Friday, January 22, 2010

SOLD to the highest bidder

This week the Supreme Court handed the country to multinational corporations. The Citizens United v. FEC ruling gave corporations unlimited ability to fund candidates. Unlimited. That means they can recruit or seduce their own candidates, give them enough money to blow a billionaire out of the water and buy the U. S. government, a seat at a time. Or all at once.

While constitutional scholars point out that this case actually strengthens First Amendment rights, the effect it will have on our political environment is undeniable.
But it’s one thing for U.S. firms to have their say. What about foreign companies that operate U.S. subsidiaries? Many of these, like American businesses, are owned by ordinary shareholders — but a host of others are owned, in whole or in part, by the foreign governments themselves.

One prominent examples is CITGO Petroleum Company — once the American-born Cities Services Company, but purchased in 1990 by the Venezuelan government-owned PetrĂ³leos de Venezuela S.A. The Citizens United ruling could conceivably allow Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has sharply criticized both of the past two U.S. presidents, to spend government funds to defeat an American political candidate, just by having CITGO buy TV ads bashing his target.

And it’s not just Chavez. The Saudi government owns Houston’s Saudi Refining Company and half of Motiva Enterprises. Lenovo, which bought IBM’s PC assets in 2004, is partially owned by the Chinese government’s Chinese Academy of Sciences. And Singapore’s APL Limited operates several U.S. port operations. A weakening of the limit on corporate giving could mean China, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and any other country that owns companies that operate in the U.S. could also have significant sway in American electioneering.
Milton Friedman was wrong. Corporations are not people, and they don't deserve rights as such. Campaign finance needs to be reformed.

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