Boy, that post title doesn’t inspire much confidence does it? It sounds like a Sunday morning talk show kind of topic. Well, I can be funny about it!
Ok, no I really can’t.
But a reader asked a question in the comments of my post about advocacy after the election about the influence of corporations in government . I wrote her an answer via email and I liked it so much that I’m publishing it today. I’m no constitutional scholar, nor am I an expert in campaign finance but I am a news and political junkie who’s given the matter some thought. And I don’t particularly want to live in the United States of Halliburton so I’d like to see some changes.
My opinions are completely my own and are just that: opinions. If you diagree, please be polite about it.
Do you have a question about something in politics or a current event that you’d like to hear me sound off on? Ask away! I love being able to talk about this stuff and I’d love to know what other people find interesting!
Q:I’ve never met an “insider” before but can be very passionate about the way we govern. My question to you is…is the government currently run by corporations to the extent that we have to have a whole “do over?”. I hope I don’t sound too much like a conspirisist. Maybe I have just lost hope…
A: What a fascinating and complicated question! First, let me say that I’m not an expert in this. I just have some opinions and I’m happy to share. Corporations have a LOT of power. But a lot of that power could be repealed by removing them from the election process. Corporations have long been able to hand out checks to help finance campaigns and that often (or always) gave them access to legislators in ways that were unhealthy for individuals. That’s been compounded in the past year with the Citizens United decision out of the Supreme Court which rules that there should be no limits on the political speech by coroporations so they can give more money to campaigns and do more third-party advertising. That’s really bad news for individuals because it means corporations can back pro-business candidates and shut out less business-friendly candidates. I’m a major propoenet of massive election law overhaul that takes ALL private money out of the process, limits campaigns lengths and makes elections publicly financed.
Which means I’m in favor of yet another government funded program. Oh well.
That’s not to say that I think business should be shut out of political discourse entirely. There are concerns unique to business that need to be brought to the attention of government and arrangements need to be made to address those situations. That’s why you’ll never hear me begrudge a trade association or industry lobbyist their time meeting with a Hill office: it’s their right. I just don’t want them to throw money behind the information. That tips the scales in favor of business and is not fair to individuals.
The problem with business is that they exist to make money and maximizing profits is their ultimate goal. Their purpose is not to promote the well-being of the populace. The government’s purpose IS to promote the well-being of the populace and should protect individuals from exploitive practices of business. When they give business greater consideration than they give individuals, we have a basic disconnect of government’s true allegiance. I take this idea from the preamble to the Constitution which addresses the needs of people explicitly. We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
That all being said, do we need to start over? No. Not in my opinion. We have a good system. With some major flaws. I think reforming election law would change the face of Congress and change the balance of power between individuals and businesses. But right now there’s a trend toward giving corporations more of the rights of citizenship. Can it be reversed? Yes. Is there a will to do it? Not yet.
Rebekah, you have totally hit the nail on the head here. I have been saying for YEARS that there needs to major campaign financing legislative overhaul. Here’s what I’m thinking: there should be three primaries, and everybody, regardless of whether they’ve declared any political party status, should be permitted to vote in each of them. For the election campaigns for the primaries, it should be up to the individual candidates to raise their own funds and pay for their own campaign costs (advertising and such), and they can raise as much as they like, from whatever private corporations/individuals that will donate to them. However, for the general election, we should have one republican (winner of that primary), one democrat (winner of that primary), and one candidate from the various independent parties (winner of a new primary that would just be for the independent party candidates to run in). After that, the public money kicks in–equal amounts for each primary winner, no private money allowed except for whatever you have left over from the primaries, and you have to publically disclose who gave it to you. For both primaries and general election, there should be a 3 month campaign period. That’s it. Done. Maybe I’m running into some First Amendment issues here, but I guarantee that if things were run more like what I’ve said here, there would be a happier electorate and less voter apathy. Soapbox done. 🙂 Thanks for the post!
I’m not sure I had enough coffee to process all this information. But if I read correctly, I agree. (So let’s assume I read correctly?) 🙂 I think it’s atrocious the amount of money that is spent on political campaigns… I’d love nothing more than for them to be monitored. Less annoying commercials on TV and radio equals a big old win in my book.
We’re reliving the Gilded Age that took place at the end of the 19th Century when there was also a huge divide in income because the corporations had amassed a huge amount of power. That pretty much led to the crash and depression after which we saw laws put in place like the Glass-Steagall law that regulated banks and we were pretty much okay for 70 years until corporations were able to once again buy enough politicians to deregulate the laws that kept us on an even playing field and what we have now is a plutocracy, not a democracy. Unfortunately, people aren’t educated enough to see who the bad guys are as evidenced by this last election.
I see you want to limit the “Corporations” but no limits on corrupt unions who expend millions of union dues even though 40 % of their members disagree with the union stand. nor any controls over the 503c whewe the left wing idiologues fullel millions to enslave america with false premised environmental propaganda
I was really disappointed when in my state/congressional district, whoever had the most money got elected. And that’s the problem with campaign finance reform. Whoever has the most money gets elected so corporations (or unions, Jay) will keep funding their candidate and ensure that real reform won’t happen. *sigh* More people need to speak out on this issue so lawmakers will be brave enough to stand up to their donors and make reform happen.
Plus, I get nauseous every time I think about how much was spent on the races in my state. Do you know what our state could do with $30 million??? (The amount the gubenatorial candidates spent.)
What a great post! I think you’ve summed it up very nicely. Want to head the lobby for campaign reform?