It’s a gas
Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash
So said Pink Floyd in their 1973 hit, Money, off the Dark Side of the Moon album. Politicians in Tennessee agree wholeheartedly, it would seem. In the wake of the 2010 Citizens United v Federal Election Commission decision by the US Supreme Court, which ruled that corporations have the same right to free speech as citizens and should be able to directly fund independent political broadcasts, the Tennessee legislature has gone one step further and decided that companies should be able to give money directly to candidates – and that includes foreign companies! The Knoxville News Sentinel has the scoop:
Direct corporate donations to political candidates will be legalized in Tennessee and the amount that can be given by all contributors will be raised by about 40 percent under legislation approved by House and Senate committees Tuesday. For political action committees, for example, the maximum donation will increase from $7,500 to $10,700 and adjusted upward for inflation in future years. Corporations will be treated as if they were PACs [Political Action Committees – independent spending groups that can receive donations both from individuals and companies] under the bill, SB1915.
With Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Jamie Woodson, R-Knoxville, as sponsor, the bill was approved on a party-line vote by the Senate State and Local Government Committee on Tuesday morning. The House State and Local Government Committee approved it about three hours later on voice vote. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner noted that foreign-based corporations also would be allowed to contribute under the bill, though House sponsor Rep. Glen Casada, R-College Grove, said they will have to have a Tennessee presence to do so.
Companies have been able to participate in political life for years through PACs, but their involvement in elections has been limited mainly to independent advertising not directly linked to candidates. More and more, PACs have been able to donate money to candidates – both republican and democratic, by the way – and this new step both increases their ability to fund political campaigns and gives companies new tools to give more money to their preferred candidates. While grassroots fundraising will still make a difference, it seems clear that republicans are doing more and more to erode the ability of ordinary voters to have an impact on American political life – with candidates bought and sold by big business.
It’s extremely sad, because so much progress had been made in prior decades to try to take big money out of politics – while the sums raised by candidates never stopped growing, donation limits put in place by legislation like McCain-Feingold at least attempted to curb the power of individual donors. Now, we seem to be going in completely the opposite direction, with a complete deregulation of campaign financing. Stephen Colbert joked about getting Doritos to finance his 2008 presidential run – but how long until we actually see Mitt Romney, brought to you by Coca-Cola?