Bigger role for big money in US politics

Bigger role for big money in US politics

The decision of the US supreme court on Jan 21 allows companies to spend unlimited money in politics. Overturning 100 years of restraint on corporate spending, the two newest justices, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, appointed by former President George W Bush, have turned the court into an ally of big corporations.

The fanciful view of this highest US court holds that money is equivalent to free speech under the First Amendment and that corporations are ‘persons’ equivalent to real human beings. The unreality of this view also equates corporations with trade unions.

The effects of this 5-4 court decision include allowing access to US politics by the many international investors who own shares in US corporations. For example, Prince Alaweed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest investors in Citibank and News Corporation, which owns the ‘Wall Street Journal’, TV’s Fox Network, Sky News and other global media. Sovereign wealth funds of Norway, China, Singapore, Kuwait and other countries can now influence US politics as never before.

Victory for lobbies

Constitutional lawyers are appalled, including President Barack Obama who noted, “the supreme court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money into our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street bankers, health insurance companies and other interests that marshal their power every day in Washington and drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”

Many critics add that politicians whose elections are due to corporate funds should be required to display these corporations’ logos on their clothing and in all public statements, for example as the Senator from Microsoft, Halliburton, Citibank or Goldman Sachs.

Other critics have pinpointed the idiocy of equating corporations with real humans. They say “if this is true, then is it not a form of slavery to own a corporation?” Should companies now also be allowed to bear arms and vote? Corporations already have most of the rights of US citizenship but fewer responsibilities than real people bear.

The absurdity of the US Roberts Court’s opinion that corporations are in any way ‘muzzled’ or need more First Amendment rights was summed up in Justice Stevens dissent on behalf of Justices Ginsberg, Sotomayor and Breyer: “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”.

Indeed, a group of US corporations responded with an Open Letter to Congress objecting to the shake-downs for money by candidates of both political parties and opted-out of this money arms race. Hopefully, this kind of socially responsible leadership by progressive companies can be buttressed by institutional investors, such as those of the UN Principles of Responsible Investing (representing portfolios of $19 trillion of companies’ shares).

They can join, with the 3,000 signatory companies of the UN Global Compact, in developing screens to avoid investing in those companies who take the supreme court’s ruling as a license for throwing even more money into further lobbying and power grabs over democratic processes.

The cascade of additional money into US politics and advertising will accelerate the sinister takeover of government, as well as mass media by corporations — the classic definition of fascism.  One response is the EthicMark® for ethical advertising and Ethical Markets’ campaign with the World Business Academy to stop neuromarketing and its manipulation of consumers.

How will this corporate takeover of the US affect its standing in the world? Already, the greed and money-obsessed culture of Wall Street has harmed the whole world and caused many millions of innocent victims hunger, hardships, losses of jobs, livelihoods and wreaked enormous environmental damage.

This supreme court ruling will cause the US to lose further standing and moral authority in the world. The arrogance of US unilateralism has caused offence since the fall of the Berlin Wall. This unipolar moment is over. Luckily for the international community, other countries, India, Brazil and the European Union are taking democratic leadership.

The supreme court’s irresponsible decision has undermined President Obama’s efforts to restore multilateralism. It has dealt a blow to democracy in the US and sets a bad example in the advance of democracy worldwide.

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