and decreased social mobility. Working families lost confidence in the future.

A second front was political. Conservatives seized control of the Republican Party and used ideological litmus tests to purge the GOP of moderates. Republican candidates were required to take a "no new taxes" pledge and to subscribe to socially conservative positions.

A third initiative generated a pervasive conservative media presence, featuring conservative personalities and information conduits, such as the Fox News Channel. Millions were spent framing an omnipresent furtive conservative message. This led to familiar general themes - "government is the problem" - and focused responses to conservative hot buttons: estate taxes were branded as "death taxes;" gay marriage was opposed on the grounds that homosexuality was "a disease" that, if encouraged, would infect young people; healthcare reform was opposed because of spurious claims it would result in government control of all health services and "death panels" seeking to euthanize the elderly.

As they pursued their objective of turning the US into a plutocracy, conservatives spread disinformation to deflect blame from their ideas and the Republican lackeys that implemented them. For example, many Americans falsely believe government caused the financial crisis, whereas it was conservative profiteers who brought down the economy.

The fourth aspect of the conservative war on democracy was a protracted campaign to take control of the Federal judiciary. They accomplished this in 2006 with the resignation of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and the appointment of Justice Samuel Alito. Since then, a dogmatically conservative majority has controlled the US Supreme Court. As legal writer Jeffrey Toobin observed in his NEW YORKER article on Chief Justice Roberts, "In every major case since he became the nation's seventeenth Chief Justice, Roberts [and his conservative allies] has sided with the prosecution over the defendant, the state over the condemned, the executive branch over the legislative, and the corporate defendant over the individual plaintiff."

The Citizens United vs. FEC decision strengthens the conservative position that corporations have "personhood" and therefore enjoy the same rights as ordinary individuals, including the right of free speech. In practical terms it means that corporations can spend unlimited funds in political contests. This decision has immediate political consequences, as it permits Republicans to deploy millions of dollars of "independent expenditure" Swift-boat ads in the mid-term elections. It also opens the door to foreign corporations spending money to influence USA political campaigns. (It grants corporations more rights than those enjoyed by human beings.)

Since 2001, Americans have repeatedly been warned about an external threat from jihadi terrorists. Unfortunately, during the same period, Progressives haven't done a good job warning Americans about the internal threat from the conservative crusade against democracy. As a consequence, conservatives have been extraordinarily effective: they elected a puppet President, George W. Bush - whose election was confirmed by five conservative Supreme Court justices. They purged the Republican party of all moderates. In 2009, guided by their conservative handlers, Republican Congresspeople waged a successful campaign to block the legislative initiatives of the Obama Administration. In many sections of the country, conservatives dominate the political message via conservative radio shows and the Fox News Channel. Meanwhile, the rich got richer while the assets and income of working families steadily diminished. The Citizens United vs. FEC decision indicates that conservatives are hell-bent on granting corporations ultimate power in the American political system.

It's time for progressives to wake up to the grave internal threat represented by the conservative jihad. It's time to defend democracy by passing meaningful campaign finance reform, denying the notion that corporations are persons, placing severe restrictions on corporations, and clamping down on the outrageous practices of Fox News Channel and other conservative voices.

It's time for progressives to get their act together, seize control of the message, and take the battle to conservatives. It's time for change we can believe in.

The Source of Corporate Power

Original Link:

By Robert Koehler

"If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech."

The words are those of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority in last week's landmark Supreme Court decision marking some sort of culmination in the long corporate trek to personhood. It's the word "simply" that gets to me: Exxon-Pinocchio is a real boy now, and has his opinions, and the government has no right to stop him from "simply engaging in political speech."

What a cheap cover story; it's up there with "bringing democracy to Iraq" in its tawdry manipulation of iconic national values to justify a raw power grab. The 5-4 decision in the long-awaited Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission case overturns restrictions on corporate spending to influence election results, giving entities with millions (in some cases, billions) of dollars at their disposal unlimited license to electioneer for the candidate with the friendliest attitude toward their interests.

The tendency of money and power is to concentrate, of course. The big trick, from a human perspective, is to make sure our core values remain pre-eminent, that they are served by the ways in which we concentrate power. Democracy is the great mechanism for doing so, the hope of the world, or so we are told, but the wakeup message in this nakedly cynical ruling by the Roberts Court, with its slim (but sufficient) right-wing majority, is that the concept of democracy is mortally wounded.

