he White House plans to push back against a Supreme Court ruling that overturned restrictions on political spending by corporations, unions, and other organizations. Politico reports that the Obama administration and congressional leaders are discussing requiring corporations to get approval from their shareholders before spending company money to support political candidates. President Obama said he couldn't think of anything "more devastating to the public interest" than letting powerful interest groups spend as much money as they want on campaigns. Is corporate money really such a threat to American politics? (Watch THE WEEK's Sunday Talk Show Briefing about corporate campaign finance)
Yes. It puts corporations above people: "This ruling will give large business entities far more power than any individual," says E.J. Dionne Jr. in The Washington Post, "unless you happen to be Michael Bloomberg or Bill Gates." It's an attempt by "ideologically driven" justices to "distort our political system" by giving businesses voices magnified according to their wealth. The public shouldn't stand for it — it's time for a "popular revolt."
"Supreme Court ruling calls for a populist revolt"
Of course not — ideas can't corrupt a democracy: It's ridiculous to claim that "political speech in an open democracy can be 'corrupting,'" says Anthony Dick in National Review. "The First Amendment was designed to allow all speakers to put their messages out into the public debate, be they rich or poor, vicious or virtuous." The people who are listening can "evaluate the merits of political comments for themselves" — that's what democracy is all about.
"Defending Citizens United"
Letting companies write blank checks is bad for government: "It will now be totally legal for Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, or any other major corporation to spend endless amounts of money to elect politicians who will drain taxpayers' pockets to enhance their profits," says Dean Baker in Truthout. "This is not good for democracy." Corporations aren't protected by the Constitution — they are creations of the government. So maybe the government should redefine them along the lines of non-profit groups, and deprive them of corporate privileges such as limited liability if they barge into politics.
"Leveling the political and economic playing field"
Don't worry. Politicians can take your money and vote against you: Campaign finance laws were supposed to have helped reduce corporate influence, says David D. Kirkpatrick in The New York Times. But studies show there's little evidence that "post-Watergate campaign finance system" accomplished anything. There's no proof that unrestricted campaign donations ever bought a politician's vote — and a review of the biggest corporate donors showed that their stock prices weren't affected when they stopped giving.
"Does corporate money lead to political corruption?"
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