Supreme Court Opens Government Control to Foreign Corporations
Last week the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision struck down a 63-year-old ban on unlimited corporate and union spending in election campaigns. That’s bad. But the effect globalization will have on it: That’s the stuff nightmares are made of.
In a 5-4 decision, with usual suspects taking usual sides, the nation’s judicial branch ruled that corporations, like individuals, have the right to free speech. Therefore, they have the right to spend an unlimited amount of money on ad campaigns supporting or opposing political candidates by name.
Conservatives have followed the green-papered road, with right-wing senators and Fox News hailing the decision as a win for advocates of the first amendment. Democrats have said the opposite. One liberal senator, Alan Grayson of Florida, called the decision “the worst Supreme Court decision since the Dred Scott case,” adding: “It leads us down the road to serfdom,” and “unlimited corporate spending on campaigns means the government is up for sale.”
After President Obama condemned the court’s decision and warned of a “stampede of special interest money into our politics,” foreign-owned Fox News (whose second largest shareholder is Prince Alwaleed bin Talal al-Saud of Saudi Arabia) referred to the decision as simple “free speech” and told its readers through a miraculously idiotic FoxNation.com headline: “Obama Says Free Speech a Blow to Democracy.”
The majority opinion overturned most of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance amendment, which Senator Mitch McConnell had been trying to squash since 2003. But it’s also a severe jab to the Tillman Act, a 1907 decision that bans corporations from donating unlimited money directly to federal candidates. Campaign finance reform opponents have advocated that doing away with this law is their next goal.
In his dissenting opinion, Justice Stevens wrote that with this new version of first amendment rights, in which corporations are treated as individuals, it’ll be difficult to single out foreign corporations with special restrictions. Experts like Lisa Gilbert of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group have argued that foreign-owned corporations located in the U.S., or those with U.S. subsidiaries aren’t barred from this new law, in spite of foreign nationals being excluded from making independent expenditures during US elections.
In fact, as Think Progress noted on Wednesday, “Congressional Democrats, led by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), are drafting legislation to curb the influence of foreign corporations and foreign governments following the decision.” That’s good.
Unfortunately, The National Journal has reported that lobbyists are already on the grounds, fighting for more foreign influence. They write, via Think Progress: “The Organization for International Investment, a trade group representing foreign banks, oil companies, and other foreign corporations operating in the United States, ‘lashed out’ at Van Hollen’s proposals.” That’s bad.
If you think the fear of a foreign financial occupation over our government is hysteria, consider this:
· The Associated Press reported on March 19, 2006 that 1 in 5 US oil refineries are owned by foreign companies.
USA Today, on July 17, 2006, began reporting an increase in US roads and bridges being sold off to foreign companies.
· On August 27, 2008, Reuters reported foreign ownership of US companies “more than doubled” between 1996 and 2005.
And that’s just ownership. Never mind foreign government influence over our domestic and foreign policy.
· The Chinese have a financial interest in our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and have literally made a killing by funding both sides of the conflicts.
· President Bush unsuccessfully attempted to hand control of six US ports to a United Arab Emirates-owned firm back in 2006.
· There have been numerous allegations – including a suit by 9/11 victims’ families – arguing the American-allied Saudi Royal Family (of which Fox News stakeholder Prince Alwaleed bin Talal al-Saud is a member) helped fund the 9/11 hijackers. And with our government’s help, the Saudis have done their best to block any and all investigations.
The most famous Saudi Royal Family case was refused by the Supreme Court on June 29, 2009, citing the family is immune from suits in the United States due to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976. The New York Times reported on June 23, 2009 that documents revealed “a prominent Saudi charity, the International Islamic Relief Organization, heavily supported by members of the Saudi royal family, showed ‘support for terrorist organizations’ at least through 2006” and other allegations, including testimony witnessing “an emissary for a leading Saudi prince, Turki al-Faisal, hand a check for one billion Saudi riyals (now worth about $267 million) to a top Taliban leader.”
I’m just saying. If this is the kind of blissful control foreign governments already have over our country, just imagine the rainbows and unicorns we’ll get from the massive dump of unlimited foreign corporate cash into our electoral system.