Citizens, Unite!

Should robots have the right to vote?  How about cloned human beings?  Should a person have the right to create and program a thousand robots and funnel campaign contributions through them — and then show up at the polls and demand the right to vote?

That’s what corporate money will do to politics under the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in the Citizens United case.

And with all the focus on national elections, let’s not forget state and local elections.  Let’s say a corporation wants to build a giant department store in a small town, but the town zoning bylaw forbids it.  The town is governed by a five-member governing board and local election campaigns cost perhaps $10,000.  Big corporation comes in and runs a slate of candidates at a cost of $100,000 — and they get a majority and change the zoning in their favor.

Corporations amassing money nationwide and spending it to create a tidal wave of money in small local elections — why is that something we would want?

Right now, any corporate shareholder is entitled to contribute to political campaigns — as an individual.  But people who buy corporate stock every day are not seeking to contribute to specific candidates, and the shareholders who supply the corporation with its capital are never consulted when it comes to how the corporation spends its money.

We need to assert the primacy of We The People over the artificial creations of people, be they corporations, robots or anything else.  If it takes a constitutional amendment, let’s do it.

Corporations have successfully eliminated not only restrictions on campaign contributions but general regulation of their operations imposed by states and localities — leveraging the concept of “federal preemption” to allow corporations like banks to relocate in friendly states and escape all other states’ regulation.

Here’s the essential question:  Would our society be better off under the yoke of the Roberts Court, or would we be better off if our constitution had the following provision?

Corporations and other business entities shall be subject to such restrictions on their formation, governance and operations as may be prescribed by the United States, by the state under whose laws they are formed, and by any state in which they carry on business.

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