The outcome of the Citizens United ruling is to make each dollar equal in the political process. Those who have most dollars can determine who runs and on what platform. In extreme cases one person could bankroll a candidate, as seems to have happened with Newt Gingrich.
Anyone who cares about democracy should see why this is undesirable. But what is more undesirable is the difficulty a candidate would find in receiving funding if his or her platform does not cosset those rich corporations. Getting the money from thousands and thousands of twenty dollar contributions takes time and effort and can only be done by one or few candidates at a time.
But one should not postpone more direct political action, while awaiting the gradual change in public opinion to be effected through education and information. Business must learn the lesson, long ago learned by labor and other self-interest groups. This is the lesson that political power is necessary; that such power must be assidously (sic) cultivated; and that when necessary, it must be used aggressively and with determination — without embarrassment and without the reluctance which has been so characteristic of American business.
As unwelcome as it may be to the Chamber, it should consider assuming a broader and more vigorous role in the political arena.
Neglected Opportunity in the Courts
American business and the enterprise system have been affected as much by the courts as by the executive and legislative branches of government. Under our constitutional system, especially with an activist-minded Supreme Court, the judiciary may be the most important instrument for social, economic and political change…….
This is a vast area of opportunity for the Chamber, if it is willing to undertake the role of spokesman for American business and if, in turn, business is willing to provide the funds.
As with respect to scholars and speakers, the Chamber would need a highly competent staff of lawyers. In special situations it should be authorized to engage, to appear as counsel amicus in the Supreme Court, lawyers of national standing and reputation. The greatest care should be exercised in selecting the cases in which to participate, or the suits to institute. But the opportunity merits the necessary effort.
These decisions placed two serious obstacles in the path of campaign
finance reform. First, the Court interpreted very broadly the connection
between corporate political spending and free speech, thus
setting a high constitutional bar in front of any efforts to restrict political
spending. Second, the Court interpreted very narrowly the issue of
corruption, making it difficult for reformers to use systemic corruption
(as opposed to direct favor trading or quid pro quo corruption). Together,
these two obstacles have drastically narrowed the ability of state
and federal legislatures to deal with the overwhelming influence of
corporate money in the political process.
Like a myopic Dr. Frankenstein, the Court had worked piecemeal
and haphazardly, grafting a finger here, an eyebrow there, until the result
was a full-fledged legal super-person. Yet only sporadically, in dissents
interspersed across the decades, was there an explicit recognition
that the cumulative impact of its decisions was to tie the hands of legislative
bodies seeking to control corporate power. In general, the Justices
displayed no awareness that the Supreme Court’s creation of a corporate
bill of rights amounted to an immense transfer of power from democratic
institutions to private ones. The process was not driven by any
overarching theoryto this day, the Court has yet to lay out any consistent
rationale to support its creation of the corporate bill of rights. On
the contrary, the process has been muddled and blurry, a perfect illustration
of the Orwellian ability of large, unaccountable institutions to bend
even ordinary language into a tool to serve their own needsthe gravitational
force exerted by power. Far from laying orderly tracks, that
force of power seemed to operate between the cracks of reason, leaving
in its wake only muddled, blurry traces.
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It is no part of my theme to relate how this former European constitution gradually lost its power and fell into decay. I simply state that in the 18th century it was in partial ruins everywhere. The disintegration was generally less pronounced in the east of the continent and more so in the west but every country manifested this process of aging and disintegration.
This gradual collapse of the institutions peculiar to the Middle Ages can be followed in their archives. We know that each manor owned registers of land ownership called “terriers” in which, through the centuries, they recorded the boundaries of the fiefs, the holdings paying rent, the dues payable, the obligatory feudal services and the local customs. I have seen the terriers of the 14th century which are masterpieces of drafting, clarity, precision and intelligence. They become obscure, ill-formed, incomplete and muddled as they move into more recent times, despite the general progress of knowledge. It would appear that political society drifted down into barbarism at the very time when civil society was finally achieving enlightenment.
Even in Germany, where the old European Constitution had maintained its original features more effectively than in France, some of the institutions it had created were already everywhere being destroyed. But we can best judge the ravages of time less by observing its losses than by viewing the state of its remaining features.
Those urban institutions, which in the 13th and 14th centuries had transposed the chief German towns into small, prosperous and enlightened republics, still existed in the 18th but offered nothing more than an empty show. Their legal conditions appeared to be as vigorous as ever – the magistrates they appointed had the same names and appeared to perform the same functions – but the activity, energy, shared patriotic feeling, virile and productive virtues which they inspired had vanished. These ancient institutions had inwardly collapsed without losing their original shape.
All the powers of the Middle Ages that still remained were attacked by the same disease and displayed the same disintegration and the same slow decline. Still more, everything which was associated with the old constitution and had retained an almost clear imprint of it, without exactly belonging to it, directly lost its vitality. From that contact the aristocracy became infected with senile decay. Political liberty itself, whose achievements had permeated the whole Middle Ages, appeared to be stricken by barrenness wherever it still bore the particular characteristics it had gained from the medieval period. Wherever provincial assemblies had preserved their ancient constitution in an unchanged state they halted the progress of civilization rather than fostered it. It might be said that they were alien and almost impervious to the new spirit of the time. The antiquity of these institutions had not made them respected. Quite the contrary, they lost any credit even as they grew old and, strange to relate, they inspired all the more hatred as they seemed less capable of causing harm through their increasing decay. “The present state of things”, said a German writer, a contemporary and friend of this old regime, “appears to have become generally painful for everyone and occasionally contemptible. It is strange to see how people now judge unfavorably everything that is old. New impressions come to light at the heart of our families and upset their orderliness. Even our housewives no longer wish to put up with their old furniture.” Yet in Germany, at the same time as in France, society was thriving and enjoyed a growing prosperity. But everything which was alive, active, and creative was recent in origin, not only new but in conflict with the past.
Royalty shared nothing in common with the royalty of the Middle Ages, possessed other powers, occupied another position, had another spirit and inspired other feelings; the administration of the state extended everywhere, settling upon the remnants of local powers; the hierarchy of public officials increasingly replaced the government of the nobility. All these new powers acted according to procedures and followed ideas which men of the Middle Ages had either not known of had condemned. These had their links in fact to a state of society beyond their experience.