An unfair advantage

David Busch

At the corner of East Capitol Street and First Street in Washington D.C., John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Ginsburg, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Sonia Sotomayor, John Stevens and Clarence Thomas gathered in the confines of the most secretive and most important building in Washington, D.C., and the United States. These nine individuals, citizens and current supreme justices gathered to rule on a current case brought on by Citizens United.

During the intense Democratic primary between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in January 2008, Citizens United released a documentary of Senator Hillary Clinton that critically analyzed her standing as a politician. The Federal Elections Commission ruled that the documentary be banned during primary elections because of the corporate identity of Citizens United. Citizens United appealed this decision to the District Court, but the decision upheld the Federal Elections Commission based on the 2003 Supreme Court decision, Austin v. Michigan State Chamber of Commerce. This decision stated that political speech can be banned based on the speaker’s corporate identity.

The elections went on and Obama was elected, but the matter was not settled. Citizens United took its case to the Supreme Court. Instead of ruling over the documentary, however, the case was over the logistics and rationale that ruled the 2003 Austin decision. Can corporations, either for-profit or non-profit, spend freely in national elections? Or are they in a different category, restricted from the individual freedoms of the First Amendment?

As the cool wind whipped through the historical buildings of Washington, D.C., these nine justices sat inside the warm Supreme Court, making final arguments and final decisions. In a 5-4 decision split between conservative and liberal justices, the Supreme Court ruled that the corporation was equal to the individual citizen and was protected under the First Amendment. Thus, the 2003 Austin decision was overturned, rolling back decades of finance election laws and allowing corporations free rein to spend unlimited amounts of money in elections.

The election of Barack Obama revealed the power of grass roots movements and individual citizens who believed in the power of the vote. With this decision, however, these grass roots movements and our own individual votes will be victimized and pushed around by the all-mighty dollar.

The dream of democracy is that my vote, your vote and our votes together have the power to run this country. My vote is valued in my beliefs and my education. My beliefs, though strong as they may be, will not be able to compete against corporations who have the ability to make multi-million dollar documentaries or commercials for a candidate who is in their interest.

The dream of democracy is that anyone can run for an elected position regardless of one’s economic background. Corporate incomes can trump my mere earnings and public finances within hours. In America’s democracy, wealth and corporate funding are necessary for an election run, not values and morals.

This decision, in essence, has given corporations an unfair advantage in the political marketplace. And, to be quite honest, I’m scared. I’m scared for our democracy that is constantly taking a backseat to capitalism and the distorted dreams of money. The rich control America’s democracy and brand name corporations have the same rights as human individuals. That is not democracy. That is not the dream of our founders. It is the dream of a capitalist oligarchy. And I’m damn scared.

David Busch is a senior philosophy and history major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].