CITIZENS UNITED (IT’S TIME FOR A REVOLUTION)

“Every generation needs a new revolution.” Thomas Jefferson

With the Supreme Court’s decision in “Citizens United,” a very real threat exists to our political institutions. The impact of the decision is that it undermines the integrity of our electoral process. A peaceful revolution is necessary to overturn Citizens United through the passage of a Constitutional Amendment.

The court gave to corporations the same rights as we the people have regarding free speech. As Justice Stevens stated in his dissent, it is an act of “conceit that corporations must be treated identically to natural persons.” 

When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence he spoke of how we were endowed with certain inalienable rights and among those rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He did not speak of corporations as having the same rights as human beings. Corporations are a creation of man, but no corporation can physically walk into a voting booth and vote. It is a dangerous fiction to give the same rights to corporations as we the people have.

Jefferson in a letter to Tom Logan on November 12, 1816, wrote,” I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”

Our country long ago recognized the need to restrict the inordinate power of corporations when Congress passed the Tillman Act in 1907. Theodore Roosevelt and Congress knew from experience the corrupting influence of money in politics and especially the corrosive influence of money from corporations on elections.

Montana in particular experienced the corrosive effects of the Copper Barons and placed limitations on the ability of corporations to make contributions to political campaigns.

Teddy Roosevelt famously stated that no corporation should be allowed to contribute a single dime to a political committee or to an individual candidate due to its undue influence. 

Thomas Jefferson and Teddy Roosevelt were right and we need to take heed of their wise council if we are to retain our Republic.

Average citizens can not compete with corporations when it comes to the amount of money that we the people can contribute to an individual candidate. It is sheer folly to believe that our voices can compete with the financial resources of wealthy individuals or the huge financial resources that corporations have.

The idea or concept that corporations should have the same rights as individual Americans is inconceivable. Free speech is not free in modern day campaigns. Under the founders individual charters for corporations reflected their suspicion and there was a “cloud of disfavor,” in how the founders viewed the concentration of power that resides in corporations.

Justice Stevens in his dissent, also stated,”Corporations make contributions to society but are not members of it. They can not vote or run for office.” This distinction between corporations and natural persons is so important and should remind us of why our rights as natural persons takes precedent over a creation of man, a corporation.

Citizens United throws democracy on its head by giving so much power to corporations. Money by its very nature is property, and by the use of a lot of money through political contributions our system is corrupted. Money corrupts and a lot of money being given to our elected officials can only have a corrupting influence. Congress should have the right to restrict contributions.

In today’s political world, if we the people are to regain our power we need to have a modern day revolution and repudiate the inordinate power that corporations have in our daily lives. Our legislators are bought and paid for by lobbyists. It is truly amazing to note how many of our elected officials in Washington have become wealthy at the public’s expense.

It is clear from the intent of the founders of our nation was that the real power resides in the people. Originally that power was concentrated in the hands of those who could vote and those who could vote were only those who had property. But our history has evolved and the power of the vote was eventually gained by all. Our representatives in Washington are supposed to be there to represent we the people, not we the corporations.

No law has banned the ability of corporations to speak. Their influence is felt through their lobbyests. Congress should have the right to limit the amount of contributions that any individual may make or what a corporation should be allowed to spend. The framers believed that corporations could be regulated for the welfare of the public. 

Jefferson fretted about corporations and once said that “Corporations would subvert the Republic.”

There is a saying that holds true, “follow the money.” If we the people are to regain our rightful place as the ones to which our elected officials owe their allegiance to, we must reform the system. In order for us to truly reform our system of government we must overturn Citizens United by passing a Constitutional Amendment.

The Constitutional Amendment can be quite simply stated. It should state that only natural persons hold those rights referred to in our Declaration of Independence, those rights which are our inalienable rights. 

As Jefferson so wisely reflected upon, every generation needs a new revolution and the time is now for our generation to stand up and have a revolution of the spirit and take back our country from the corrosive and corrupting influence of our new aristocracy, our corporate masters.

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