We have the Supreme Court to blame for Citizens United. But there's a lot Congress could be doing to hold the power of big corporations in check.
How are they doing? Check out the first-ever Congressional Report Card on Corporate Accountability to find out.
The report card is based on 17 actions (9 in the House and 8 in the Senate) that form a good litmus test of whether lawmakers are working for the narrow interests of large corporations or for all of us.
Thanks to good old Washington gridlock, very few proposed bills went to a vote in 2013. So legislators were scored on their co-sponsorship of bills or other actions related to corporate accountability, transparency and responsible business.
They include "pro-accountability" bills such as one to end subsidies for big oil corporations and another that would give corporations preferential treatment in government contracting if they meet certain good behavior benchmarks. Members also received points if they kept their names off "anti-accountability" actions, such as efforts to repeal the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation.
The results were pretty dismal. Only two Representatives and four Senators scored higher than 87 percent. The top scores went to former Rep. Fortney "Pete" Stark (D-CA) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) in the House and Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Al Franken (D-MN), Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). A dozen Representatives and 25 Senators earned the worst possible ratings (big fat zeroes).
The report card shows that Congress is failing to address the excessive power of big corporations, despite growing concerns among the general public.
A 2012 poll by the Corporate Reform Coalition found that 90 percent of Americans feel there is "way too much corporate money in politics." Another poll shows that 82 percent feel that corporations "care mostly about profits, cut corners on services, overcharge on prices, and do not treat their customers well."
The new report card was published by the recently formed Corporate Accountability Coalition, which includes the Center for Corporate Policy, Corporate Accountability International, CorpWatch, EarthRights International, and the Institute for Policy Studies.
Let's hope it adds to the pressure on Congress to listen to the people and take responsible action to limit corporate behavior and encourage responsible business practices.