Our view: Keep the public good above the corporation’s

DKS Editors

In Wednesday’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama hit all of the expected points on topics like the need for expanded health care, clean energy, job creation and bipartisanship.

And while his ideas in these areas were admirable, maybe his most important point was the need for increased control over the influence of corporations and lobbyists in the halls of power.

“It’s time to require lobbyists to disclose each contact they make on behalf of a client with my administration or with Congress,” Obama said. “It’s time to put strict limits on the contributions that lobbyists give to candidates for federal office.”

While opponents might decry this as an assault on the right to free speech, let’s remember our senators and representatives are elected to represent all of us, not just those rich enough to afford lackeys to endlessly intercede on their behalf.

Maybe Obama’s difficulty achieving his vision of comprehensive health care reform led him to this reasonably hard-line stance on lobbyists. Or maybe it’s just a coincidence he spent a decent portion of his speech mentioning the corrosive influence of unchecked lobbyism after the health care industry “appeared” to have a great deal of control over how the bill eventually turned out.

Obama was also harsh in response to the recent Supreme Court decision that allowed corporations to make unlimited funds to election campaigns.

“With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections,” Obama said. “I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities.”

Obama is right on the money again. The recent decision by the Supreme Court broke years of precedence in the name of free speech for powerful corporations.

Somehow we think these corporations can defend themselves without unlimited political donations infinitely greater than the amount the average U.S. citizen can afford.

Removing checks on lobbyists and corporate political spending can only increase the amount of sway the ultra-rich can have on American legislators. Let’s just say corporations won’t donate millions to campaigns and expect nothing in return.

Or, to put it more colloquially, there’s no such thing as a free meal.

Politicians will increasingly look to corporations to provide money to keep them in power. And how can we trust them to act in the public’s best interest when corporate interests were heavily responsible for their election or re-election?

Corporations can be responsible for staggering economic growth, but let’s not forget our country was founded based on equal freedoms for individuals, not expanded power and influence for the wealthy.

Obama realizes our country was founded as a democracy, not a plutocracy.

But if Congress does not take his advice “to pass a bill that helps to correct some of these problems,” maybe we will soon be living in an America where the richest few have even more sway than they do now.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.