THE BLOG

Howard Schultz and the Heartbreak of the Self-Hating Corporation

09/13/2011 06:06 pm ET | Updated Nov 13, 2011

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has been making headlines with his call for his fellow Masters of the Universe to stop making all campaign contributions until the political equivalent of the Rapture--the golden moment when Congress stops sinning and learns to love each other, rejecting brinkmanship for bipartisan cooperation. How likely is that to happen?

Nonetheless, as the first corporation to run for Congress, Murray Hill Inc. has a special opportunity and responsibility to defend the values the Supreme Court enshrined in its Citizens United ruling--corporate greed, self-interest, hegemony and privilege. It pains us to see a formerly stalwart promoter of the corporate agenda side with what we at Murray Hill Inc. call the "bodied humans,", even if Schultz' idea makes a hell-bound snowball look positively indestructible.

Howard, Howard, Howard. Corporate America once had such faith in you!

After all, you took a product that used to sell for a quarter, jacked up the price 1,000 percent, and made buying your coffee feel like an affirming act of charity. Kudos, Mr. Schultz.

But rather than continue on your personal path towards world domination with all the certitude and smugness you've earned (along with three quarters of a billion dollars), you've strayed, Howard, you've strayed.

It's sad to see Starbucks behaving like a self-hating corporation, renouncing the power and influence that come attached to big fat campaign contributions. There is no need to apologize for the corporate way, or dilute the essential strength and vigor of unchecked corporate power.

As Zero Mostel so memorably said in The Producers, "That's it, baby, when you got it, flaunt it!" (See also, "Leo, he who hesitates is poor.")

The Murray Hill Inc. campaign slogan is "corporations are people too," and now is the time for a strong expression of corporate people power.

That's why Murray Hill Inc. is challenging Howard Schultz, or the computer avatar of his choosing, to a debate on the most important civil rights struggle of our time--the rights of corporate persons to participate in, if not dominate, the campaign contribution process.

Last year, when Murray Hill Inc. responded to the Citizens United ruling by running for Congress, we faced the kind of opposition that pioneering crusaders for justice have always met. Yet we stood our ground, remained resolute, and pushed back.

When we applied to the Maryland Board of Elections to register as a voter, the forces of anti-corporate bigotry rejected our application on the grounds that we were, in their words, "not human." (And also that we were not old enough). But we pressed on with our campaign, which inspired a YouTube video that has been downloaded more than 225,000 times, a front page story in the Washington Post, a Bob Schieffer editorial on Face the Nation, stories on NPR, MSNBC, the BBC and scores of local and national radio and print outlets.

Our opponent in Maryland's 8th Congressional District was Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who sponsored an amusingly naive attempt to roll back the Supreme Court's enlightened ruling called the Disclose Act. Murray Hill Inc. challenged Rep. Van Hollen to a debate, and the results speak for themselves. The Disclose Act failed to pass Congress, and corporations remain free to make unregulated, undisclosed and unlimited contributions to the candidates of their choice.

Of course, it is the dream of Murray Hill Inc. and the rest of the corporate person community that in the near future, corporations that have always had to rely on backdoor lobbying, influence peddling and big-money donations to get their way will be able to eliminate the middle-man and run for office ourselves. It is the American way for corporations to rule the roost and to acknowledge that in the commoditization of democracy, the electoral end-user (or voter) is nothing more than product packaging--like a cup of coffee.

So come on, Howard, debate Murray Hill Inc. You can bring the coffee. We'll supply the doughnuts.