Thursday, January 21, 2010

Very Little Law; but, A Whole Lot of My Politics

The Supreme Court ruled today that corporations can directly pay for political ads. There's a lot more to the decision and the issue. From what I can see, now rather than creating "front' PACs, companies can skip a step and try to directly buy elections.

The Constitution aside, the state of laws dealing with corporations before this morning and going forward isn't in good shape.

Corporations are "persons" under the law. If you want to know more about that try Google (or Baidu in the PRC). Their personhood is a "legal fiction" that allows law to apply all the normal rules applicable to people - they can be sued for breach of contract, negligence, violation of statutes and so on. If they fail, and they've dotted their "i's" and crossed their "t's" you are stuck with the fake "person's" assets, you can't reach beyond and get to the owners' assets, which encourages investment. So far, so good.

The mistake we made was giving them personhood for other purposes, like having any part in politics, taxation or charity. Corporations have no "business" being involved in anything but operation of the business, for the benefit of their owners. Their owners, real people, support and oppose political candidates, pay taxes and give to charities. Once you place a layer over peoples' actions you lose transparency, be it political, financial or charitable. You can't tell who did what.

I've railed about it before; but, corporations shouldn't pay taxes - that they do so only masks what you and I pay (theirs are passed along to us in the price). They shouldn't give to charities as it's quite probable that all of their owners don't agree on the recipients and us folks who pay the price for their goods and services (inflated to pay for their charity) are guaranteed to not all agree on the recipients. Quit with the taxes and charity, lower the price and let us decide.

Then there's the political involvement. When Goldman Sachs, Microsoft or another corporation spends money to influence political decisions, it dilutes your and my ability to do so. They've got more zeros after integers in their bank accounts than we do and carry more weight with our esteemed politicians than do we. Adding insult to that injury, again, we are paying for their lobbying and politicking.

For a somewhat biased view of the legal aspects of today's opinion:

Aren't you glad that I haven't posted since Sunday?


Wes said...

*slow clap*


One of these days, I want to sit down with you and talk about matters legal over cold beverages.


Dave said...

Hey Wes, thanks. I checked your profile and didn't find an Email link. My Email is in my Profile - shoot me a note and let's figure out where to get a beer.

fermicat said...

"Then there's the political involvement. When Goldman Sachs, Microsoft or another corporation spends money to influence political decisions, it dilutes your and my ability to do so."

You hit the nail on the head right here. With this ruling, politicians will be forced to do what the big corporations want. To hell with the private citizens. No reason to make them happy, because they can't buy a bunch of ads to make the politicians lose an election.

Nothing good will come of this. And the upcoming election will be hell. I'll be the one sitting on my couch during commercials covering my ears and yelling "LaLaLaLaLa-Icannothearyou."

Sonja's Mom said...

I am so upset about this I can hardly type! You think we have a lot of negative ads during campaign season now? Just wait - we will be getting more of it and it will be nastier and we will be getting it sooner and for a lot longer.

Anonymous said...

I don't really think this is going to change much.

You're right, corporations can "skip a step" if they want to buy an election, but I don't think they will. I think they like hiding behind a mask when they do their dirty work.

j said...

Thomas is on to something - WSJ 1/21/10 "Some company executives and unions said they were ready to jump more directly into this year's congressional campaigns under the new rules, but big companies may remain cautious about doing so for public-relations reasons"

Please note that the ruling also clears the way for UNIONS. Since your post didn't mention that fact can I assume you don't see any problem there??????????? Notonly are they the number one visitor to the white house now the can freely drown out others with ads.

Dave said...

J, I agree that Thomas may have the right idea. Can't you just see the headline "Halliburton contributes $10 Million to pro-NRA candidates."

As to unions, I didn't mention them in the post because they didn't fit into the overall "corporation" theme.

I do think that they present the same problems that corporate donations do.

Some years ago, I raised a stink at my law firm's partners meeting after learning that I had just contributed my percentage of ownership of the firm to buy a "table" for a right wing candidate for Governor fundraiser. My partners saw my point when I said I wanted the firm to contribute the same amount of money to the ACLU. We didn't; but, we quit all contributions to political causes.