Politicking by corporate cowards

Wednesday, May 8, 2013   |   Posted by Jim Hightower
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Hide & seek can be a fun game for kids, but when huge corporations play it in our elections, fun becomes infuriating.

Last year, corporate interests sought to elect their candidates by hiding from voters. In all, $352 million in "dark money" was spent, the bulk of it by corporations that secretly pumped it into trade associations, "social welfare charities," and other front groups run by the likes of Karl Rove, the US Chamber of Commerce, and the Koch brothers.

Since surreptitious electioneering puts a fatal curse on democracy, there's now a push in the Securities and Exchange Commission for a rule requiring corporate executives to reveal to their owners – ie, the shareholders – any political donations they make with company money. How sensible. But this simple proposal has caused a fury among those who profit by playing political hide & seek from voters. CEOs of the 200 largest corporations are being rallied to the barricades to stop it, and House Republicans are even trying to make it illegal for the SEC to let shareholders (and the voting public) know which campaigns are being backed by cash from which corporations.

Their rabid panic over a little sunlight reveals just how powerful dark money is. Ironically, the Supreme Court's chief assumption in allowing unlimited corporate cash into our democratic process was that shareholders would be informed, involved, and provide public accountability for their companies' political spending.

Even Justice Antonin Scalia, a cheerleader for corporate politicking is no fan of hiding one's electioneering efforts from voters, "Requiring people to stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic courage," he says. A campaign "hidden from public scrutiny" Scalia writes, is anathema to self-governance. He adds that campaigning anonymously "does not resemble the Home of the Brave."

"Corporate Donations and the S.E.C.," The New York Times, April 25, 2013.

"S.E.C. Gets Plea: Force Companies To Air Donations," The New York Times, April 24, 2013.

"Scallia, J., concurring in judgment," Cite as: 561 U.S.___(2010)

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