Today a significant decision was released by the Supreme Court: corporations can now use money from their general treasury to finance campaign advertisements. The restriction on certain kinds of corporate election participation has been a long-standing part of American jurisprudence. The loosening of these restrictions spells disaster for the more liberal American factions, including those lobbying for gay rights.
The Court, or more accurately, the conservative majority of the Court took a case about a very narrow transgression of campaign finance laws and turned it into a decision defending the essential role of the corporation as a association of persons in American society. Their logic is convincing. At least, once you accept their premise that a corporation is nothing more than an extension of the citizenry, entitled to its own voice in the political landscape, it does seem quite unfair to limit that expression simply because there might be the "appearance of corruption" when corporate donations get too high. Who are we to limit the essential and important freedom of speech based on the risk of an appearance?
But this defense of the lowly corporation ignores some important facts. First, corporations are more than an association of persons. They are large entities, often controlled by one or a few private interests, possibly operating in one or a few different countries and interested, most likely, in profit maximization. They wield more capital than the average voter and have a long history of quid pro quo relationships with politicians (as the dissent points out in this decision).
The corruption and undue influence stemming from corporate involvement in campaign finance has been carefully documented. It is why we regulate political action committees so heavily -- we want to allow corporate participation, but prevent corruption or the appearance of corruption. PACs are a compromise, a limit on the freedom of speech without an outright ban on corporate involvement in the political process.
By ignoring the reality of corporate contributions to political campaigns, the majority of the Supreme Court has created a regulatory hole in campaign finance that most seriously opens the door to a cozy and dangerous relationship between American politicians and American corporations. Sure, unions get access too, but their numbers cannot make up for the vast corporate community in the U.S. today.
What does this mean for us more liberal folk?
If you control a corporation, chances are you are one of the more wealthy members of society. Likely, you are not worrying about paying for health care, education, transportation or many other essential services. You are also, likely, interested in decreased taxes (increased profit) and a freer market (increased freedom to pursue economic interests irrelevant of their effect of society). In short, you probably vote Republican.
As an LGBT person in the United States, more Republican donations should be a scary thing. Money equals advertising time and advertising often translates directly into votes. Rarely does a candidate suffer from too much funding in an election. More Republicans in office means more opposition to equality measures (despite what your favorite Log Cabin Republican might tell you).
The more the monied interests in America get access to the political process, the worse off minorities and poor people will be. Today's decision was a scary one for the left in this country. It will require a huge amount of fundraising work on behalf of liberal candidates to attempt to outdo this political shift.
Follow Emma Ruby-Sachs on Twitter: www.twitter.com/EmmaRubySachs