Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The price of politics

The success of a company is determined by how much it makes. The success of CEOs, boards of directors, and entrepreneurs is measured by profits. A corporation's sole reason for existence is to make money. It is to be assumed that any and all their actions are underlined by that singular motive. Even so called good-will gestures by corporations are aimed at maintaining a positive public image, which has direct profit correlations. It is not a large leap to see that the choice a company makes to financially support a politician's election campaign will be made to serve its bottom-line, not the general good of the American public. It is true that those two goals may be one and the same on occasion, but invariably where there is a choice to be made between the two, a company will choose profit - as it should. Companies make political contributions to be able to have access to politicians and to shape policy that ensure their future profitability.

The Supreme Court's ruling on January 21 that allows corporations to spend limitless amounts of money in support of political candidates undermines the democratic process. There is a reason millions of dollars is poured into advertising for elections. Those are not wasted dollars; voters are in fact influenced by the messages that bombard them over and over again in the months and weeks leading up to an election. As we saw in the last presidential election, even after ads are pulled for inaccuracy or inappropriate statements, they continue to influence what people think about the candidates in a race. The general public is far more likely to see and get information about the candidates and the issues from a commercial, than from a credible news source.

When a corporation is allowed to invest in the election of a candidate, they are, in essence, being allowed to buy the public's attention, and votes. Candidates may now find themselves running against large corporations with deep pockets and endless resources. Will any candidate be able to match the dollars to get his message out adequately if his opposition is supported by a corporation, let alone entire industries? To assume that letting companies inject millions into election campaigns does not come with the expectation of reciprocity is to put more faith than most of us have in politicians, and to expect corporations to not act in their own financial best interest. What will the inevitable return on investment for the corporations mean for the good of the American public?

The only good thing about the Supreme Court's ruling is that the public will get to see more clearly who is up for sale.

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