Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Supreme Court Weakens our Democracy

With its Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has severely weakened our democracy and given enormous power over our elections to corporate America.
by Charlie Leck

We made this observation months and months ago (stated immediately above in the subtitle); however, we didn’t have a concrete example of how that decision would work within our democracy until the Target Corporation matter this summer. Target came bullying its way into the Minnesota gubernatorial election by making an extremely large financial donation to one of the candidates through a ‘paper’ transaction with an organization called Minnesota Forward.

Tony Regare, From Tony’s Keyboard, has written some awfully good things over the past few weeks about the damage the Supreme Court has done to us with its Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision last autumn (No. 08-205).

Now the best analysis yet of the dangers involved in this decision by our highest court comes from Myles Spicer (as published on MinnPost.Com under the title The Hidden Dangers of the Supreme Court’s Decision).

In a couple of paragraphs, Spicer sums up what many of us fear most… I strongly urge you to read Spicer’s full statement. Below I print only two paragraphs of the total.

Corporate executives are strongly tilted to the right
This may be assumed and self-evident, but still needs added vetting. Gregg Steinhafel, Target's CEO, is a strong Republican supporter. And it is no wonder he would direct his company's funds to a hard-right candidate. He is reported to have given Emmer $2,000 individually (the maximum); and over $25,000 mostly to various Republican causes. Historically, individual contributions from Target's other top executives have gone mainly to Republicans. Moreover, Steinhafel's total compensation, from all sources, at Target last year was over $13 million — not atypical for top executives at major corporations. There is little question where such contributors will send their company's money. When we see other corporate contributions, count on them going the same way Steinhafel's corporate money went.

Interlocking boards
As with most corporations, the Target board is made up of current or former executives with other major American corporations. These include directors associated with such companies as Eli Lilly, General Mills, United States Cellular, Xerox and Wells Fargo. This creates a clique — a "club" — of individuals with a common cause; and that cause is clearly the one espoused by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other similar supporters of the right. If Steinhafel made his contribution to MN Forward with the knowledge and acceptance of the board, then this assumption of a collusive effect is correct; if he did it without board approval, it brings up what I consider an abuse of management power.

When you read through this argument by Spicer, you realize how powerful corporate giving can be and how it will often negate the power of the individual to influence political campaigns.

The Supreme Court of the United States gave one side in America’s historic political contest the overwhelming power to control elections.


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