Friday, September 5, 2014

Three arguments against corporate involvement in citizen ballots and campaign funding

A complete political restriction on corporations needs a bit more discussion. Corporate laws as far back at the 1700's originally were written to allow people to take risks that they personally and professionally could not take as individuals. So while a partner in a firm could not take the risks financing of spice trade with India, a corporation could take those risks. Through our evolution of corporations, eventually they would operate with investments from people who were not directly involved in the management of the company, with decision making by boards that held wide-ranging perspectives on several related industries, and based on the expert abilities of managers and directors who could focus on the best financial health of the company and its projects. The risks were not personal or individual risks, and so each individual was protected from the heaviest, most onerous of risks. The corporation, as a legal entity or as a legal invention, could accept those risks and act based on the outcomes.  

Something went wrong when corporations started being compared to people -- legally, socially, in marketing efforts, and politically. {explain the moral questions raised by giving corporations and businesses the same rights as citizens} 

The United States is the longest standing republican form of government, and the vitality of its markets over the past 200 years offers testaments to the validity of a market based economy. The example of the United States has also been one leading basis for framing the laws, constitutions and market institutions throughout Latin America, western Europe, Japan, Korea and other  nations of the eastern Asia, India and nations of Africa and Arabia. So the United States' example will lead in our discussions here followed by examples from other nations. 

Ballot measures are issues for citizens to determine. Corporations are legal inventions, not citizens. Corporations represent the interests of their owners and investors and executives and managers. Corporations can base themselves in any nation, state or province, and even be multi-national -- meaning they could have conflicts of interest with and between the best interests of their multiple nations! And in a very real sense, the corporations and businesses are mainly interested in the value of profits which for them supersede any community values or national values.  

Non-citizens are restricted from voting. Non-citizens are banned from giving financial support to political campaigns. {offer examples of laws from several countries} Why then should corporations (defined as non-citizens) be allowed to give financial support to political campaigns, or even express opinions about the ballot issues that are solely for the consideration of the citizens? I am seeking agreement on the idea that corporations should not be allowed to express opinions on ballot measures because of the influence of the non-citizens in those corporations and their interests which may be contrary to the best outcome for the citizens. That concludes one argument.  

By recent decisions of US courts, rights to free speech have been extended to corporations and businesses. From that basis, corporations have found themselves completely free to give unlimited amounts of financial support to politically active groups that are swaying voter opinions on ballot measures throughout the US. (Even the selection in states of their Secretaries of State is being politicized {...}.) 

From the US Declaration of Independence, there is a recognition that human rights to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" are unalienable rights. Saying this in another way, no action or inaction by anyone or any group should allow citizens to be alienated or separated from their rights. Yet by giving rights to the non-citizen corporations these court decisions are alienating the citizens from their rights as voters. As those corporations exercise to finance political campaigns, the liberties and free speech of citizens are being drowned out, are being overshadowed by the power of these corporate voices. The negative advertisements, the extremely loud and too-often repeated advertisements, and many other efforts financed by corporations are alienating the citizens from their rights to speak and to be heard, and from their rights to consider and vote on ballot measures. Some growing apathy and antagonism towards "government by the people" is the very sign that the people are being alienated from their rights. That concludes the second argument. 

Lastly, Section One of the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution reads, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States, nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. 

Did you notice the change in terms, the difference that is expected between citizen and person? Any person shall not be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process. Yet a citizen falls into a more specific group and the privileges and immunities of a citizen shall not be abridged.  

One privilege of being a citizen is that citizens can not be anonymously influenced by non-citizens in voting matters, in discussing and deciding upon ballot measures. I point to the "free speech of corporations" as an abridgement of the privilege of citizens to exercise their right to vote because those non-citizens do attempt to influence and affect the citizens, their opinions, and their resolve in casting ballots  

If a non-citizen is permitted by some state law to keep a citizen away from the ballot box on election day, then that directly affects the citizen and that state law is abridging a citizen's privilege. If a non-citizen, permitted by states or by courts, overwhelms citizens with any opinion on a ballot measure, especially by way of negative advertising, then those efforts are abridging a citizen's privilege. Finally, if the number of advertisements, financed by a non-citizen, and then some confusion from those advertisements brings a citizen to not vote out of frustration or a sense of apathy, then the advertisements are abridging a citizen's privilege.  

Based on the history of court decisions and other duly passed laws, only an amendment to the US Constitution may reverse this current trend in the corporate funding of political campaigns.  

Beyond these three arguments the US Declaration of Independence reads, "That to secure these rights [we are focused on the right to vote], Governments are instituted among Men [we understand this to be citizens, not legal inventions, but a special group of persons], deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People [again the right of citizens] to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them [exclusively citizens] shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness." We citizens have the right to exclude non-citizen corporations.

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