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January 31, 2014 / stacieshap

Money in Politics and the (not so) Virtuous Fight for Corporate Rights


Stacie’s Blogging the Governor’s Race! Read more in her series, here:


The actual difference between a person and a corporation may seem pretty cut and dry to most of us; one is a legal entity created in the boardroom, the other, a human being created in the bedroom. Yet, the question of whether or not corporations function enough like people, to entitle them to “people rights”, has been a source of controversy throughout the course of our nations history.

Dating as far back as the early 1800’s, lawyers have argued case after case in the pursuit of establishing corporate rights. Consequently, by 2010, corporations had garnered Constitutional protections under the 4th, 5th, and the 14th Amendments.

In January of 2010, the 1st Amendment was added to the list of Constitutional protections when five US Supreme Court Justices ruled in Citizens United vs. the FEC.  This decision gave corporations free speech rights and opened the door for corporations to use treasury funds to express “their political views”. (thru independent expenditures)

Many people consider the Citizens United decision to be one of the most egregious decisions ever made in the history of the US Supreme Court.  It’s as if the ruling justices, the very people we rely upon to properly interpret our laws and protect the integrity of our democracy, forgot that our democracy (technically our Republic) was purposely designed to place the ultimate power of governance in the hands of the people.

More than ever, candidates need exorbitant amounts of money to win elections, and Citizens United has only served to enhance an already corrupted system whereby politicians are compelled  to put the wants of wealthy donors before the needs of ordinary constituents.   As a result, sensible legislation gets replaced with legislation that favors special interests, and elected officials spend more time fundraising than governing.  

In the Senate race between Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown, both candidates agreed to sign a “People’s Pledge” to reduce the influence of outside spending.   In the current Governors race, Steve Grossman tried to negotiate a similar “People’s Pledge”, the full terms of which were eventually rejected by Martha Coakley.  read more

Robert Reich wrote the following last week (in January), on the 4th anniversary of the Citizen United decision:

“Nothing is more important than restoring our democracy and getting big money out of politics. We must rededicate ourselves to; (1) ensuring that, when one of the five Republican appointees responsible for this abomination retires or expires, he is replaced by a Justice who will reverse Citizens United, (2) get behind a constitutional amendment to reverse it, (3) pressure Congress to require full disclosure of all corporations and people financing political advertising, and (4) move to full public financing of elections. “

I couldn’t agree more!

So which candidates are with Mr. Reich and me on this issue?

All of the candidates support overturning Citizens United.

  • Don Berwick – Supports Campaign Finance Reform
  • Steve Grossman – Supports Campaign Finance Reform
  • Martha Coakley – Says that she’s not sure that there’s a way to publicly fund elections that would work for us.

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