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Marilyn Barrett

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Corporate America Wins Big

Posted: 01/21/10 12:43 PM ET

The US Supreme Court ruled today that corporations can sponsor political ads. Corporate America again wins big to the detriment of the ordinary citizen.

The environment of unemployment and foreclosures crushing the ordinary American has already pitted big business against the average citizen. While banks roll in unprecedented profits, the average person is dealing with unemployment or, if more fortunate, the potential of unemployment. But the mountain of lobbyist money rained on our Congressional representatives dilutes their commitment and ability to protect the average citizen. This will only get worse with corporate political ads.

The Supreme Court ruled that corporation's free speech rights are denied when they cannot engage in political speech. The Supreme Court in part rationalizes its ruling on the basis that a corporation is only a collective of individuals.

There is a big difference between corporations and individuals that the Supreme Court apparently dismisses. When individuals consider which political candidate to support, they typically take into consideration a myriad of issues: the candidate's stand on education, health care, the environment, international diplomacy and, of course, whether the candidate would promote their own line of business and employment. While an individual includes his or her own financial needs into account and in many cases it may be their most dominant consideration, they are also impacted by many other issues and evaluate them as well.

In contrast, a corporation's focus is singular: maximization of profits. This will in particular be the focus of the large public companies, which will have the most money and the most motivation to interfere in political campaigns. Public companies, with thousands of shareholders, cannot possibly represent their shareholders' views on health care, education, and other political issues because their own shareholders will have differing views - some liberal, some conservative, and others everywhere in between. The shareholders hold only one common purpose in their capacity as shareholders: making money. And the executives and the Board of Directors would not be doing their job if their diverted millions of dollars to promote an effort they thought worthy but had no direct impact on profits.

We can now expect ads costing millions of dollars adorned with adorable puppies and charming babies from corporate America trying to convince us that they know what's best. It's just good business.

 

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