As former Sen. Bob Kerrey wrote recently on Huffington Post: "Instead of doing the nation's business, elected officials are spending a third of their time or more dialing for special interest dollars in never-ending campaigns for re-election.

"Industry lobbyists," he goes on, "are helping to write the very bills in Congress that affect their bottom line, placing private profit ahead of the public good. Billions of taxpayer dollars are going to benefit big contributors through earmarks, subsidies, and special regulations."

And as Chris Hedges explains on TruthDig: "Corporations have 35,000 lobbyists in Washington and thousands more in state capitals that dole out corporate money to shape and write legislation."

The interests of Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Coal, agribusiness, the financial sector, the insurance sector and, of course, the military-industrial complex, have infinitely more clout in government than the collective popular will and the voices calling for eco-sanity, universal health care and an end to war. Note: This is already the case.

Corporate entities have thoroughly gamed the system, leaving us with little more than a textbook-democracy façade. What the latest Supreme Court decision does is legitimize all this, shoving the corruption in our faces by declaring the absurd: Corporations are people too! They have a right to weigh in on the candidates just like the rest of us -- to get their billion-dollar opinions out to the public throughout the election campaign.

This is an "activist" judicial decision, that is to say, a decision that serves a prior agenda, with any principles cited (e.g., the sanctity of free speech) sheer window dressing in service to a larger, and covert, cause.

As a New York Times story points out, the case itself -- involving a conservative, not-for-profit corporation called Citizens United, which was restricted in its ability to distribute an attack film about Hillary Clinton, "Hillary: The Movie," during the 2008 presidential primary elections -- could have been decided on narrow grounds. The court chose instead to expand the scope of the case, making it into a challenge of existing laws that regulate corporate election spending, most notably the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, a.k.a. McCain-Feingold, which prohibits corporate electioneering within 60 days of an election. This is what we've lost.

The good news is that the decision has generated a huge outpouring of anger around the country. Within a day of the ruling, the website had garnered some 40,000 signatures (it's now close to 50,000) in support of a constitutional amendment to establish that money is not speech and only human beings have constitutional rights. The amendment would also guarantee our right to vote and participate in elections, and to have our votes count.

A number of bills and legislative actions are also in the works, attempting to circumvent the Supremes. The proposals range from patch jobs to cries for profound change, both of which are necessary in the process of resuscitating democracy.

No matter what, though, the Roberts Court has hastened the propagandizing of the national discourse, mostly through the medium of television, as corporate interests amp up their thought-control machines in the name of free speech. I see little hope for a gullible nation that allows the tube to hemorrhage urgent inanities directly into its consciousness for 18 hours a day. This gullibility is the source of corporate power. Democracy can only thrive where people think for themselves.

Corporate personhood wins big in US Supreme Court

Original Link:

Yet again the U.S. Supreme Court has sided with the ruling elite against the interests of the American people. Today in Citizens United vs. FEC they overturned the flimsy federal campaign finance reform laws afforded by the McCain-Feingold law. Corporations can now to spend unlimited money in buying our elections. The Court has legalized corporate bribery of our elected officials.

So if you were already disgusted by the fact that over $5 billion dollars was spent in the 2008 election, watch out. Because the floodgates are now wide open!

And once again, the Court relied on the illegitimate legal doctrine of “Corporate Personhood” in order to justify this profoundly undemocratic decision.

Corporate personhood is the notion that a corporation can claim to be a person, and therefore entitled to basic human rights—also described as political and civil rights—and have courts overturn laws.

As this decision clearly demonstrates, corporate personhood is not an inconsequential legal technicality. Consider this– the Supreme Court ruled that a corporation was a “legal person” with 14th Amendment protections before they granted full personhood to African-Americans, immigrants, natives, and women.

And literally hundreds of laws—perhaps thousands—of local, state and federal laws that attempt to protect our environment, our elections, our safety and health, our right to organize have been overturned as a result of this erroneous doctrine.

The world is being destroyed, the federal government is engaged in unending war, and we live in an unjust, unsustainable and undemocratic country.

It’s time to take ourselves seriously– both about what is at stake and what it will require to actually assume and democratically exercise real power. We must address the reality that the federal courts have made real democracy impossible.

It’s time to follow the lead of the American Revolutionaries, the abolitionists, the suffragists, the trade unionists, and the Civil Rights activists and to build a broad-based, multi-partisan democracy movement in the United States.

