Tahlequah Daily Press

Editorials

May 1, 2013

Corporations shouldn’t have ‘people’ status

TAHLEQUAH — Since the Supreme Court made its fateful 2010 decision in the Citizens United case, most Americans have come to agree with the cynical statement that “corporations aren’t people.” And most Americans – except that tiny fraction who wield all the power – would approve of a constitutional amendment to make it tougher to buy a congressman.

It’s far easier to buy a politician than it is to amend the U.S. Constitution, and for good reason. While the founding fathers intended it to be a living document that could respond to new circumstances as they arose, these men also realized they couldn’t possibly conceive of every scenario that might need shelter under its protective umbrella. Men like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, wealthy as they were for the time, probably didn’t envision the scope of influence huge corporations would have on politics, and how detrimental that would be to the public.

With its Citizens United ruling, the high court declared labor unions and corporations are protected, by the First Amendment, from government limits on political expenditures. This effectively rolled back elements of the McCain-Feingold Act, the campaign finance reform law that limited campaign contributions. McCain-Feingold was widely popular on both the left and the right, since for most Americans, the notion that unbridled spending corrupts is a no-brainer.

Although Citizens United insisted it wanted to “restore citizen control” over government and promote free enterprise, the average Joe citizen wound up getting crushed under the wheels of Big Business. Corporations began dumping untold millions into the campaigns of malleable candidates for Congress, with the expectation of results – and the investment has paid off.

If you need evidence, look no further than the so-called “Monsanto Protection Act,” quietly passed earlier this month to give this corporation carte blanche in the genetically modified foods arena. This rider did nothing for consumers except force them to buy products that may ultimately harm them, but it essentially guaranteed Monsanto’s bottom line – at least, for the time being. With enough pressure, that could change.

And it needs to. The ruling has brought forth dozens of shadowy groups, with nebulous connections and membership, who don’t have to release donor lists for public scrutiny – and all donating money to politicians to advance their own private goals. Most of the money has been spent on attack ads against candidates, and many of the messages border on libelous. Unfortunately, the public often buys into the lies, and votes accordingly.

A countermeasure might be found in the forthcoming American Anti-Corruption Act, which assumes all elected officials are corrupt unless they acknowledge support for the bill. More than 350,000 have given their blessing of online signatures. Proponents range from Tea Party Patriots to members of the Occupy Movement.

Among other things, the AACA would prohibit Congress from raising money from special interests they regulate; limit contributions from lobbyists and related individuals to $500; ban former members of Congress temporarily from becoming lobbyists; prohibit collaboration between individual candidates’ campaigns and super-PACS; force monthly disclosure by members of Congress about time spent on fundraising; and offer tax rebates for those who agree to contribution limits.

Organizers are ambitious in their desire to turn AACA into a constitutional amendment. They’ll need the approval of two-thirds of both houses of Congress, which is unlikely, since few folks who are corrupt will acquiesce to efforts to rein them in. A more likely alternative would be to convince two-thirds of state legislatures to call constitutional conventions. Then, three-fourths of all the legislatures would have to ratify, or hold individual conventions.

A tall order? Perhaps, but someone’s got to try, unless we want a handful of CEOs to make all our decisions for us. One thing’s for sure, for those of us who have read the writings of the founding fathers: Whatever those men had in mind with their cherished First Amendment, this wasn’t it.

If you’d like to get involved, go to anti  corruptionact.org on the Internet.

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Editorials
  • NSU needs to be more candid when its plans go awry

    Many area residents were disappointed to learn this week that the NSU Fitness Center, and its all-important indoor lap pool, won’t open next month, as originally announced.
    This latest delay is no surprise.

    July 28, 2014

  • Higher premiums a just reward for drunken drivers

    Over the past several years, Oklahoma has slipped in many of the polls that count. This week, we learned Tulsa is No. 4 on a list of cities with high rates of fatal DUI accidents. Is anyone really surprised?

    July 25, 2014

  • Maybe it’s time to think about having another BalloonFest

    The 18th annual BalloonFest was the last one held, in 2010. In summer 2011, when the Daily Press staff hadn’t heard anything about the much-anticipated event, we started asking questions.

    July 23, 2014

  • If you see a drunken driver, take the time to call in a report

    If you see something, say something. You’ve heard the warning, and seen it imprinted on placards at airports. In the wake of 9/11, it became a national mantra, mainly aimed at spotting potential terrorist activities. But it’s good advice anytime, and for any reason, even at the local level.

    July 14, 2014

  • City officials should stop squabbling and try to work together

    It’s bad enough that the Chamber of Commerce scandal has given Tahlequah a black eye. But if the bickering among city officials doesn’t stop, the community will have a complete set of shiners for its public face.

    July 11, 2014

  • Only full disclosure will restore trust in the chamber

    Despite pressure from some quarters, neither the Press nor anyone else who values full disclosure will be clamming up until all the facts are known, and those who are responsible meet with justice.

    July 10, 2014

  • Only full disclosure will restore trust in the chamber

    A few board members for the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce are saying they’ve heard nothing but positive things lately – about the chamber itself, and presumably, about themselves.

    July 9, 2014

  • Employer-sponsored insurance may now be a ‘hostage’ situation

    When the fallout settles from the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, many Americans might decide they’re better off with health insurance that doesn’t come from their boss.

    July 7, 2014

  • With confidence in Congress at 7 percent, time for a new slate

    Note to Congress: We don’t like you. Not at all.
    A Gallup poll released Monday, June 30 confirmed what most of us already know: the American public is disgusted with the House and Senate. The survey recorded the lowest level of confidence since Gallup began asking the question in 1991: a whopping 7 percent. That’s not a typographical error; it’s a single digit.

    July 2, 2014

  • New chamber head needs to be free from scandal’s taint

    Every time another layer is peeled off the unfolding saga of the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce embezzlement case, those going through the records hope they might see a light at the end of the tunnel. So far, that hasn’t happened.

    June 30, 2014

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