Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Supreme Court Speaks!

A few years ago, a study was done involving ten contentious issues up for vote in Congress.

The votes were tabulated and compared as to how much money was contributed to each

Congressional member by opposing sides. In each and every case, Congressional members

voted in favor of the side who gave them the most money. Sad as this may seem; this came

as no surprise to anyone.

Recently, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that a corporation is a "person" and that money

is free speech; therefore, it has now been decided that it is unconstitutional to prohibit

corporations from using their money to make contributions that will assuredly bias the

political process in favor of corporate economic interests. In other words, Exxon-Mobil,

Goldman-Sachs, and Google, corporations who make billions in profits, are now free to spend

as much money on political influence as they deem necessary. The five regressive Catholics

on the Court overturned numerous previous court rulings and years of congressional actions

to arrive at a conclusion which threatens the very nature of participatory democracy in this

country. "Participatory democracy" is the very heart of a democracy. Without a broad base

of citizen participation, a democracy is no longer a democracy and very quickly transforms

into an oligarchy.

Think back to the 2008 Presidential campaign and imagine this ruling being in place.

Obama revolutionized political giving by building a huge base of small contributors. Millions

of Americans gave small amounts, enabling Obama to raise upwards of $100 million; and

more importantly, outraised his Republican opponent in the process. Obama's financial

advantage enabled him to pour money into traditional "red" states forcing McCain to spend

his limited resources in states normally not in "play", resulting in Obama's victory. If this

current Supreme Court ruling had been in place, then corporate America would have been

allowed to spend billions to elect McCain. Exxon-Mobil alone could have contributed more

to McCain's campaign than all the millions of Americans who gave to Obama. Wall Street

most certainly would have offered McCain a bottomless warchest from which he could have

matched and far surpassed Obama's spending in any state.

Here's a look into the future that our Supreme Court has cunningly crafted for us (I use

the word "cunningly" with no hesitation, for their vote was intentionally contrived): The

health insurance industry and the banking industry are regulated at the state level as well as

the federal level. Imagine yourself running for the state senate or assembly on a platform to

reform either industry. Now, due to the wisdom of the highest court in the land, you will be

facing an opponent with unlimited resources provided by the very companies who you want

to regulate. What local candidate will ever be able to raise enough money to offset what

corporations will potentially be able to pour into races in your state and each and every other

state in the country? Consider the precedent set just prior to this stunning decision by our

Supreme Court. It is no accident healthcare reform faced such a difficult road in Congress.

The lobbies representing health insurance companies, hospitals, the pharmaceutical industry,

and others spent more than $1 million per day influencing how the legislation was to be

shaped. Of course, the healthcare industry is going to contribute more to those Congressmen

who oppose change or regulation. If a businessman offers a contribution, you can be sure

they expect something in return. Because of this problem of unfair influence, Congress and

President Obama claim to be trying to change the rules on Wall Street, to rein in the practices

which led to the meltdown of the financial industry. In reality, they are merely standing back

and watching their proposals slowly being watered down and diluted by the Wall Street

lobbyists. They know the problem, but they do absolutely nothing. This is how business is

done in America. It's business as usual and it's 100% legal.

This new Supreme Court ruling intentionally rewards and encourages these same

companies that have been buying influence to extend their influence in the national and state

arenas of government. The more people the corporate elite can get elected who are

sympathetic to their concerns and positions, the easier it will be for them to eliminate both

reform and regulation. No elected city, state, or national official will be exempt from their

influence. Elected officials everywhere will be facing well-funded opponents every time they

run for public office or re-election.

Most elected officials spend a portion of every day either working toward or actively

raising money for their next campaign. Now, faced with the unlimited resources of a pro-

corporate opponent, the "honest" public-minded official will be totally out-resourced. A

minor league player simply can't stand up in the major leagues. He won't have enough hours

in the day to raise enough money to fight this kind of power.

We are told by regressives that the worst kind of Supreme Court justice is an "activist"

justice. The kind of justice who sees the Constitution as a living, breathing document. A

justice willing to overturn precedent. The fact that an issue can arise that our founding fathers

never anticipated scares regressives to death. They stay up nights worrying that such a

justice will ignore the "will of the people" as expressed through their representatives in

Congress and overturn laws which have been on the books for years. Well, the five non-

activist justices who voted to overturn participatory democracy as we know it did just that.

They overturned court precedents set in the last 15-20 years. They ignored a series of laws

passed by Congress intended to limit the political expenditures of corporations. What's

going on here?

This legal hocus-pocus was somehow justified in the regressive mindset with the excuse

that they were viewing the Constitution through the "original intent" of the founders. The

problem is, at no time did the founders intend a corporation to be considered a "person",

nor did our founding fathers ever equate free speech with political contributions. Yet, this

cabal of regressive justices had the audacity to issue a ruling for which "original intent" is

merely a high-sounding excuse. All sophistry aside, they chose to impose their will and the

political philosophy of those who appointed them on our law, and thus show they are no

different than the "activist" justices they claim to fear. Friend, it's all "smoke and mirrors";

none of their excuses or justifications hold water. Simply ignore their pious gesturing and

follow the money.

It is difficult to overestimate the damage this ruling does to the political process and

to democracy. One member of Congress said it turns our nation from a democracy into a

corporatocracy. Money is the mother's milk of politics and now corporate America can pour

its largesse into any race, anywhere. The idealistic myth of the honest politician has been

put out of business by our highest court of justice (but don't get me started on justice in

America). What candidate could ever raise enough money to oppose them?

