Citizens United v. FEC: When it was decided that corporations can buy ANYTHING they want, including democracy

Citizens United v. FEC… Yea, the Story of Stuff Project explains what happened and why it matters pretty nicely right up here ^^, but the implications of the Supreme Court’s decision extend far beyond elections.

Sit back for a minute and imagine you’re a legislator whose central campaign promise to your constituency was to promote education reform and improve the quality of your area’s public schools.

You were elected on that promise. It’s been 10 months since you took the oath of office, and even you would admit, your adjustment to becoming a member of the U.S. House of Representatives has been pretty terrific. You’ve already had the opportunity to co-sponsor a piece of legislation that would extend funding to schools across the country that meet certain criteria, placing several of the schools in your district under that umbrella. The bill made it through committee with few significant amendments, passed both chambers, and was signed by the President just last week. The people in your district were thrilled. For once, you decided to be the one to open your email inbox, and, to your delight, in poured hundreds of personal emails thanking you for your service and commending your fight to turn this bill into law.

And then, as if to mock your momentary feeling of victory, you get a phone call from a Big Oil lobbyist, insisting on an immediate meeting. You know the name, and ignoring her demand is not an option–at least not if you want to hold onto your seat in the next election. You begrudgingly close your email, and leave your desk to go have coffee with someone you know will be in for more than just a friendly chat.

At first, she approaches you sweetly, easy-going in fact. She even congratulates you on your victory with the school funding bill, reminding you of how positive the responses were from your constituents. But then, the conversation takes a sour turn. You’re reminded of why you cringed when you saw her name pop up on your caller ID. She smoothly and casually offers you an unwelcome ultimatum: either vote for a bill that loosens environmental protections on certain areas in the arctic, or expect to see your opponent in the next election become flush with cash until your race becomes a losing battle. (Oil companies don’t mess around, especially where there’s drilling to be done and profits to be made.) In the event you were willing to fall on your sword to protect the environment, this kind lobbyist reminds you that when you’re defeated in the next election, there will be no one to protect such a costly piece of legislation as your education bill. And that’s it… You’ve been co-opted by the corporate agenda.

This type of legislatively corrosive, anti-democratic influence is exactly why we need protections on the democratic nature of our democracy. All the democracy that money can buy is no democracy at all, yet it’s what we’re living with so long as corporations are treated like people, and their influence tantamount to the votes of an entire constituency. If we don’t reverse course soon, we’ll be stuck living in a corporatocracy, where the interest of the few is a higher priority than the needs of the rest of us.