Well, Doctor, what have we got -- a Republic or a Monarchy?
A Republic, if you can keep it.
It seems ol' Ben Franklin was right. Republics, it turns out, are not so easy to keep.
From pitifully low voter turnout, to rock-bottom approval ratings for Congress (both parties, in fact Americans prefer Communism over our current Congress!), to the increasingly obvious power of big money to set and determine political agendas, to the overwhelming distrust of all public institutions, there are certainly signs that America's Republic is approaching a sort of modern Rubicon.
Only this time the threat to our Republic isn't anything as straightforward as an egomaniacal general. This time the Republic is being challenged by a powerful array of superhuman forces deeply embedded in the fabric of our culture -- large corporations.
That's the bad news.
But today we got a piece of good news. Fed up with corporations secretly meddling in their public affairs, a record number of patriotic Americans have sent the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) a resounding message that the time has come to reign in corporate influence peddling.
You too can still join the more than 178,000 people and organizations that have asked the SEC to "create rules that would push corporate political spending into center stage," as Lisa Gilbert of Public Citizen puts it.
Click here to read the comments or submit your own.
Never before have so many comments been submitted to the Securities Exchange Commission regarding any topic, but the Citizens United decision appears to have been a bridge too far. The potential of secret corporate money in politics is too insidious, the prospects for our Republic too dim, to allow corporate "speech" to be conducted in secret and with shareholder money.
The outpouring of input was largely at the behest of the Corporate Reform Coalition, which includes responsible investors such as the firm I work for, managing a combined total of $800 billion in assets, public officials, legal scholars, good government groups, and environmental organizations.
The Corporate Reform Coalition was formed after several prominent law professors, filed a petition urging the SEC to require publicly traded companies to disclose their political spending. In Citizens United, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrongly wrote that comprehensive disclosure requirements were in place for publicly traded companies. This is not the case, however, unless the SEC requires disclosure.
There are grounds for wondering whether we have already lost our Republic to the power of big corporations. But if we still do live in a Republic, it is our collective responsibility to hold onto it.
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