Carl Parker sez:
The recent opinion of the United States Supreme Court brought to mind visions of the opening scene of “The Son of Frankenstein.” As Dr. Frankenstein and his trusty assistant, Igor, were puttering around the laboratory, the monster they were creating showed signs of life. Dr. Frankenstein exclaimed in a loud voice, “It lives”!
Unfortunately, five Republican Justices have created their own monster with their bare, right-wing majority. This monster is real and eventually will do more harm than even movie makers could imagine emanating from the fictional monster of “Frankenstein.”
The bare majority on our Supreme Court has just announced corporations such as General Motors, Chrysler, Exxon, Shell, drug companies such as Eli Lilly, banks, giant insurance companies and labor unions--all have the same right of free speech as a real, live, living, breathing American citizen. The Court’s opinion is that such entities are entitled to the same protections for free speech as voting, live citizens. While conservatives and Republicans go on ad nauseam claiming to abhor judges who legislate rather than interpret, this right-wing court has in one fell swoop enacted all new rules for free elections. Unfortunately, this court has adopted the modern day “Golden Rule.” Ye who have the gold will rule. The court has overturned not only federal law, but Texas laws which have been on the books for over 100 years to prevent railroads and other big corporations from drowning candidates for office under floods of money in order to control state government.
Former Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill, said money is the mother’s milk of politics. This being so, lobbyists hired at the rate of approximately 20-million dollars a day by insurance companies, health care providers and pharmaceutical companies have produced some wonderfully healthy babies. They have produced enough healthy voting members of Congress, it appears, to derail any hope of a meaningful health reform package. I feel this is only a preview of things to come.
We can find a prime example of corporate money excess right here in Southeast Texas. We were blessed for years with one of the most effective, dedicated congressmen ever to serve in the United States House of Representatives, Jack Brooks. Jack was a courageous, ex-Marine who without flinching or backing up was always willing to take on special interests for the benefit of ordinary citizens. Texans have long suffered under one of the most onerous sales taxes in the United States. Retailers, particularly mom and pop operations, are at a disadvantage to catalog salesmen who do not have to collect the state sales tax if they take the order for merchandise outside the boundaries of Texas.
Congressman Brooks introduced legislation to cure this inequitable situation. Shortly thereafter an ad appeared in several national publications offering thousands of dollars for any candidate who would see fit to take on Congressman Brooks in the coming election. Unfortunately, the ads were answered by a man whose name I have already forgotten, but remember he had trouble locating the men’s room in the capitol complex in Washington, DC. He only lasted a session or so, but it was enough to disrupt the continuity of effective service the people of Southeast Texas enjoyed from the dedication of Congressman Brooks.
Multiply the above situation a thousand fold. Few congressmen or other elected officials, particularly at the state level will ever have the wherewithal to withstand the ability of big companies to raise thousands, if not millions, of dollars to punish any elected official who crosses them.
The second effect of the Supreme Court’s decision is to allow unfettered expenditure of corporate dollars into the system by people spending the money who do not own it. When an individual sees fit to spend thousands of dollars on politics, it is his or her money; it is their personal decision. When a corporation decides to spend money in an election, the money belongs to the shareholders who invested the money in the corporation and, as a practical matter, have no say as to whether or not the profits of their venture should be used for political gain or for dividends. Incidentally the same is true for the unfettered use of dues paid to labor unions. It is not the union officers’ money. It is meant to carry on and support the efforts of seeking better wages and working conditions for workers. Various dues paying members may not be of one mind as to which candidate to support or oppose.
Another glaring example of how political positions can be bought is the Texas Legislature. The Texas Association of Business (TAB), in all probability, stepped over the line in gathering several million dollars to elect a majority of Republicans to the House of Representatives and elect Speaker Tom Craddick. Although the TAB received criticism and got indicted unsuccessfully, their ultimate aim of controlling the Texas Legislature succeeded; and even though their unpopular speaker was “booted” out with the support of many of the Republicans, they have replaced him with a slightly more tolerable version of a Republican speaker.
Any money contest between the vast wealth of corporate America and individual citizens, volunteer associations and labor unions is bound to be a one-sided fight in which ordinary citizens of this state will suffer great loss.