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President Obama Stands With The American People Against Corporate Money In Politics!

When the Supreme Court handed down the Citizens United ruling January 21, 2010 that cleared the way for corporations to spend unlimited amounts of cash in political campaigns with very little transparency, it even prompted the President of the United States, Barack Obama, to mention it in his State of the Union address. It elicited the childish, “nuh uh” look and utterance from Justice Alito — that instead of sparking a debate about the decision, made the media pontificate about whether it was appropriate for the President to mention the ruling and whether Alito’s response was appropriate. To me it signaled that the President really does care about the influence money has in our politics.

Now I know the haters on the left and right will trot out the old, President Obama has gotten a lot of money from big business meme, but when you look at what they base it on, it’s people who work for big business who are giving to President Obama. And yes, some of the leaders of business as well. And in their criticism lies an assumption that everyone who works for a big business is conservative and/or Republican. And that those employees, being all conservative, must be giving to President or candidate Obama because he is conservative too or that they are buying influence with him. They opine that anyone with money must be conservative and therefore if they give to a Democrat, then Democrats must be just like Republicans. It’s quite a twisted line of reasoning when you break it down. It’s just one example of the simplistic logic that permeates our media and punditry.

I had a real world example in my family. My step father was a successful lawyer and businessman, yet he donated to and voted for Democrats all his life. He also was a philanthropist and gave a lot of his money to many different causes and was modest in how he spent money. I go back to a recent post where I derided the concept of generalizing, where it is so much easier for people to just lump everyone together and attack that lump, instead of deal with real people with varying opinions. The same holds true for those who want to vilify everyone who works on Wall Street or for an evil corporation.

Now on to the actions that President Obama took last week, which shows he stands with the American people against the influence of money in our politics. RMuse gives us an excellent article at Politcususa, where she reports on President Obama’s drafting of an executive order that will make corporations doing business with the federal government more accountable for their donations:

On Wednesday it was reported that President Obama was drafting an executive order that would require companies pursuing federal contracts to disclose political contributions that have been secret under the Citizen’s United ruling. A senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, Hans A. von Spakovsky, lambasted the proposed executive order saying that, “The draft order tries to interfere with the First Amendment rights of contractors.” Mr. von Spakovsky dutifully made all the right-wing, neo-con arguments including bringing Planned Parenthood and unions into the discussion. The draft order did not exempt any entity from disclosure rules and presents a reasonable requirement on contractors seeking government contracts. Several states have similar “pay to play” laws to prevent businesses from using unlimited donations to buy lucrative state contracts from slimy legislators. Thus far the only legislator who has railed against the proposed order was Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). McConnell called the proposal an “outrageous and anti-Democratic abuse of executive branch authority,” and went on to say, “Just last year, the Senate rejected a cynical effort to muzzle critics of this administration and its allies in Congress.

If you are wondering why the Professional Left isn’t all over this story and lauding the President for taking action against the influence of money in our politics, well, you aren’t alone in wondering.

One of the biggest mouths in the Professional Left, the one and only Glenn Greenwald, thinks the Citizens United ruling is just peachy. I won’t link to him directly because he counts on that, but I did find another blogger who quoted Greenwald on his defending corporations as people and thus their first amendment rights. (emphasis mine)

I tend to take a more absolutist view of the First Amendment than many people, but laws which prohibit organized groups of people — which is what corporations are — from expressing political views goes right to the heart of free speech guarantees no matter how the First Amendment is understood.  Does anyone doubt that the facts that gave rise to this case — namely, the government’s banning the release of a critical film about Hillary Clinton by Citizens United — is exactly what the First Amendment was designed to avoid?  And does anyone doubt that the First Amendment bars the government from restricting the speech of organizations composed of like-minded citizens who band together in corporate form to work for a particular cause?

I know that there were previous rulings by the Supreme Court upon which this idea that corporations are people was based — way back in the early 1900s when corporations where just a wee bit different than today. But regardless, we are dealing in todays reality and as we’ve all witnessed, the influence of gigantic corporate power has marginalized the rest of us, even those of us in unions or members of other organizations that have banded together.

If we look at Greenwald’s words above, we can see how absurd it is to argue that corporations are people. He says corporations are “organized groups of people” and later says they are “composed of like-minded citizens who band together in corporate form”, which I’ll be honest, made me laugh out loud when I read it. People who work for corporations are “like-minded citizens” who have banded together. Do I even need to counter that? People work for corporations to make money, to feed their families, to pay their bills and try to live the elusive “American Dream.” But in Glenn’s world, apparently it is just folks banding together with like-minded friends “to work for a particular cause.” Laugh if you feel inclined.

