Some people consider political hate ads around election time to be just a necessary annoyance. To some, they're a painful barrage of dangerous misinformation akin to electoral hallucinogens. To some, they're a line item in a bottomless corporate account. Either way, things are about to get a lot worse.
In January 2010, the Bush Supreme Court overturned one of the few restraints on influence pedaling we have in this modern democracy: corporate campaign finance limits.
From the Washington Post: The Supreme Court removes important limits on campaign finance
From The LA Times: Supreme Court overturns ban on direct corporate spending on elections
From the NY Times: The Court’s Blow to Democracy
President Obama called it
a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics.
Justice John Paul Stevens
The court's ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions around the nation.
Whether or not you think the media is doing it's job to provide fair and balanced information as the fourth branch of government, or consider Fox News to be entirely fair and balanced, or believe all broadcasters occasionally spin things a little bit for entertainment's sake, or believe it doesn't really matter if spin sometimes turns to lies as long as there's fair competition, or are already horrified at the damage done by the combined forces of the the corporate noise machine, either way, the power of the corporations and broadcast monopolies to sway government has just gone through the roof.
From the Tea Pot Dome oil scandals in the 1920s, to Enron's manipulation of California's energy prices in 2000, to the 2006 Tom Deley / Jack Abromoff Scandal it's been pretty clear that there is big money in corrupting the political process.
Deep pocketed special interests learned long ago that their best value comes from installing friendly political candidates who give them influence over a wide range of issues. And as the cost of running for office has skyrocketed and so have profits for those corporations most involved with manipulation. After all, who has more money to invest and more at stake than the major multi-national corporations?
Much of this influential spending goes to broadcast advertising. Over the years, we've seen that advertising dollars, especially over the air waves, have been hugely influential over political elections.
Soon after the discovery of broadcast airwaves, and especially with their military development in the 1940's, the federal government assumed the right to protect and regulate this limited national resource. In order to prevent a free-for-all of competitors struggling to produce the strongest signal in each area, the Federal Communications Commission grants limited monopolies to individual broadcasters, prosecuting competitors, and ensuring a very, very lucrative business to a chosen few.
In the early days, the extraordinary power of the air waves was doled out by a lottery system and regulated against misuse by limits on market share in each area, and by requirements that all owners of the air waves take certain steps to ensure and show that they allow free access to the airwaves from conflicting points of view.
Especially after Viet Nam and Watergate convinced certain individuals of the need to manage the content of the airwaves, those who profit from these protected monopolies have worked tirelessly to free themselves from pesky considerations of free speech and accuracy, and in 1996 Congress passed sweeping reforms which removed the remaining restrictions on broadcast ownership.
Meanwhile, in 1971, a major victory for campaign finance reform was won when the Federal Election Campaign Act mandated that candidates tell their constituents where their campaign money comes from.
Then, in 2000 Faux News put George W. Bush's cousin, John Prescott Ellis in charge of the Fox New's Team's projections for the 2000 elections and broadcast projections unsupported by data in favor of George Bush. But with his brother Jeb manipulating the vote in Florida, the will of the people was pushed out of the picture. Fox News and other broadcasters used the controversy over the 2000 election results to push for installation of Diebold voting machines which further eroded security of the 2004 elections.
Throughout the Bush years corporate interests gained ground using their position to crowd out opposing viewpoints and manipulate the public perception of the facts. What more startling display of corporate greed and government manipulation do we need than the circus surrounding the mortgage securities meltdown, the banking bail out, their outrageous profits, and undeserved individual enrichment, that was the culmination of the Bush years?
In January, the court ruled unconstitutional the courageous 2002 the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act which closed a loophole in the law by banning certain contributions to party committees, as well as “issue ads” by third party organizations within 60 days of a general election was wiped-out by this recent Supreme Court decision. The Justices ruled that corporations are "individuals" and thus their right to "free speech" is protected under the constitution as it is for people, even when their message shown to be false, malicious, and terribly corruptive of the electoral process.
The court remains silent on such issues as whether corporations will now also be granted the right to vote, or run for office, but it hardly matters with the corporate noise machine broadcasting the message of tea-baggers, right-to-life terrorists, and Sarah Palin as the voice of the American people to the exclusion of all rational discourse.
The disingenuous Republicans, with all their clamor about activist justices that impose a
personal or political agenda on the people assert that the framers of the constitution intended for the consititution to protect corporations as people, artfully disguising the ruse by calling them "individuals", but affording them virtues rightfully reserved for people.
Corporations are not individuals, they're multi-national economic entities of our own making. They don't have souls or families, but they can amass enormous power, and they don't sleep.
Corporations can dissolve themselves in order to escape prosecution and can reform under a different identity quite easily. As a matter of fact, one of the main purposes of forming a corporation is to limit the liability of the corporation's owners, or more importantly, it's board of directors.
But who is to stop them?
Your elected officials are unlikely to help; Democrat or Republican, this decision on corporate personhood ensures that no candidate will be elected that is free of corporate sponsorship. Obviously the collection of very questionable Cheney appointed attorney generals will take this very seriously and let loose the flood gates on corporate control of elections.
Already Fox news is spinning a skewed reality like a Batman battle scene: Why Obama Was Wrong to Slap the Supremes
There are still things that can be done. Don't give up the fight. The first step is to search out accurate information and consider carefully the source of any news you hear. Take the time to research and think through the issues – don't be lead by simplistic knee-jerk answers.
Be suspicious of everything you here from Viacom, Fox News, MSNBC, Yahoo news, or Clear Channel radio. Be suspicious of the internet too. Corporations can flood the internet with misinformation, and they do.
Pay attention to news, politics and what your government is doing. Issues far more than mere tax dollars and government services are at stake. Jusitce and civil liberties are deeply threatened.
Join the many groups fighting corporate domination and give them your full support. Oppose mechanized voting. Get active and use the tools we have left, before it's too late.