The Supreme Court decision inÂ Citizens United is probably a greater catastrophe than the Mass. Senate election. Â In effect, it allows corporations to put unlimited amounts of cash into influencing elections.
One aspect of the ruling that hasn’t gathered much attention: Â as far as I can tell, the analysis doesn’t distinguish between domestic and foreign corporations. Â Not that it would matter much, since a foreign corporation can always establish a domestic subsidiary, or buy an American company: Â Cities Service, for example, is a unit of PDVSA, the Venezuelan state oil company. Â So the ruling allows Hugo Chavez to spend as much money as he wants to helping and harming American politicians. Â If the Russian, Saudi, and Chinese governments don’t currently have appropriate vehicles for doing so, you can count on it: Â they soon will.
Nor is this a problem that can be handled by “disclosure.” Â The ad on TV praising the opponent of the congressman who did something to annoy Hugo Chavez won’t say “Paid for by Hugo Chavez.” Â It will say “Paid for by Citizens for Truth, Justice, and the American Way,” which in turn will have gotten a contribution from “Americans for Niceness,” which in turn will have gotten a contribution from a lobbyist for a subsidiary of Cities Service that no one has ever heard of.
The United States has a $13 trillion GDP, and total annual campaign spending is on the order of $2 billion. Â Buying influence on the American government has to be the highest-leverage activity ever invented, and Justice Kennedy and his four accomplices just invited every oligarch and tyrant in the world to play. Â This is not just a threat to democracy; it’s a threat to sovereignty.
Somehow I doubt this will be mentioned at any Tea Parties. Â But I’m very afraid.