The response to that quote from Greenwald at theusconstitution.org blog was pretty dead on and referred to the dissent from the minority on the court, led by Justice Stevens:

Whether one calls this an “absolutist” view or just an “overly simplistic” one is, perhaps, a matter of semantics, but Greenwald is missing the point.  Yes, individuals should have the right to form and express political views, whether as a voting bloc, an alliance of protestors, or a legally-recognized entity that collects individual donations to advance a political message.  If the Court had written a narrow opinion vindicating the speech of such groups, it is likely that we would have seen a unanimous opinion.  After all, at oral argument, Justice Stevens himself argued for precisely this result.

It should be noted that Glenn Greenwald sided with the conservative wing of the court, the very same one that handed President Bush his election in 2000 and stood by the Bush administration who was running roughshod over our rights. I guess civil libertarians have different ways of thinking about things.

Another argument put forth by Glenn Greenwald in defense of the Citizens United rulings was the idea that outcomes don’t matter. Glenn W. Smith at Dog Canyon does an excellent job taking on Greenwald’s simplistic view about outcomes. Smith claims that “Mr. Greenwald says outcomes don’t matter. A principle is a principle.” Well, except when that principle is treason, as in the case of Bradley Manning. Then, outcomes seem to be a little more important to Mr. Greenwald.

Cross-posted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles

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October 31, 2011 - Posted by | Financial Reform, Politics, Professional Left | , ,

12 Comments »

  1. Ya gotta take a little lookie at Osborne Ink today – The Professional Left and the Wizard of Oz. It’s perfect for you. If I knew how to post a link, I would have.

    I saw Glenn Greenwald on UP with Chris Hayes this weekend. He got squished by the Congresswoman out of California. Can’t remember her first name, but her last name was Bass.

    Comment by staci | October 31, 2011 | Reply

    • That was quite awesome Staci, thanks for the tip. :)

      Comment by ExtremeLiberal | October 31, 2011 | Reply

  2. GG: I tend to take a more absolutist view of the First Amendment than many people, but laws which prohibit organized groups of people — which is what corporations are — from expressing political views goes right to the heart of free speech guarantees no matter how the First Amendment is understood.

    There really is a serious misapprehension of what a corporation is when someone who is obviously as intelligent as Glenn (and you can believe he is intelligent without agreeing with his conclusions) doesn’t understand that a corporation is nothing more than a legal fiction and has nothing to do with “groups of people”.

    Companies are groups of people, not corporations. The former is a group of people who work together to produce a good and/or service for which they hope to receive commensurate renumeration. A corporation is a piece of paper, issued by the government, that gives groups of investors (where said group can be one individual) a limited legal protection from liability based how that money is subsequently used by the thing they wish to invest in.

    Comment by Chris Andersen | October 31, 2011 | Reply

  3. (Achh. If it wasn’t clear, only the first paragraph of that previous comment was supposed to be a quote from Glenn.)

    Comment by Chris Andersen | October 31, 2011 | Reply

  4. And in their criticism lies an assumption that everyone who works for a big business is conservative and/or Republican. … They opine that anyone with money must be conservative…

    This is not true, but I know what would make them think this is true: the incredibly onerous screening processes job applicants have to go through now, especially for large corporations. The practice of hiring for “fit” and placing that higher in importance than skills, opens the door to all manner of intrusiveness into a job seeker’s personal life.
    I have wondered many times, how many Democrats or liberals even make it through the door where the executive suite, or even just the CEO, is conservative? Even when they do, how many times do they put with subtle aspersions cast on their personalities? How many of them actually get promotions, or actually make it to the C-suite… and what kind of values did they have to adopt to make it that far?
    Thanks to at-will employment, it is perfectly legal to discriminate on the basis of politics as long as you present it as an issue of “not fitting the corporate culture” or “potentially not getting along witih co-workers”. In fact, I wonder how much racial, religious, marital, and other outright illegal discrimination against some job applicants has gone on because the employer and their HR department were savvy enough to frame it as the applicant not fitting in.

    The ones with plenty of money right now might have a lot more liberals in the mix because they started out at a time when employee screening wasn’t so intrusive. I do worry that 10-20 years from now, the higher-income people are going to be disproportionately Republican and conservative, because of the effect hiring for fit has on the careers of people right now.

    Comment by Lucy Montrose | November 2, 2011 | Reply

    • As someone “fired” from two jobs soon after a co-worker would “out” me, I have the scars of one who doesn’t fit in with the political views of most management. Of course, the excuse for cutting me out of the companies was “down-sizing” or “reorganizing” that left me out of their corporate picture. BTW, this happened in “librul” California, not in Texas where I have always been able to be truthful with family and friends. I got my first taste of conservative corporate politics while in college and the U. of Houston placement office began sending me on job interviews just before my graduation. I had a series of good interviews with Western Electric for a middle management position. Then came the questions about my community involvement (as if working college students have much time for such activity). The interviewer didn’t ask me directly but used as “prompts” his own “involvement” with his evangelical church and his charities. When I didn’t respond “appropriately” (I had become a lapsed Catholic becoming agnostic and wasn’t involved with any charities at the time), all of a sudden the office manager became cold and I left that third interview with a “don’t call us, we’ll call you” (and of course, I never got another call back).