It’s time to amend the U.S. Constitution to make it clear that only human beings can claim to be “persons” with constitutional rights.

Are you with us?

1) Go to the website to announce that you are joining the growing national movement.

2) Contact us at Democracy Unlimited at 707-269-0984 to organize locally to make the promise of democracy a reality!

Move to Amend is a project of the Campaign to Legalize Democracy,

a new coalition coordinated by:

After Downing Street

Alliance for Democracy

Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County (DUHC)

Center for Media and Democracy

Independent Progressive Politics Network

Liberty Tree Foundation

Program on Corporations Law and Democracy (POCLAD)

Progressive Democrats of America

Reclaim Democracy

Ultimate Civics

Velvet Revolution

Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom

. . . and growing . . .

Citizens ruling: an intellectually dishonest power grab

Original Link:

By Ruth Marcus

In opening the floodgates for corporate money in election campaigns, the Supreme Court did not simply engage in a brazen power grab. It did so in an opinion stunning in its intellectual dishonesty.

Many of those commenting on the decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission have focused on the power grab part. I agree. It was unnecessary for the court to go so far when there were several less-radical grounds available. It was audacious to seize the opportunity to overrule precedents when the parties had not pressed this issue and the lower courts not considered it. It was the height of activism to usurp the judgments of Congress and state legislatures about how best to prevent corruption of the political process.

"If it is not necessary to decide more, it is necessary not to decide more," a wise judge once wrote. That was Chief Justice John Roberts -- back when -- and dissenting Justice John Paul Stevens rightly turned that line against him.

As bad as the court's activism, though, was its shoddy scholarship.

First, the majority flung about dark warnings of "censorship" and "banned" speech as if upholding the existing rules would leave corporations and labor unions with no voice in the political process. Untrue. Under federal election law before the Supreme Court demolished it, corporations and labor unions were free to say whatever they wanted about political candidates whenever they wanted to say it. They simply were not permitted to use unlimited general treasury funds to do so. Instead, they were required to use money raised by their political action committees from employees and members. This is hardly banning speech.

Second, in the face of logic and history, the majority acted as if there could be no constitutional distinction between a corporation and a human being. Untrue. The Supreme Court has long held that corporations are considered "persons" under the constitution and therefore entitled to its protections. For more than a century, Congress has barred corporations from making direct contributions to political candidates, with no suggestion that it must treat corporate persons the same as real ones; that prohibition stands, at least for now. The "conceit" of corporate personhood, as Stevens called it, does not mandate absolute equivalence.

That corporations enjoy free speech protections does not mean they enjoy every protection afforded an actual person. Is a corporation entitled to vote? To run for office?

Third, misreading its precedents and cherry-picking quotations, the majority acted as if the chief case it overturned was an outlier. In that 1990 case, Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, a six-member majority came to the unsurprising conclusion that a state law prohibiting corporations from making unlimited independent expenditures from their general funds was constitutional. The court dismissed this ruling as "a significant departure from ancient First Amendment principles." Again, untrue.

In a 1982 case, the court -- in a unanimous opinion by then-Justice William Rehnquist -- noted that Congress, in writing campaign finance law, was entitled to "considerable deference" in taking into account "the particular legal and economic attributes of corporations and labor organizations" and had made "a permissible assessment of the dangers posed by those entities to the electoral process." Four years later, even as it carved out an exception for nonprofit corporations, the court reaffirmed "the need to restrict the influence of political war chests funneled through the corporate form."

The Citizens United majority relied heavily on a 1978 case overturning a Massachusetts law that prohibited corporations from spending their own money to defeat certain referendums. But that case specifically noted that "a corporation's right to speak on issues of general public interest implies no comparable right in the quite different context of participation in a political campaign for election to public office."

Fourth, the majority bizarrely invoked the "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" defense. Under the Austin ruling, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy argued, lawmakers unhappy with being lampooned in the movie "could have done more than discourage its distribution -- they could have banned the film." Beyond untrue. There is no scenario under which works of art about fictional lawmakers could be limited by campaign finance laws.

That the majority would stoop to this claim underscores the weakness of its case -- and the audacity of the result it has inflicted on the political process.

Some remedies for the Supreme Court power grab

Original Link:

By Martin Lobel

It’s easy to find activism, impossible to find original intent behind the Roberts/Scalia group’s ruling on corporate political spending. Martin Lobel suggests six sharp, practical steps to deal with it.

