Robert Reich: Debunking Myth #4: ‘Corporate Political Donations Are Free Speech’ – OpEd


In 1971, Lewis Powell urged the leaders of American corporations to devote a portion of their profits to politics. 

Since then, America has witnessed the largest and most entrenched system of legalized bribery in its history. Big corporations and the super-wealthy have rigged the “free market” for their own benefit.

The Supreme Court opened the floodgates to all this by deciding that money is speech and corporations are people. There is nothing in the history of the First Amendment to the Constitution supporting these decisions. 

Throughout the 1980s, corporate PAC spending on congressional races increased nearly fivefold. Labor union PAC spending rose only about half as fast.

By the 2016 campaign cycle, corporations and Wall Street contributed $34 for every $1 donated by labor unions and all public interest organizations combined. 

In 1980, the richest one-hundredth of 1 percent of Americans provided 10 percent of all donations to federal elections. By 2012, they provided 40 percent.

Both political parties have become giant fundraising machines fueled by money from the top.

What’s the result of all this bribery? Politicians use the money to get elected and reelected, and then lawmakers do what corporations and wealthy individuals want.

It’s legalized bribery. It must end. 

Getting big money out of American politics is one of the two most important prerequisites for saving our democracy. The other is avoiding Trumpian fascism. 

The two are related. So many Americans have become distrustful and cynical toward American democracy because of the dominance of the moneyed interests that they are susceptible to a demagogue who tells them he’s on their side — when in fact he has given the moneyed interests everything they wanted when he was president and is promising even more if reelected.

Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, and writes at Reich served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

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