Wisconsin’s political integrity is at risk. The Citizen’s United decision is one of a landmark Supreme Court decision that is affecting our country’s political system. Here’s a quick recap of what happened four years ago Jan 21, 2010:
- Citizen’s United, a non-profit with a 12 million dollar budget funded by corporations, made a documentary that showed Hillary Clinton in an unfavorable light.
- Within 30 days of the Democratic primary election, Citizen’s United aired ads promoting the documentary while negatively attacking Hillary Clinton.
- Section 441b of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) stated that it was illegal for corporations to broadcast ads advocating for or against a candidate within 30 days of a primary election. The Supreme Court had to rule whether or not this was constitutional.
- The Supreme Court found that it was unconstitutional to limit speech in this manner. Corporations have long had constitutional rights, and just because they have the funds to broadcast their opinions, they should not be stripped of their rights.
Opening up the floodgates for unlimited campaign contributions, the Supreme Court stated that corporations have the same free speech rights as individuals and they can spend as much money as they want to shout their message.
What did we get? The ‘David vs. Goliath Effect.’ Since the Supreme Court has equated money with speech, deep pocketed corporations have a much louder voice than individuals. Individuals may have social and environmental concerns. Corporations have one concern: maximize profits.
If a corporation wants to maximize profits, it will want to pay the minimum amount for resources. With labor as the most expensive resource, a corporation will want to pay the minimum amount for labor in order to maximize its profits. Even if the effect of low cost of labor is that people do not have a living wage, since this effect has nothing to do with the corporation’s revenue, it doesn’t matter. The net effect is that the poor become more disenfranchised since they do not have the money to contribute to political campaigns.
If a corporation can increase its bottom line by means of polluting a river, then the corporation may want to spend money to put political leaders in the legislature that will create laws and block other laws that will allow river pollution. As long as this can positively affect the corporation’s bottom line, then it is the logical move.
Wisconsin has been affected by Citizen’s United most prominently by contributions to support Scott Walker. In the weeks leading up to the recall election an organization called Coalition for American Values, a money funneling avenue for the out-of-state billionaire Koch Brothers, invested over $400,000 in ads that attacked the idea of a recall itself. Ads showed stereotypical Wisconsin folks who oppose Scott Walker, but moreover oppose the recall itself. This included a man next to a tractor, a teacher, a couple of fishermen who all opposed the idea of a recall. Ads like this are aimed at emotionally identifying with the voters rather than expressly making a rational argument as to why a person should vote or think in a certain way. These ads distort the real issues affecting real people.
What can you do? The great thing is that we as individuals still have power. We have voting power. We can make this an issue in upcoming elections. Elect politicians who agree that money is not speech and corporations are not people. Move to Amend is an organization dedicated to overturning the Citizen’s United decision by moving to amend the constitution to state that corporations are not people and money is not speech. People are protected by the constitution – not corporations. Go to www.movetoamend.org to sign the petition and find out how you can get involved. Educate your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers about the how political integrity is going down the drain because politicians are being bought. Pledge that we will not let our voices be drowned out by special interest dollars. Voting power is our rock aimed at Goliath’s head, and if we can get the sling swinging hard enough, we will be able to knock corporate Goliath out. We can have a legislature that is working on behalf of its people, rather than its special interests.