For anyone rusty, Citizens United refers to the Supreme Court decision (Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission) which declared that free speech rights for corporations dictate that it be permissible for them to spend unlimited amounts of money in political campaigns. It is otherwise permissible to make these contributions anonymously by funneling them through non-profit organizations or political action committees, which are not required to reveal their donors.
It was a fairly convenient decision for the court’s conservative majority, with its simpatico relationship with Republican politics. And of course, major corporations are primary financers of Republican campaigns. It’s entirely possible of course that even now, in the midst of what we are told are severe budget emergencies across the states, that widespread Republican proposals to add to deficits by further lowering corporate tax rates and rates on individuals in the kind of income brackets corporate management tends to be in are simply a flowing of the milk of human kindness.
And the theory remains unexplored, but perhaps a psychological attachment in childhood to the paternal figure of the Shell Answer Man explains the ongoing affection of Republican politicians for massive oil company incentives and subsidies. If that doesn’t sound, uh, convincing, one may observe that these judicial and legislative efforts to infuse the coffers of the Republican political apparatus are now accompanied in many states which currently have Republican governors and Republican legislators by crusades to evaporate unions, the last and most reliable major financial supporters of Democratic Party candidates.
If this sounds like all out war on the Democratic Party, that’s because it is. This isn’t your father’s Republican Party. This is the new ideologically pure, ideologically severe, primitivist, absolutist, ahistorical Republican Party that will tolerate nothing less than a Republican caliphate in control of America. Any influence from the wider world beyond, all traces of modernity, forward thinking, practicality, scientific preeminence and basic rationality shall be entirely cleansed.
The effort to repel this onslaught of absolutism has included most prominently the nation’s unions, whose leadership and rank and file are fighting back with a vengeance (unlike some Democratic politicians, they seem to viscerally understand it is now a fight for their very survival). Several prominent progressive organizations have mobilized efforts to fight the various Republican initiatives in the states, while elsewhere prominent liberals and Democratic Party activists have sought to form new sources of financial bulk that can counter the enormous infusion of money into Republican politics from free-spending and financially powerful corporations.
But perhaps the most clever and potentially far-reaching counter-measure would attack the lynchpin of this conservative quest for domination, the Citizens United decision. According to news organizations, a presidential executive order has been drafted by the administration which would require the disclosure of all political contributions made over the prior two years by any company or organization seeking contracts with the federal government. While some such disclosures exist already, the executive order would create a central database and online site listing all potential federal government contractors and the sum and benefactors of their political contributions. Needless to say, the ability to give profusely, protected by the cloak of anonymity has been central to corporate willingness to plow largesse into the campaigns of their favorite and most helpful Republican politicians.
The executive order is said currently to be under review at the Office of Budget and Management. But the reaction of the Chamber of Commerce, or I should say the hysterical response of the Chamber of Commerce, corporate America’s best friend, political proxy and lobbying enabler tells you just what an extraordinarily effective method this would be in mitigating the power and influence on the political process by corporate power and money. The removal of secrecy and the light of day are going to discourage no small amount of this flowing corporate gravy. The Chamber’s general counsel gave the following comment:
“The way the order is drafted, it hijacks the very powerful engine of the federal procurement system and it takes it and tries to achieve political and electoral ends,” said Lily Fu Claffee, the chamber’s general counsel, who charged that the measure would “chill the free-speech rights of corporations.”
The beauty of that statement is that it unwittingly contains several interesting tacit admissions: that rather than a representative of businesses generally, the Chamber is a hired gun for major corporations; that big corporate donations go largely to Republican candidates and the Republican Party, rendering the Supreme Court’s decision conspicuously partisan; and that many of America’s anti-government corporate mouthpieces actually are dependent on government contracts and government procurement, and are fattening on the government teat.
So while the administration has endured criticism from liberals and progressives, often rightly so, for its seeming lack of enthusiasm for fighting back against a conservative nemesis clearly going hard for the jugular, this display of craftiness, effectiveness and lethality has the same stamp of the cool, calm, methodical and ingenious Obama who so proficiently got Osama.