I’m trying to not be apoplectic about today’s Supreme Court decision, but, absent some Congressional intervention, I don’t see how this isn’t one of the worst things that could’ve possibly happened to progressive causes in the US.  The Republican Party, already overtly the radical wing of the business party (the other wing being the Democratic Party), will now have an unlimited flow of funds to finance its candidates in any and all US elections (judicial, congressional, gubernatorial, presidential, etc.).  If Exxon was to spend just over 2% of its 2008 profits on financing a Republican presidential candidate, it would outspend all the money spent by both McCain and Obama in the 2008 presidential election, the most expensive in history.

PBS’ Newshour has an interesting segment online.

By an accident of history (and some argue, a distortion), corporations are considered legal persons in the US.  This has allowed shills for big business to argue that the First Amendment, which grants US citizens with free speech, extends to corporations freedom to donate money to political candidates.

Fortunately, the campaign donation disclosure laws are still pertinent as upheld by the Supreme Court (Clarence Thomas dissented).

** Disclosure requirement: Any corporation that spends more than $10,000 in a year to produce or air the kind of election season ad covered by federal restrictions must file a  report with the Federal Election Commission revealing the names and addresses of anyone who contributed $1,000 or more to the ad’s preparation or distribution.

** Disclaimer requirement: If a political ad is not authorized by a candidate or a political committee, the broadcast of the ad must say who is responsible for its content, plus the name and address of the group behind the ad.

It is difficult to imagine the consequences if these disclosure laws were not upheld.

Hopefully, the Democratically-controlled Congress will pass some new laws that place some limits on corporate campaign contributions or at least allow for politicians to opt into public funding for their campaigns.

Ultimately, this is about more than the ability of corporations to bribe politicians with campaign contributions and receive favors.  I would argue that the worst problems facing the US today have not been solved as a result of corporate domination of government policy formation because corporate interests are often diametrically opposite US’ interests.  Furthermore, most of the major problems the US faces are a result of this same domination in the first place.  What happened today is the US went from being between the teeth of the corporate monster into its belly.

Update:

Kevin Drum has a distressing post on the subject.

Update II:

So, I’m probably completely wrong.

Update III:

And Kevin Drum has a another thoughtful post regarding the ruling, referencing the above Greenwald post.

I’m really ambivalent about this.  I appreciate the significance of limiting the First Amendment but I also acknowledge that this ruling unleashes corporations, which would have no qualms about selling each and every American a fistful of cyanide if it promised a good quarter for the shareholders.

I suppose a key question is where to go from here.  How can our current system limit the slant toward corporate power?

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