Today’s serious topic: Amendment to Reverse Citizens United.
This isn’t as appealing as the SOPA fight largely because it is harder to understand and in particular because the “Citizens United” name is confusing in itself. If I’m following correctly “Citizens United” was actually a euphemism for ultra-conservative factions and large corporations. (see link below for some wiki info)
But the whole SOPA/PIPA battle, if anything, lends strength to the argument that having big companies in a position to control the outcome of government processes in the United States is not a good thing. Which is what this amendment is about.
I’m just getting off the ground understanding the background and history of this issue so please forgive any inaccuracies.
Apparently two years ago a Supreme court decision nullified a good portion of the campaign finance restrictions that prevented corporations from essentially buying up elections or at the very least using their large amounts of money to heavily influence the outcome of elections. Up until that point laws were in place at both the state and federal level to keep corporations in check so that the huge quantities of money that these large businesses have couldn’t overwhelm the election process.
Meaning, at it’s simplest, let’s say Megacorp wants to put it’s candidate in place in order to have positive outcomes for the company. Lets say for example that Megacorp has cigarettes as a big part of its business and they want to control Virginia (a big tobacco state) politicians to maintain a positive political environment for tobacco. So Megacorp pumps in huge amounts of money to their chosen candidates. Campaigns are very expensive and if a corporation had deep enough pockets they could significantly overwhelm other, less well-financed candidates.
The outcome can be a political climate in which what citizens want their government to do is overwhelmed by what huge companies want.
I remember there was very little hullabaloo at the time of the decision. Now there is an attempt afoot to enact a Constitutional amendment that would put controls back on the degree to which companies could control the election process using their money.
My ultra-fast foray into US government last weekend (http://juliatoos.net/ushistory/ushistoryhome.html) reminded me of how complex the process of passing an amendment is. I can’t help but feel less than sanguine about the prospects of this getting off the ground.
BUT it’s important to think about this and to be more aware of the degree to which the interests of huge companies are taking precedence over the interests of the citizens of the country. Last week, the SOPA/PIPA fight gave the country an object lesson in the power that citizens have to influence the outcome of politics and government decisions. Perhaps the next step is taking this amendment seriously as a way to prevent Megacorp and all its buddies from getting their hooks deeper into our government.
Petition to support the amendment: http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/5660/t/4438/blastContent.jsp?email_blast_KEY=116067
Information on Citizens United (which is full of obfuscation so it’s hard to see what the real purpose of the organization is): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens_United_%28organization%29
Information on how amendments become law: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Constitution#Procedure