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Forum Post: On Money In Politics and Corporate "Speech"

Posted 2 years ago on Jan. 6, 2012, 4:45 p.m. EST by Rico (3027)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

We all seem to agree that money in politics is a problem. Many of us think this problem is related to corporations alone and think we should silence their "speech".

First, folks need to consider why associations of people have a right to free speech. Each individual person in an association of people has a right to free speech. If they choose to make a statement or do anything else that each of them has a right to do individually in unison, they are free to do so. The mere fact that they elect to associate does not deprive them of their individual rights. Attempting to deny people their right to speech simply because they choose to associate and speak with one voice is an incursion on individual liberties. We have to be careful how we tread and understand the underlying basis of our laws before instinctively calling for their change.

It is equally important to understand that corporations are not the only associations of people acting in unison when it comes to political contributions. Unions and trade groups are also associations of people and they also use their rights to speak and act in unison in regards politics.

The top all-time political contributors from the period 1989 to present are available for review at http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/list.php. I have summarized below the data for the top 20 political donors over the period from 1989 to 2012 in order of the amount given and percentage to Democrats (D) and Republicans (R).

  • 1 ActBlue, $57,248,360, 99% D, 0% R
  • 2 AT&T Inc, $47,859,717, 44% D, 55% R
  • 3 Fed of State, County & City Employees, $46,380,898, 94% D, 1% R
  • 4 National Assn of Realtors, $40,900,026, 47% D, 49% R
  • 5 Service Employees International Union, $37,767,242, 76% D, 2% R
  • 6 National Education Assn, $37,160,699, 82% D, 5% R
  • 7 Goldman Sachs, $36,215,437, 60% D, 39% R
  • 8 American Assn for Justice, $35,102,554, 88% D, 8% R
  • 9 Intl Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, $34,514,622, 97% D, 2% R
  • 10 Laborers Union, $32,189,450, 88% D, 7% R
  • 11 American Federation of Teachers, $31,883,116, 90% D, 0% R
  • 12 Teamsters Union, $31,438,292, 89% D, 6% R
  • 13 Carpenters & Joiners Union, $31,099,258, 86% D, 9% R
  • 14 Communications Workers of America, $30,306,648, 94% D, 0% R
  • 15 Citigroup Inc, $28,898,827, 49% D, 49% R
  • 16 American Medical Assn, $27,927,035, 40% D, 59% R
  • 17 United Food & Commercial Workers Union, $27,554,308, 93% D, 0% R
  • 18 United Auto Workers, $27,540,152, 98% D, 0% R
  • 19 National Auto Dealers Assn, $27,212,958 32% D, 67% R
  • 20 Machinists & Aerospace Workers Union, $26,964,727, 98% D, 1% R

It's pretty clear to me from the facts that corporations are not the only problem. There are many different groups of people choosing to speak and act as one in politics. It's not clear to me that we can silence the speech of people choosing to associate without risking harm to our individual liberties. We can and have limited how much money they can contribute to political campaigns, and I for one would like to see that limit reduced to $0 for all associations of people. In fact, those who know my positions know I want all donations stopped and a Federal Election Campaign used instead (see http://www.themultitude.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=47&p=4355&sid=ecb75db80472fd990616a7a67e5c2291#p4355 ).

Finally, one individual engaged in propaganda who picks and chooses his facts to support his position recently accused me of not supporting the movement simply because I included the full fact set for people's consideration. I think the idea that presentation of facts runs counter to the movement is simply absurd. We may all enjoy agreeing with one another, but if we are to make our case to the wider American public, we have to have enough integrity to check our facts. If we don't, someone else will, and we will be immediately dismissed as lacking credibility once people find we're picking and choosing our facts to support our positions. Worse, those who pick and choose their facts are just like the folks who watch Fox news then proselytize based on partial truths. The person who was doing so in favor of his position is simply the liberal form of a Rush Limbaugh fan. I don't buy partial truths from conservatives or liberals. Both are equally offensive.



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[-] 1 points by pewestlake (947) from Brooklyn, NY 2 years ago

I generally agree. Personhood is a minor problem compared to money as speech. And "artificial person" has been in the lexicon for ages. But accepting that corporations have all the rights but none of the responsibilities of an individual citizen cannot be what the Founders intended, nor what subsequent generations intended when they granted artificial entities the power to sue and other things under limited liability.