The media need to focus public attention on the judicial legislating by the five “conservative” Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court in deciding Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. They ruled that corporations have a right to spend as much money as they want to buy ads to support or oppose politicians – a question that the litigants weren’t arguing but that the Justices reached out to decide.

Justices Kennedy, Scalia, Roberts, Thomas and Alito divined that that was the original intent of the drafters of our Constitution even though Jefferson had warned against just such concentrations of power and they ignored Chief Justice John Marshall’s opinion in Bank of the United States v. Deveaux when he referred to a corporation as an “invisible, intangible and artificial being” and “certainly not a citizen.” Apparently they believe that they know better what the drafters of the Constitution meant than Chief Justice Marshall who actually knew the drafters. The only rational conclusion to draw from this action is that “original intent” is merely a subterfuge to justify whatever action Scalia and his followers want to take.

The five “conservative” Justices had no problem substituting their opinion for the carefully balanced Congressional legislation to curb the power of money in elections. Under the now stricken McCain-Feingold legislation, corporations could spend money that was “ voluntarily” contributed to Political Action Committees (PACs) or to overpaid lobbyists who in turn would contribute or bundle contributions to candidates. Whether such contributions were really voluntary or not is open to question, but at least it gave economically powerful interests a means to influence elections without the appearance of a quid pro quo that direct expenditures entail. Apparently, even though the Justices don’t run for office, they felt they were more expert in deciding what influence money has on elections than those who do.

There is another interesting, and I hope unintended consequence, of the decision. Foreign corporations can now influence American politics directly by spending unlimited amounts of money. I can just see the memo now from an American subsidiary of a Chinese corporation to its home office:

“Dear Chairman, The United States Supreme Court has just decided we can directly influence their elections with our money. Please send me $100 million of the US Treasury Bonds we own so we can defeat those politicians who stand in our way of taking over the US economy.”

As long as those five supposedly conservative Justices are there, we are likely to see even more judicial activism and legislating, contrary to the judicial philosophy Chief Justice Roberts espoused at his confirmation hearings. It will be interesting to see what the Court will do with a case seeking to prohibit the publishing of the names of those petitioners opposed to gay marriage on the grounds they might be subject to ridicule or harassment. Will the same First Amendment rights so precious to corporations be struck down when it comes to revealing who signed a petition seeking a referendum opposing gay rights?

Congress still has remedies to protect the country from abusive corporate political spending. Here are several of them:

Congress and the SEC have the power to make sure that corporate political spending reflects the will of the shareholders, not just management. There is absolutely no dispute that boards of directors have a fiduciary obligation to represent the interests of the shareholders, although, unfortunately, since boards are chosen by management, this has been honored more in its breach than its observance.

As a partial solution, the SEC and the FEC should promulgate rules before the next election to ensure that decisions on corporate political spending represent the desires of the shareholders. This could be done by requiring boards of directors to poll shareholders before making any specific political expenditure. Boards should be required to vote on each such political expenditure and publicly reveal every member’s vote. Ads paid for by a corporation or group of corporations should be required to reveal who was paying for it and perhaps, like a candidate, the Chairman of the Board should be required to appear and say the board approved the ad.

In order to prevent money laundering, bundling the cost of such ads under a group’s name should be prohibited so the public really knows who paid for the ad. Shareholders who disapproved of such expenditures should be allowed to get from the corporation their proportionate share of the expenditure. This wouldn’t have much effect if an individual wanted his money, but it would have an effect if pension funds and other large investors demanded their money.

In addition, foreign owned or controlled (5 percent or more?) corporations should be prohibited from spending money to influence American elections.

Congress ought to explicitly prohibit corporations from deducting the cost of such ads from their income so that taxpayers are not subsidizing them.

Congress should prohibit corporations that are government contractors from spending money on such ads. Such spending would seem to fall within the same rationale that the Court recognized in continuing to prohibit direct corporate contributions to politicians or upholding the Hatch Act.

If any member of the Court voted to strike down such clearly constitutional restrictions on corporate spending, it would then be time to discuss impeachment for subverting the Constitution.

We should remember what Abraham Lincoln wrote in 1864:

We may congratulate ourselves that this cruel war is nearing its end. It has cost a vast amount of treasure and blood. . . . It has indeed been a trying hour for the Republic; but I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war. God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless."

The passage appears in a letter from Pres. Abraham Lincoln to (Col.) William F. Elkins, Nov. 21, 1864.