We The Corporations? I Don’t Think So.
January 28, 2010, 12:00pm

I felt like I was in suspended animation as I read the Supreme Court decision which, essentially enables a corporate coup d’état of America’s Democracy.

Our country’s Founding Fathers never intended for monarchs or the business establishment to rule our nation. No, the Founders of our country began the Constitution with the words, “We the People of the United States…”

That sentiment was again expressed when President Lincoln in his famous Gettysburg Address said it simply but powerfully, that our government was of the people, by the people and for the people.

Corporations are not people nor are they individual citizens. They are chartered by states to conduct commerce. And while I certainly don’t pretend to be a constitutional scholar, I have been reading a lot about this and thankfully, many brilliant minds do agree with me.

While I have always been a long time believer, defender and supporter of the First Amendment guarantee of the right to free speech, the signers of our Constitution certainly did not intend for that to mean that corporations should be able to spend unlimited amounts of money in order to influence the outcome of our elections. Justice Stevens said it perfectly in his dissent of this recent court decision:

“Corporations are not actually members of [our society]. They cannot vote or run for office. Because they may be managed and controlled by nonresidents, their interests may conflict in fundamental respects with the interests of eligible voters. The financial resources, legal structure, and instrumental orientation of corporations raise legitimate concerns about their role in the electoral process. Our lawmakers have a compelling constitutional basis, if not also a democratic duty, to take measures designed to guard against the potentially deleterious effects of corporate spending in local and national races.”

The conversations regarding what to do are just beginning. Many efforts to undo and modify the damage of this 5-4 ruling will probably take shape. There will be attempts to pass a campaign finance reform bill that has merit and will survive the Supreme Court test. Hopefully, Congress will mobilize and pass legislation that prohibits the political contributions of any company that receives government funds and I hope they will also pass legislation that requires companies to get approval from their shareholders before a corporation can spend money on electoral activity.

And maybe, with deep grassroots popular support, organizations will even push for a constitutional amendment to undue this terrible decision. In our democracy, that is the only opportunity that the framers provided us to change Supreme Court opinions. While amending the constitution will not be a short term fix, it may be necessary if we are to preserve the democratic values that we cherish.

Sadly, we really shouldn’t be surprised by what has happened. During George W. Bush’s presidency, Karl Rove made it clear to all that he was laying the groundwork for the corporate-backed Republican Party to maintain political control for decades to come.

Although President Obama convinced the American public in 2008 that the United States was headed in the wrong direction, we should not take for granted that Rove’s plans would immediately unwind. By laying the ground work over eight years with the political appointments of judges, Rove and his republican allies knew that their efforts would pay off down the line… and with this ruling, they have succeeded.

With so much of concern going on, we can’t savor the success of the last presidential election; we can’t opt to sit on our couches and opt out of important elections that will define the direction of our country for years to come.

As voters, we need to support candidates and policies that will promote health care reform, campaign finance reform, comprehensive financial regulation, and strong environmental legislation. We must not allow special interests and their paid corporate lobbyists to block our efforts.

As we work toward change let’s remember that it will also require patience… all the fights for fairness and equity in our country took a long time. The labor movement, women’s rights and civil rights all required years of organizing, marching, lobbying and campaigning till their voices became the law of the land.

I wish this conservative Supreme Court that supposedly exercises judicial restraint and supports legal precedence had not flip-flopped for the second time in ten years (the first being Bush v. Gore) and become the most activist court in recent history. By reversing well-established election law, their judicial activism has set the stage to possibly erode the very fabric of our country.

But now that this has happened, it’s our turn to send a message to Washington. We must support progressive candidates and turn out to vote for them. We must let both the political and media establishment know that we will not let our democracy get taken from us. As we organize, advocate, legislate, litigate, vote and govern, we must stand up to corporate power and speak truth to the American people so that…we the people and not…we the corporations prevail.