BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
In its “infinite” wisdom, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to silence much of American society, including minorities such as Armenians. You may not realize it, but our voices were squelched on January 21, 2010.
It all started with the 2008 presidential campaign. A right wing group made a hatchet job “documentary” about Hillary Clinton. They wanted to air it, but the Federal Elections Commission found that it would violate campaign finance laws. The particular laws address when and with what sources of money television pieces favoring or attacking candidates can run. This decision was appealed to the Supreme Court.
The court could have ruled on the issue. But, quite obviously pursuing his own agenda and supported by others, Chief Justice John Roberts (a purported opponent of “judicial activism”) expanded the scope of the case. Ultimately, the court handed down a ruling overturning a century of laws and precedents. The result is that corporations and unions will now have the ability to spend unlimited sums of money in federal elections. This is something they haven’t been allowed to do, by law, for a century and half-a-century, respectively.
While allowing unions to participate in elections makes sense, because they are free associations of citizens (like countless other organizations that have their PACS), corporations are another matter. No one “elects” CEOs, they are hired for their competence in management and money-making. Yet the boards and upper management of huge corporations will now get two bites at the apples. As citizens they will act as everyone else can in elections AND they’ll be able to have their corporation’s money, separately and additionally, do their bidding as well. So much for the basic notions underlying “one-man, one-vote”!
What has happened with this decision is that the Supreme Court has given corporations an additional level of personhood. This is a process that began with the court’s 1889 ruling in Minneapolis & St. Louis Railroad vs. Beckwith. More and more the court has made corporation into “humans”. Remember, these entities started out as constructs for doing business and making money. No problem there.
But over time, many corporations have become behemoths with massive financial resources at their disposal. Unleashing that money into a democracy that is dependent on money-based access to communicating ideas during election campaigns (think advertising) is a huge problem. Anyone with enough money can usually (not always) drown out other voices and differing ideas. This becomes not a government of “we the people” but of “them the corporations”. People’s, civic organizations’, minorities’, etc. interests will become subordinated to those of corporate power.
Add to this Mussolini’s plaint professing amazement at critiques of his fascism. He replied arguing that his system was nothing more than corporatism. And it was. It was a very intimate, relationship between corporations and the state. With the corporate money floodgates opened, corporations today will be able to create that same proximity by dictating (even more than they do now indirectly) who gets elected to Congress and as President.
Add to this the very real concern over foreign influence on U.S. elections. Many corporations operating in the country are multinationals or subsidiaries of corporations headquartered elsewhere. Non-citizens aren’t allowed to vote, yet these foreign business interests will now have a massive say in elections to federal office. How is this fair? How is it in the best interests of the country?
And, where do you think that leaves groups like the Armenians? How can we possibly match that kind of financial might in pursuing our goals and defending our interests, be they in the U.S. or overseas?
Get active, or at least lend your name to one of the various efforts to block this slide into corporate dictatorship. At least write your Congressmember and Senators telling them you want something done!