Wanted: Presidential Backbone | Sojourners

Wanted: Presidential Backbone

Corporations don't have to breathe the air or drink the water—so why are they "people" too?

Here's some 2010 midterm election commentary ripped straight from the headlines—of 1886.

As we all know by now, the story of the 2010 campaign season was the torrent of secret, unaccountable corporate cash used to saturate the airwaves with false, or nearly false, pro-Republican advertising. I live in an upper South border region, prime natural habitat for Blue Dog Dems, and here the commercials aimed at southern Indiana's Baron Hill and central Kentucky's Ben Chandler rendered even the World Series almost unwatchable.

Overall campaign spending made 2010 the third most expensive election ever, behind 2004 and 2008. Fred Wertheimer, president of the nonprofit Democracy 21, told Politico that about $200 million was being spent by outside groups that did not disclose the sources of their money.

It is generally acknowledged that the deluge of midterm campaign cash was unleashed by a conveniently timed January 2010 Supreme Court ruling, in the Citizens United case, which enshrined corporations' right to spend money in political campaigns as an essential First Amendment protection. Adding his voice to the majority in that case, Justice Antonin Scalia gushed, "To exclude or impede corporate speech is to muzzle the principal agents of the modern free economy. We should celebrate rather than condemn the addition of this speech to the public debate."

Slate magazine's legal correspondent, Dalia Lithwick, cleverly dubbed Citizens United "The Pinocchio Project" because it sought to turn an artificial corporation into a real boy. But the Pinocchio Project has been going on for a long time. In fact it goes back to—you guessed it—1886.

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Sojourners Magazine January 2011
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