Thursday, May 23, 2013

Corporations v People

It is somewhat heartening to see Senator Kel Seliger and Representative Charlie Geren wake up to the fact that some features of the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling are not good for the country. Since the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that corporations are people, and that corporations and labor unions can contribute unlimited amounts of money to candidates for public office, there has been a proliferation of 501c(4) non-profit organizations which apparently exist solely for the purpose of laundering money. 

These organizations may receive money from anyone–even a foreign corporation–and keep that source secret. They can also keep secret the sources of money they contribute to candidates for  public office. Another bad feature of this system is that the creators of the 501c(4) organizations can pay themselves unlimited amounts as administrators or operators of the non-profit corporation without any government oversight.

While the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are people, and thus not preventing corporations from spending their money to elect or defeat various candidates, voting citizens should have the right to know from whence came the money supporting the different candidates. No one can deny that knowing where the money came from to elect a candidate would say a lot about the future conduct of that candidate should he or she be elected to public office.  

For example, if a candidate receives $100,000 from a pharmaceutical corporation, it shouldn’t be too hard to figure that that particular candidate will not be voting for transparency or price controls on pharmaceuticals. What’s even worse about the Citizens United ruling is that corporations and unions are made up of individuals who may or may not have a say in which candidate gets supported with a portion of their dues or stock investments. It appears the decision of which candidate to support or oppose reposes only in the management of corporations or the leadership of labor unions. Looked at logically, none of it makes any sense. It is certainly not an improvement or contribution toward open government.

Senator Seliger passed through the Senate in Texas a provision which would require any such organization spending $25,000 or more to reveal its sources and report more accurately its contributions. Representative Charlie Geren picked the bill up; and after a rather hot and lengthy debate, the bill has passed the House on second reading. The news media often refers to the people’s right to know. What could be a greater need to know than where the money comes from for various political candidates. It is somewhat refreshing to see two Republicans weigh in on the issue of open government and transparency in politics.

Another revealing situation is on the horizon for this particular bill.  If finally passed by the House, it will go to the desk of Governor Rick Perry. It is the opinion of most insiders around Austin that Perry will, in fact, run again for President. An obvious fact from the past Republican Primary election is that Rick Perry was blessed with support from multi-billionaires and millionaires and would expect to be supported again. Some in Austin have even speculated that one of the reasons for Perry again seeking the presidency is to enable some of his closest buddies to assemble one of these 501c(4) corporations and reap huge rewards–in the millions.

In this arena the old statement “follow the money” could never be more true.  Let’s wait and watch.

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