The recent Supreme Court decision on corporate personhood, The Citizen's United case, has evoked considerable comment, and even some indignation: "Corporations have the right to spend unlimited amounts of money on politicians?!" - "outrageous!"
Really? While people have every right to be outraged, we should inform our outrage, for, in truth, corporate interests have owned the political process -- and politicians -- for the better part of a century.
In the classic history book, The Robber Barons, by Matthew Josephson (Harcourt: 1969), one encounters scenes of major industrialists buying politicians outright with satchels of money - on the floor of State Senates!!
The buying is not so overt now, but politicians are still being bought like hot dogs. What is a modern congressional, presidential or judicial campaign today - but a race for the money? For the man (or woman) who gets money can buy media - and the media decides races.
In a real sense, all the court did was open up the spigot for more dough from corporate coffers. In essence, the court said, it's not enough to rent politicians; now you can own them.
And they will own them.
And where will much of this money go, but into the pockets of corporate media? And what is this but a corporate media stimulus package?
What makes this case remarkable isn't so much the result (for this was politically predictable), but the court's reliance on precedent that actually wasn't precedential.
For, in the case Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Co. (1886), used as the foundation for the principle of corporate personhood, that principle appears nowhere - but the court clerk wrote it into the head notes of the case, which is not legally part of the case - and 124 years later an error became law, which became precedent, which guides decisions today, which favors corporate wealth and power over democracy.
In the 1880's, during the age of the captains of industry who came to be known as the "robber barons", multi-millionaire Andrew Carnegie, threatened with legal action to restrain his corporate excesses, remarked: "What do I care about the law? Ain't I got the power?" (Josephson 15)
Thanks to the Supreme Court, they've got even more.
(c) 2010 Mumia Abu-Jamal