Official recognition of corporate political control?

On Thurs., Jan. 21, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling did away with corporate campaign finance limits. Since then, a number of commentators have discussed the concerns such a decision raises. Matthew Yglesias, for example, points out that Bank of America dedicated $2.3 billion to marketing in 2008 and, thus, would have the budget to mount a $100 million series of scathing attacks on a Senator who pisses them off. Once one senator goes down for having crossed BofA, how might this impact other elected officials? Left I on the News points out that in some jurisdictions, judges are elected officials; imagine trying to sue a corporation in a courtroom presided over by a judge who just had his/her campaign financed by that corporation. Newsweek, meanwhile, brings up the question of how this might allow multinational (foreign?) companies to influence elections in the U.S.

Ultimately, an important question is how this will impact politics and government in the U.S. My initial reaction is it probably won’t signal that big of a change. In other words, anyone who thought corporations didn’t have a tremendous amount of influence in politics prior to this ruling would be very mistaken. Will it increase corporate influence and make policies even more favorable to corporations? I would imagine so, but to what extent? In some ways, might it make things more honest (i. e., shifting spending from “front groups” to the corporations themselves)?

SPORT REFERENCE: The NCAA states its core purpose as being “to govern competition in a fair, safe, equitable and sportsmanlike manner, and to integrate intercollegiate athletics into higher education so that the educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount.” Seemingly, however, another major purpose of the NCAA is to help bring tremendous amounts of money into college sports (e. g., the current 11-year, $6 billion deal between the NCAA and CBS to televise the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament). Despite this, the NCAA’s purpose says nothing about working to maximize revenue. Many would argue that the introduction of such massive amounts of money helps create a situation in which the educational experience of the student-athlete is not paramount, creating a conflict between the NCAA’s stated purpose and its actual role. If the NCAA were to explicitly state that revenue generation is one of its core purposes, this likely wouldn’t do much to address the potential problems caused by commercialization in college sports. It might, however, make the NCAA more honest. Similarly, might the official recognition of corporate political influence at least make things more honest?

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