The difference between contract law and civil rights can be defined and codified in simple amendment language. We can strip money and unnecessary "rights" from corporations without upending contract law or completely rewriting the rules that govern the chartering of corporations and other legal fictions.

Please look at this amendment language for comparison:


[-] 1 points by LSN45 (535) 2 years ago

Well said Rico! I agree completely agree with what you have said. I just got online and it sickens me that your post has been up for two hours already without a single response. I see this issue as having the most potential of bringing about real reform. We need the money out! That goes for the corporations AND other special interests such as unions. Until it is, it does not matter who the president is or what the latest fad legislation is, the special interests will have it shot full of loop holes and twisted to favor them within days. Side note: there was a excerpt on NPR today talking about the "rate of return" some companies make on their lobbying dollars. Very interesting.

Here's my 2 cents from my earlier posts:

There are a lot of improvements that need to be made. The list of reforms Americans want to see is long and varied depending on who you talk to. That said, I believe there is one reform that would provide the American people the best chances of seeing other meaningful reforms actually happen - that is REAL, loop-hope free CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM! I have seen others on this site calling this the "fulcrum" or pivotal issue. Right now the current legalized bribery, pay-to-play system of campaign donations and paid lobbyists has disenfranchised the American voter. Until this is fixed, any other reform the politicians may try to placate us with (be it a change to healthcare, clamping down predatory school loans, new financial regulations, etc.) will be about as effective as a farmer putting a new roof on his CHICKEN COOP, but still letting the FOX guard it.

We need to go back to the original political currency. Instead of the current system of who can collect the most money from corporations and special interests it should be who has the BEST IDEAS to EFFECTIVELY RUN THE COUNTRY (we don't need "Wealth Redistribution," what we need is "Political Influence Redistribution")!

For the sake of our children and future generations of Americans, we need to take back our democracy from the rich and powerful who are using their vast sums of money to "speak" as if they represent millions of Americans. This "Corporate Personhood" that has crept into our laws is allowing them to manipulating our policies in their favor at the expense of the average American (the recent "Citizens United" Supreme Court ruling is a miscarriage of justice and must be reversed. The $50 or $100 a normal American may give to a political campaign becomes meaningless when corporations or other special interests are handing our millions to buy political access to the decision making process.

For decades now the corporations and special interests have had our "representatives" bought and paid for (both on the right and the left). Concentrating our efforts on getting the money out of our politics is the best way we can create an environment in which further reforms can be realized. Until we end the current system of legalized bribery (campaign donations) and paid lobbying our politicians will continue to be the LAP DOGS of the corporations and special interests. What we need first and foremost is real, loop-hole free CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM!!!! If the corruption is not dealt with first, the chance of any other meaningful reforms becoming a reality is almost zero - the special interests will just use their money to buy votes and put forward bills that create loop-holes or otherwise twist the law in their favor. If we want our children to live in a country where there vote matters, we need to get the money out of our politics, otherwise they will increasingly become the 21st century version of the "landless peasant." Spread the word - End the LEGALIZED BRIBERY!!! CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM needs to be THE main goal of the protests!!!

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 2 years ago

I agree... mostly. My companion post to the one I linked to at themultitudes.org ( http://www.themultitude.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=47&p=4355&sid=ecb75db80472fd990616a7a67e5c2291#p4355 ) is the one at http://www.themultitude.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=28&p=4258#p4258 where I argue as do you that this should be the only focus (note I also think We The People need to do better at using our existing consumer power... see http://www.themultitude.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=47&p=4356#p4356 ).

The part of your response I disagree with relates to the Citizen's United ruling. The Citizens ruling was a very narrow ruling regarding the ability to broadcast political speech near an election event such as a convention or voting day. It did not define corporate 'personhood'; that was defined long, long, ago. My post at http://www.themultitude.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=499&p=4387&hilit=+Citizens+United#p4387 provides the links to the ruling as well as my own interpreting remarks.

[-] -1 points by hchc (3297) from Tampa, FL 2 years ago

Yes. Unions donate money via their employees paychecks and get jobs because of it, screwing the little guy.

[-] 3 points by Rico (3027) 2 years ago

I'm not against unions. I'm against anyone trying to elevate their own voice above the rest of us via money and corruption. If a corporation, union, or association has a case to make, then let them make it to us rather than to our representatives in some dark room with money changing hands.