Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Gang of Nine

[Clinton campaigning]

There is hurtling toward the Supreme Court the case of Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission. It seems that last year Citizens United, which is a corporation, released a movie titled Hillary Clinton: Why She Is An Unspeakable Whore and How the World Will End If She Is Elected, or something close to that.

The FEC went to court against them on the ground that it was electioneering by a corporation, which is forbidden by the McCain-Feingold Act. The US District Court, a Republican appointee, disagreed. The court ruled that it was just objective reporting of what an unspeakable whore Hillary Clinton is and how the world would end if she were elected. (Only half kidding here. The actual language was, "“to inform the electorate that Senator Clinton is unfit for office, that the United States would be a dangerous place in a President Hillary Clinton world and that viewers should vote against her.”) and therefore was not electioneering.

Even the delicate consciences of the Supreme Court were unable to stomach the odor of this pile and they granted certiorari (for the unwashed of the Emerald Isle, that means they agreed to hear the appeal). Presumably they intended to affirm but with less preposterous language. But now with Sotomayor on the Court, the outcome may no longer be as certain as it would have been last year. Those justices who granted certiorari may live to regret it.

Argument is scheduled for September 9.

For once I agree with my libertarian friends in Fresno. Clearly a corporation should be as free to make a movie, to write a book, to compose poetry, to perform music, to paint a picture, to fall in love, as anyone else. To prevent them would violate a corporation's G_d given rights to freedom of speech and violate their right to the pursuit of happiness.

Indeed, my conservative Fresnans do not go far enough in demanding freedom of speech for corporations. The Court should affirm corporations' freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, and freedom of conscience if any were ever found. Corporations could join gays in campaigning for the right to marry instead of settling for mere civil unions and mergers.

I think the Court, while eschewing legislating from the bench of course, should go further. The Court should establish the right of corporations to vote and to hold public office.

Once established, these rights would have far-ranging salutary effects on our political life. Since corporations can be established by filing papers in the state capital and paying fees of a few hundred dollars, they could be created in great numbers to offset excessive voting by union members, immigrants, people without medical insurance, and other such unqualified voters. This would rapidly bring an end to people voting their pocketbooks by people with little or nothing in them. I mean we could still vote, but why bother? Actually, not much would change would it?

Corporations holding public office would be a considerable improvement of the current situation. Instead of having to vote for middlemen such as all of the Republicans and most of the Democrats, and never being sure which corporations one was actually voting for, we could vote for the corporations directly.

Of course, as with human candidates, the corporations would have to be ones with broad public appeal. I could see a ticket of Coca-Cola and Apple being hard to beat. We could just drop the pretense that corporations are not running the country and at a stroke save ourselves billions in congressional salaries and offices, and make the expensive White House into a museum.

The cabinet would be corporations too. I can see International Harvester nominally Secretary of Agriculture though everyone would know the real power was the Undersecretary, ADM. Chase Manhattan would be Secretary of the Treasury, McDonnell-Douglas Secretary of Defense. Chevron would be both Secretary of Energy and Secretary of State. The NRA would make a dandy Attorney-General. It would be great.

There would also be legal issues to resolve. For instance, since corporations do not have children (except for child labor overseas of course) they should not have to pay taxes for schools. The same argument could be made for gays, but they at least once were children themselves and have a debt to pay back. Corporations do not.

The same argument applies to medical insurance. Corporations never get sick and never need health care. Why should they have to pay for the health care of others? Such as their employees. It wouldn't be fair.

But before we can get to that golden future, we have to have the Supreme Court decide that corporations have political rights to spend money on movies to influence elections.

How important is this case? Imagine our elections without billions upon billions of corporate dollars paying for massive media campaigns. Imagine campaigns paid for only by the contributions of people who had to take the money out of their own pockets, not the pockets of the corporations they manage. This might rapidly become a very different America.

Imagine instead McCain-Feingold gutted and all restraint on corporate campaign contribution-bribes being ripped away and corporate money gushing over the landscape.

Imagine that mid-term elections are 14 months away.

Stay tuned. Depending on the outcome, September 9 may be a bigger disaster for the nation than September 11.

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