Republicans Argue That Corporations Should Be Allowed To Sponsor Candidates

Jan 12 2012 Published by under Featured News

The popularity of NASCAR has exposed most Americans to photographs of drivers in silly jumpsuits festooned with myriad patches of their sponsors’ logos. The drivers’ uniforms rival their race cars for corporate advertisements and in combination, the drivers and their machines are eerily similar to a clown and his little pretend car people attending a circus recognize. If Republicans have their way, it will not be long before candidates appear in debates and on the campaign trail wearing jumpsuits with their corporate sponsors’ logos, and unlike NASCAR drivers and their cars, the GOP clowns will not engender derisive laughter, but fear and desperation as America’s elections, democracy, and government are sold to the highest spending corporation. Willard Romney and the Supreme Court claim corporations are people, but if the RNC prevails, corporations will have more influence on elections than millions of people.

The Citizens United decision the conservative Supreme Court handed down gives corporations the right of free speech to spend unlimited funds to run political ads or use other media modalities to influence elections in their favor. Corporations are still forbidden from contributing directly to a candidate or a committee (such as the Republican National Committee {RNC}), and it is the last line of defense to prevent corporate ownership of a candidate. In a brief filed on Monday in the 4TH Circuit, the RNC argued it is unconstitutional to deny direct corporate sponsorship of a candidate or committee because they claim the ban applies “across the board to all corporations,” regardless of size.

The RNC argues that most corporations are not giant entities that seek to influence elections and that most corporations are little more than mom and pop operations typical of small shops in any American neighborhood.  However, the brief points out that the prohibition on corporate giants such as Halliburton unfairly targets little family shops and therefore is unconstitutional. If the court agrees with the RNC’s argument, there will be no distinction between Uncle Paul and Aunt Irene’s craft store and Koch Industries or General Electric. The Republicans are not challenging the prohibition on direct corporate financing for family-owned markets, but for giant corporations with unlimited amounts of cash.

A favorable ruling for the RNC means that a wealthy individual or Wall Street bank CEO can register themselves as a corporation and avoid the limits on campaign donations ordinary citizens face. Many Americans may be under the illusion that creating a corporation is a legal nightmare, but it is as easy as filling in a couple of forms with an online business filing service and appointing a board of directors. There are thousands of corporations consisting of an individual and a couple of family members who agree to be listed as the corporation’s directors. A corporation is a distinct legal entity that is separate from the individual (or shareholders) who own it and they are generally formed to avoid paying taxes and to mitigate liability in case of accident or owner malfeasance.

The danger inherent in allowing corporations to sponsor, and thus own, a political candidate cannot be overstated. The RNC’s implication that the local convenience store owner is being unfairly lumped in with the likes of Koch Industries is cunning, but it does not alter the result of their argument if the court agrees with them. For one thing, a small family-owned corporation does not have the means to donate more than the federal limit for an individual during an election. If a small business incorporates, it is for liability protection in case of an accident to prevent a lawsuit from wiping out an individual’s home, belongings, and future earnings and not to pay shareholders and investor dividends. Koch Industries, Halliburton, and the like are the intended beneficiaries of the RNC legal challenge to bans on direct corporate donations and will allow men like Charles and David Koch to empty their substantial bank accounts to buy a presidential, congressional, or gubernatorial candidate with unlimited funds. The RNC is not concerned with mom and pop operations.

The RNC brief specifically refers to the Citizens United decision in their argument and noted the High Court mentioned that “more than 75% of corporations whose income is taxed under federal law have less than $1 million in receipts per year,” while “96% of the 3 million businesses that belong to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have fewer than 100 employees.”  The RNC’s citation of the Supreme Court’s figures is misleading because there are very few neighborhood stores that have more than two or three employees if they are prosperous and have closer to $150,000 in receipts per year. The Republican National Committee may fool the courts, but any American who patronizes their neighborhood market knows that 100 employees and a million dollars a year in receipts is laughable, and even if it was true, they would hardly be on par with Exxon, Halliburton, or Koch Industries and their many subsidiaries.

The attempt by Republicans to subvert America’s democracy in favor of blatant corporatist takeover of the government will be complete if the 4th Circuit Court rules in favor of the RNC. The Citizens United decision will pale in comparison if the last vestiges of campaign finance laws are eliminated in favor of truly unlimited corporate sponsorship. If a corporation like Koch Industries is allowed to give unlimited amounts of cash to a political candidate as their sponsor, funny uniforms decorated with patches and logos will be the least of America’s problems.

It will not be shocking if a conservative court grants Republicans permission to sell their current presidential candidate to Exxon, Halliburton, or Koch Industries, and if that eventuality happens soon enough, Americans can rest assured the next time a Republican presidential candidate appears on a debate stage he will be wearing a funny jumpsuit adorned with oil industry logos and a billboard announcing; “Koch Industries presents…Willard Romney, Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum.”  By then, America as a representative democracy will be finished and the country, like stadiums everywhere, will be renamed to reflect corporate ownership and, despite what the RNC says, the neighborhood market will have nothing whatsoever to do with it. Americans may as well get used to the United States of (insert corporate name) because America is close to being replaced by the corporation with the largest bank account.

Image: dangerousminds.net

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