In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court decided that corporations could spend as much as they wished at any time, assuming there was no direct coordination with the candidate. In doing so, the court overturned its own precedents and refused to distinguish the free speech rights of corporations and unions in any way from those of actual people.
The problem with this logic is that corporations have a legal duty not to spend money unless it is likely to improve profits. Unions, too, are expected to make only contributions that will benefit members.
–Scott Turow, “Blagojevich and Legal Bribery“; The New York Times (8/18/2010)
Turow provides the ultimate rebuttal to those who would argue that allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts on campaign contributions — now the law of the land — has no corrupting effect on democracy.
The argument is based on a legal term called “corporate waste.”
Just as former attorney Turow notes — there are a lot of us former attorneys out there — corporate waste forbades companies from spending money on anything that doesn’t further their profit-seeking agenda (sidebar: profits are good — it’s when they come from political suasion that they become bad).
No shareholder, to my knowledge, has ever brought suit against a company arguing that its campaign contributions were frivolously spent.
Ergo, campaign contributions are money well-spent.
Return on Investment
To pick just one example, the $500 million or so that big Wall Street firms have given both parties the last decade or so loosened something like $2 trillion in U.S. aid and financial subsidies, both direct and indirect (TARP, ZIRP, guaranteed loans, AIG-style infusions, etc.).
And that’s just since 2008!
If you do the math, that’s a 40,000% return on investment.
Makes you wonder what business Wall Street’s really in . . . .
P.S.: Did you know that, according to the Supreme Court, companies like Goldman Sachs, AIG, and BP are “legal persons” just like you or me?
Funny, I don’t recall ever attending a wedding, going to a funeral, or having a farewell office party for someone named “Goldman Sachs.”