Corporations Have an Increased Presence in Politics
Senator, my business has a million dollars to spend in this race and we can either use it for commercials that help elect you or help defeat you. What would you like us to do?
After a recent change in campaign finance law to no longer limit how much money corporations can contribute toward political broadcasts, every corporation can pull a rhetorical question like the one above to anyone seeking elected office.
The Supreme Court’s ruling of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) in January overturned a provision of law that limited how much corporations could contribute toward “electioneering communications,” which is basically any type of broadcast in support of a political stance for any local or national election.
While some argue alongside a majority of the Supreme Court and say the First Amendment’s protection of free speech entitles corporations to limitless broadcast spending, others argue we should not allow corporations to have so much influence in the political process. Elected officials should prioritize the interest of the public over the interest of a business, but this commonsensical ideal is put into jeopardy when businesses are allowed unlimited influence on the political process.
Corporations will invest and act in their own interest, not the public interest, just as they always have. As a result, “electioneering communications” costs in 2010 ought to outweigh the previous levels of when corporations were limited in what they could contribute.
Nevertheless, though midterm elections historically see less spending than presidential elections, even this trend has changed after allowing corporations to spend without limits, according to the following statistics derived from the database at OpenSecrets.org. As of September 5th, the communication expenses of the top ten political action committees (PACs) in the 2010 election cycle already totals $34,186,480, whereas the top ten PACs for the entire 2008 cycle only had communication costs of $23,668,515, or 44% less. In the 2006 cycle, which was the most recent midterm election, communication expenses of the top ten PACs totaled only $15,156,831, or 57% less. Moreover, the 2010 election is still 56 days away and the rate of spending is expected to only accelerate.
By allowing corporations limitless spending, we enter a new political landscape where campaigns and candidates are increasingly subjected to the interests of an industry.
The democratic foundations of this country are not close to being a government for and by a business, but instead we have a government that is for and by the people.