      I once flew to Salt Lake City for a job interview for position of superintendent with a construction company there. I was asked if I was active in my “ward and stake” and being ignorant of the Mormon Church at the time, didn’t know what he was talking about. So I never got a call back. Raised in a very political Republican family, I had dreams as a child of entering politics like my father and grandfather. Years later, realizing I could never put out campaign ads featuring a blond wife with 2 kids, standing in front of an American flag, I had those dreams dashed.

      My sister divorced her husband in the mid-1960’s when she didn’t want to become an “IBM wife”, a homemaker in high heels and a string of pearls being used as a fashion accessory by her husband at IBM social functions. When I saw the movie Revolutionary Road or watched some Mad Men TV shows, I could relate to the ordeals my sister went through then. Sadly, there is still much corporate politics at play, qualifications be damned.

      Comment by grantinhouston | November 2, 2011 | Reply

      • Years later, realizing I could never put out campaign ads featuring a blond wife with 2 kids, standing in front of an American flag, I had those dreams dashed.

        That’s one advantage of being a Democrat… there’s a lot less pressure to prove your social abilities and good citizenship by getting a marriage and children (not to mention a religion) you really don’t want. The pressure is not non-existent, but it is a lot less burdensome.

        I wonder how many unhappy marriages and unfortunate families were started only because someone wanted to get on a boss’ good graces, or to “relate” better to prospective voters? Why is society and our media encouraging us to see relationships as must-have accessories, badges of proof we have suitable characters?

        Comment by Lucy Montrose | November 3, 2011 | Reply

        • Lesbians seem to have it easier running for office. Next week, Houston will probably re-elect Mayor Anise Parker. Houston Councilwoman Sue Lovell, also a lesbian cannot run again due to term limits. Austin has elected a lesbian District Attorney, a councilwoman and Rep. Glen Maxey, the first out gay member of the Texas Legislature who was elected/re-elected six times. Dallas County re-elected their lesbian Sheriff Lupe Valdez last year with a much greater margin than her first victory. 445 GLBT politicians have been elected to public office now, up from 257 only 8 years ago. In Texas, gay politicians have all been Democrats. Any gay Republicans would have to stay closeted, hiding behind their “beards”. Gay Pride parades here always have all of the Democratic politicians showing up, riding in convertibles, but NEVER will a Republican show their face. The Log Cabin Republicans aren’t even allowed to be seated at the Texas State Republican Conventions.

          Comment by grantinhouston | November 3, 2011 | Reply

          • That just shows you how powerful social pressure can be. Despite the constant drumbeat from the media, from doctors and psychologists, and from right-wing and left-wing spirituality alike about how wonderful it is that humans are social beings, we need to remember that being a social being can be a curse as well. Look at how many times we fail to make the right moral choice, or more commonly allow cruelties to go on unanswered… all because we, rightly, fear the social repercussions; from ostracism all the way down to light-hearted reminders not to stress ourselves out too much. When push comes to shove, we will make the decision to keep our loved ones and friends loving us… even if it means we become someone we don’t like looking at in the mirror.

            I don’t think most of us, liberals included, realize just how often having a social support system is contingent on us fulfilling a laundry list of unspoken requirements we be a certain way, have a certain character and lifestyle, even a certain appearance. It’s this contingency that makes being a social being a curse. We break this contingency, we get over our penchant for turning nice things into requirements, and we will be much better social beings AND moral agents.

            Comment by Lucy Montrose | November 3, 2011 | Reply

  5. Senate Republicans (joined by two of their “Democratic” BRETHREN) defeated President Obama’s $60 billion infrastructure bill by a vote of 51 for — 49 against. The Republican voted 100% in LOCKSTEP (goose-step?) to keep JOBS away from their states! Seems the Republicans only care about ONE JOB in the USA…Obama’s. The millions who are out-of-work BE DAMNED! Why didn’t the Democrats insist on a 51 vote MAJORITY when they had the chance to go back to original Senate rules, doing away with the 60 vote “majority” for cloture? The $50 billion dollars was to fund immediate highway, transit, rail and aviation projects.

    Comment by grantinhouston | November 3, 2011 | Reply

    • One of those was Joe Lieberman (I-Narcissist). He doesn’t represent Connecticut or America. He only represents his own (not-so) sweet self.

      Comment by Lucy Montrose | November 3, 2011 | Reply

      • The other “Democrat” who voted against Obama and JOBS today was Ben Nelson of Nebraska. I just wish these faux Democrats would just save us the embarrassment and just go over to the GOP where their heart is anyway.

        Comment by grantinhouston | November 3, 2011 | Reply


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