Published Sept. 3, 2009 in Tennessean as a guest editorial titled “Risk of buying offices too great”
The U.S. Supreme Court next week will review and possibly overturn a much-needed campaign finance law that limits corporate spending to support political candidates.
Campaign finance laws safeguard and preserve the integrity of our country’s 233-year-long democracy. Should the Supreme Court decide to lift these regulations that limit corporate spending in political campaigns, they are heightening the threat of corrupt electioneering to our government election process.
Our founding fathers said that all men are created equal. That statement applies to many facets of life, including the fact that corporations should not be given rights that supersede the rights of any one individual. Corporations should not be allowed to drown out the voices of individual citizens by “buying” a political office with excessive campaign contributions.
Being a taxpaying citizen first, and the founder of a successful information-technology consulting firm second, I fully recognize that responsible individual citizens as well as corporations that create jobs each have essential and indispensable roles in our democratic, capitalistic society.
But neither corporations nor private citizens should have unbridled power to use unmatchable resources and campaign tactics that directly influence outcomes of political elections.
Large corporations have thousands of employees who labor to help them realize profits. An ironic injustice would occur if that company could, in turn, heap an unlimited amount of those profits to support a political candidate who the majority of its employees oppose.
Some would argue that restricting corporate support of political candidates is infringing upon the right of free speech, which is protected by the First Amendment. Limiting campaign contributions of corporations does not violate free speech but, contrarily, it increases free speech and gives a more pronounced voice to every day citizens.
Removing corporations from the political election process prevents them from spending hundreds of millions of dollars to directly support legislatures who, once elected, could be pressured or feel obligated to carry out their wishes. Restricting contributions of large companies and wealthy private citizens forces politicians to attain multiple sources of support, and prevents democracy from being in the grasps of only a few.
Further consideration should be given to whether corporations are “people” who should be allowed the full protection of free speech that is allotted to all citizens in our Constitution. Although corporations are key influencers in our nation’s economic stability in an increasingly competitive global market, they still should not be allowed to interfere with and disrupt a democratic process that since inception was designed to be governed by the people.
I support the government’s right to limit corporate spending. It would be naive, however, to think that there are no external influences successfully lobbying our legislative, judicial and executive branches of our government.
At some point, our entire political system deserves a proper reevaluation to ensure that it stands independently and is not corrupted by corporate influence and control. If we neglect the responsibility to maintain an accountable and transparent democratic process, we are in danger of losing sight of the sacrifices our forefathers made in the early formation of America, which today is the world’s greatest model of democracy.