Dr. Donatus Uzomah
June 4, 2011
Corporate Influence on our Political System
The American political system is built on simple but revolutionary principles from our founding Fathers. These principles state that self-governance is an absolute right and the governments purpose is to serve the interests of the people. Characteristics which are essential to a healthy, functioning democracy. But America has stumbled upon a formidable roadblock to the realization of our founding fathers dream, as Lincoln said, of a country that is "of the people, by the people and for the people"( Citizens at Work, 2003). There are many factors that distort this reality and the main culprit is the multi- national corporations that are stealing the voices of the people which threatens the interest of American citizens. A good example would be how banking and oil interests have used lobbyists to limit regulatory over site in their prospective industries. Their undue influence has resulted in the biggest financial and environmental disasters in our nation's history. The following is an overview of the history of corporate interests, the impact that corporate influence has on the Democratic process and society as a whole.
In recent years, corporate influence on our government has dramatically increased. Corporations represented by special interest groups and lobbyists have increased substantially, along with their influence on politicians. This undue influence has given the appearance that the government is now more representative of corporate interests than those of the people it is suppose to represent. The result has been a disparity in wealth between the rich and poor which is now at its highest rates in American history, and still growing. As you will see, the influence and power yielded by the corporations have been detrimental to our democracy. This has not always been the case.
In the early history of the United States, corporations had very little influence over government or elections. Corporations required a charter to exist which placed limitations on what it could and could not do. That all changed in 1886 with the Supreme Court decision in the case of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad. This ruling , based on the Fourteenth Amendment that protects the rights of freed slaves, gave corporations the rights of a person (Shah, 2002). Which meant that they were now afforded protections under the Constitution. This also meant, that corporations were afforded all the opportunities of individual citizens, such as the right to purchase land, and influence the government in their own interests, among other things (Shah, 2002).The result was, corporations could use the same constitutional rights as citizens to challenge attempts to their power.
The fact that corporations were granted same rights as a person, would seem unconstitutional. According to the Thirteenth Amendment, "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall exists. If this is true then how can a corporation be owned shareholders and still be constitutional. Shareholders own corporations and corporations own corporations, so if in fact a corporation was a person, to maintain its corporate structure, slavery would have to be made constitutional. The importance of this new corporate status of personhood cannot be overstated, corporations gained constitutional rights of free speech, protections from search and seizure and freedom from discrimination. All of which, can manifest itself into legalized corporate abuses (Citizens at Work, 2003). As stated by Richard Robins in, "Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism", the Supreme Court ruling of 1886, set the stage for full scale development of capitalism, by handing to corporations the right to use their economic power in a way they never had before.
A more recent Supreme Court ruling in Citizens v. Federal Election Committee affirmed...