Sunday, January 24, 2010

PostHeaderIcon A different view: Why "Citzens United v. FEC" is not the end of democracy

There have been quite a few folks clanging the alarm bells about last week's landmark Supreme Court decision in "Citizens United v. FEC".

I agree with the 'landmark' designation -- as it is certainly unusual for the Court to overturn more than a century of precedent and until-then-considered closed case law.  For that reason, the decision deserves scrutiny -- especially given the seemingly overt political nature of the decision.

Tea leaves aside, I reject some of the more dire predictions and chicken-little responses from various talking heads and bloggers.

I happen to believe that there are ways of governing corporate behavior that can be used to prevent the potential abuse people are afraid of -- regulation that will withstand additional judicial scrutiny:
  1. Require full electronic exposure of corporate shareholders with more than $1 worth of shares -- this is information that is already available to the corporation (it has to be for annual shareholder meetings and votes).
  2. Require shareholder concurrence on political giving.
  3. Require quarterly reporting of all political contributions as part of SEC filings and shareholder reports.
  4. Ban corporations with foreign owners from political giving.
  5. Require the FEC to post reports on political giving in electronic format within 15 days of the end of each month -- format has to be compatible for easy download and retrieval by the public.
  6. Make the FEC more of a watchdog in terms of activity reporting -- this includes regular contributions to Senate, House and other elections under their jurisdiction.
There have also been some in the LGBT community that have bemoaned this decision as a further dimunition of LGBT power in political campaigns -- because more GOP donations (e.g., Corporations) means less chances of retaining a Democratic majority.

Ruby-Sachs at Huffington Post does this:
As an LGBT person in the United States, more Republican donations should be a scary thing. Money equals advertising time and advertising often translates directly into votes. Rarely does a candidate suffer from too much funding in an election. More Republicans in office means more opposition to equality measures (despite what your favorite Log Cabin Republican might tell you).

Here I have to disagree on a couple of points -- first, the current Democratic majority in Congress seems unwilling to push forward on LGBT civil rights regardless... and we certainly haven't seen any real leadership from Mr. Timid in Chief.  Second, the DNC and company are now at a perceived disadvantage in fundraising -- I say perceived because there is no real emperical evidence yet.  That puts the LGBT community back into play as major donors.  "Don't Ask - Don't Give" is just a start.

We have to demand movement on ENDA, DADT, DOMA, etc. prior to opening the gAyTM back up.  Put simply: pass our bills now or no money in the mid-terms.


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