“Once the financial industry came unmoored from its ethical base, financial firms were free to behave in ways that were in their – and especially their top executives’ – short-term interest without any concern about the longer term impact on the industry’s customers, [and] on the broader American economy,” Gregory Curtis, Chairman of Greycourt & Co, wrote in his paper on the financial crisis of 2007.
The idea that corporations should be entitled to the same protection of political expression, as established in Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion on Citizens United (CU) v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) 2010, is as dangerous to a democracy as discouraging profit and ingenuity would be to capitalism.
The primary goal of a financial corporation in a capitalist society is profit. While citizens have a civic duty in a democracy, corporations have a duty of profit in capitalism. Unlike citizens, corporations by nature do not have the best interests of the United States in mind, so they should play no role in the electoral process on a state or nationwide level.
Last year, California residents voted on Proposition 37, a bill that would have subjected all Genetically Engineered (GE) food products to labeling. While it enjoyed a 61% lead (Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research poll), the proposition failed to pass after corporations in the Agro Industry, such as Monsanto, outspent supporters by over $37 million.
Just last week, Washington’s measure I-522, a bill similar to Prob. 37, failed to pass after seeing a record breaking amount of campaign contributions raised against it. Out of all of Washington only five residents donated to the No campaign, raising $550, a small amount in comparison to the $22 million raised by out of state corporations. The political expression of such corporations did not contribute to our democracy. It undermined the majority to help increase profit for the Agro Industry.
This year, in Washington, Comcast worked against the re-election of Mayor McGinn, donating thousands to anti-McGinn Political Action Committees (PAC’s) (Andrea Peterson, Washington Post). Ostensibly, because of McGinn’s efforts to offer higher internet speeds at lower costs to Seattle residents. He was working to do so through a public-private partnership known as Gigabit Squared, which would offer cheaper and faster internet than was currently provided by comcast. Comcast’s interests clearly conflict with those of the citizens.
Corporations belong to capitalism, not democracy. When they are allowed to participate in democratic proceedings they do not act as democratic figures, but as capitalist ones, focusing on profit rather than civic responsibility. In Washington, and across the nation, its time we stop taking steps in the wrong direction and reclaim our democracy from the self-interests of corporations.