Supporters of the Supreme Court ruling will point to the fact the ruling now allows

labor unions to do the same thing as corporations. They can pour their money into any race,

anywhere in the nation. Using their theory, labor unions will now be able to act as a counter-

balance to corporate influence. Counter-balance? That sounds good. O.K., let's say labor

could raise $150 million in an election cycle...Hold on here! The fact that labor unions have

never been able to raise that kind of money should answer any questions about playing this

contrived "what if" game. Even at $150 million, all labor money could be matched by one

corporation. Consider what an entire industry could throw at an election! Is there anyone

who seriously thinks the working people of this nation (only about 10% of whom are unionized)

could ever raise enough money to offset corporate profits which run into the billions?

Goldman-Sach's pool of bonus money was more than $20 billion alone. Labor, grassroots

activists, neighborhood car washes, and bake sales combined couldn't raise $1 billion let alone

$20 billion. End of discussion!

This decision by the Supreme Court has opened the door to a corporate oligarchy.

Corporate Titans will most certainly prevent opponents on all elected levels from interfering

with their corporate agendas. From city hall to state house and Congress, no one will be able

to run on a level playing field (hell, it wasn't even level before this ruling)! They will face

well-financed competitors every time they run for election or re-election; and they will be


Which of these issues appeals to you: Reforming healthcare, improving the environment,

controlling greenhouse gases, banking regulation, good-paying jobs, safe jobs, coal mining,

energy, military budgets, war, education, privacy, or national security? The list is endless.

But more importantly, what is corporate America's position on these issues? Imagine trying

to run for office to take on the corporate agenda on any of these issues and imagine what

corporate America will now be able to do to your campaign.

For years I've been saying that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is one of the most evil

organizations in the country. Now, with this Supreme Court decision, the Chamber will soon

be more powerful than ever. It virtually guarantees that all voices for change, moderation,

or opposition will be drowned in a tsunami of political spending never before imagined.

Corporate/monied interests have already left their mark on Congress, and now it's the

Court's turn to be contaminated by those whose sole motivation is profit. This decision is

sanctioned by the highest court in the land! A disturbing conclusion easily drawn is that our

country has been hijacked. Doesn't this qualify as an ethically criminal act directed at the very

foundation of democracy in America?

You will get to see the first fruits of this ruling in the 2010 midterm elections when the

entire House of Representatives and one third of the Senate are up for re-election. It will not

be a pleasant experience. What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals.

Please send them to


  1. Obama reminds me of Neville Chamberlain during the 1930s.

    Chamberlain led the effort by European powers to use pacification, appeasement and compromise with Hitler.

    Can the message be any clearer to Obama what kind of forces are now operating in this country - when the US right wing stacked supreme court makes such a incredibly shocking and in my opinion, treasonable ruling?

    We have seen now how the Republicans have obstructed health care reform to the last man over this last year.

    We have seen how despite the economic meltdown on wallstreet and the taxpayer bailout of Goldman Sachs, AIG and other financial giants to the tune of 700 billion+ how the Republicans still are fighting every inch of the way financial reform - and meanwhile these same companies have turned around this year and given bonuses away near equal to the amount given them to the American taxpayers.

    We have seen all this and more.

    And yet Obama thinks compromise - "appeasement" is the answer.

    As Bill Moyer said (I think it was Bill Moyer) Obama is like a man playing a tennis match with an opponent who isn't even on the other side of the net, but instead is watching on the sidelines and laughing at every shot Obama attempts to make.

    But deep inside my heart Bernie there I am beginning to have this sinister suspicion that Obama really knows all this - and really, doesn't think or care whether this is happening.

    To him it's just politics as usual and he's happy with the scraps the radical right wing dragon is willing to throw him.

    Obama is willing to fight the dragon with a toothpick and even claim victory over such things as this abortion of a healthcare bill about to be passed - if Obama and the democrats are even lucky.

    Yet another great blog post by you Bernie. I hope I'm not the only one reading it and my guess I'm not.

    Take care.

  2. Jamenta
    You're not.Pass the word on to your family and friends. Bernie, Bill Moyers, Frank Rich, Tom Friedman...all thinking clearly and honestly and letting us know what a sad state of affairs both Republicans and democrats are currently..After the 5-4 decision the deck is stacked more than ever on the money side...we have to start local, state and then nationally to support the effort of change which Obama has called for...Even David Brooks, a conservative columnist for the times recognizes the intelligenc and honesty of Obama and the necessity of Obama going to the citizens and pointing out the ongoing hyprocrisy of the Nopers responsible for the current mess...the Nopers are right out of Lord of the Flies...
    Keep it up Bernie. Jamenta find that group which will help you in finding the leadership who will work to serve the best interests of the diversified citizenship of our country...
    Steve Dells

  3. Whoa - the Obama proposed budget actually taxes the most wealthy and gives breaks to the middle class and poor.

    Almost feel a bit guilty for castigating him so much.

    Maybe there is a little bit of a light and Obama might be turning a corner ... who knows.

  4. Impeach these 5 bastards Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Scalia, Kennedy! They have committed TREASON and this decision SHOULD NOT STAND!!!!

  5. Thanks for posting the article
    I enjoyed reading it