The Problem is Big Money in Politics

The problem isn't right or left, it's big money in politics. Radicals on the far right and the far left are quick to yell "Commie" or "Fascist" and the fear mongering from both sides stirs up a lot of dust which clouds the truth. The reality is that organized money has overwhelmed our political process and has successfully divided and pitted us all against each other. The result is our Democracy has been bound and gagged and our "Darwinian" economic system has run amuck like a great white shark in a kiddy pool. The solution is not to move to the right or the left. The solution is to get rid of the big money in politics, save our Democracy and restore the governing power back into the hands of the people.

The word "Democracy" is Greek for "the people rule" or "people powered." So the question is simple: Are the people in power in the United States of America? If you said yes, let me put it differently: Who has more influence and access in our government "People" or "Corporations?" If you said "People" I'm not sure you can be helped but please read on anyway. If you said "Corporations" then let's get started defining the problem.

It is important that we not get knocked off course to the far right or left. Fascism and Communism are opposite extremes; however there are a number of disturbing similarities. In both forms of government the ruling and economic systems are combined and the state controls the means of production and the distribution of wealth. Both forms typically distort faith and religion to gain power; however a notable difference is Fascism typically co-opts faith and religion while Communism typically blames faith and religion to gain power. The bloody and brutal results have proven to be about the same.

To avoid this type of violent result, our founding fathers created a clear separation of church and state to preserve religious freedom for everyone while preventing the results which had "soaked the soil of Europe with blood for centuries" and would later result in the death of tens of millions under Fascist Germany and Communist/Stalinist Russia. Thomas Jefferson wrote:

"Church and state were separated because the church previously had promoted itself through the agency of the state and to the detriment of the people."... "I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State."

-- Thomas Jefferson (U.S. President 1801-09)

"The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe with blood for centuries."

-- James Madison (Father of the U.S. Constitution, Co-author of the Federalist Papers and forth U.S. President)

In contrast the founding fathers did not intend for there to be a complete separation of economics and state. The United States of America was established as a "Rule of Law" Republican-Democracy with a capitalist economic system. It was originally intended for our Democracy to always be more powerful and to control and restrain the capitalist economy from gaining control and abusing the people. Thomas Jefferson wrote:

"Under a separation of state and economics, especially with laissez-faire capitalism [Free Trade], the state no longer has a role to play in protecting the people and assuring their happiness. Laissez-faire means capitalism is outside the regulatory control of the state and that the people are entirely at the mercy of the capitalists."
(i.e. Shark in the kiddy pool)

-- Thomas Jefferson (U.S. President 1801-09)

Guess what happened? We the people forgot that "Democracy" means corporations and private wealth should have absolutely no power what so ever in politics ("Politics" is Greek for "community business"). The Boston Tea Party was a protest of corporate and government corruption, where the East India Company was given tax cuts and a tax rebate to provide cut-rate tea in the colonies which would have established a trade monopoly and put small companies in both England and the colonies out of business. Our founding fathers gave absolutely no power to corporations and put all the governing power and influence in the hands of the people. Read More...

For more than 200 years corporations and private wealth have worked slowly, quietly and persistently to gain more and more power by claiming access to the same laws and rights which were meant to protect the people. Below is a timeline of presidential quotes and Supreme Court cases which reflect the rise of corporate dominance, the theft of our human rights and the access of big organized money which has polluted our political system:

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"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country."

-- Thomas Jefferson (U.S. President 1801-09)

"There is an evil which ought to be guarded against in the indefinite accumulation of property from the capacity of holding it in perpetuity by … corporations. The power of all corporations ought to be limited in this respect. The growing wealth acquired by them never fails to be a source of abuses."

-- James Madison (U.S. President 1809-17)

"The question is distinctly presented whether the people of the United States are to govern through representatives chosen by their unbiased suffrages or whether the money and power of a great corporation are to be secretly exerted to influence their judgment and control their decisions."

"Corporations have neither bodies to kick nor souls to damn."

"Unless you become more watchful in your States and check this spirit of monopoly and thirst for exclusive privileges, you will in the end find that the most important powers of Government have been given or bartered away, and the control of your dearest interests have been passed into the hands of these corporations."

-- Andrew Jackson (U.S. President 1829-37)

"I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country... Corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."

-- Abraham Lincoln (U.S. President 1861-65)

1866 - The 14th Amendment which was supposed to protect African Americans was ultimately contorted to extend human rights to corporations. Over the next 20 years the Supreme court is packed with pro corporate justices. Of the 14th Amendment cases brought before the Supreme Court between 1890 and 1910 nineteen of them dealt with African Americans, 288 were argued to protect corporations. Below are a sample of the cases which were setteled in favor of "Corporate Personhood. Read More...

1886 - Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad - "The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution... applies to corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does" This statement by the Supreme Court gave corporations the status of "Corporate Personhood" and claim to equal protection under the law.

"This is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people no longer. It is a government of corporations, by corporations, and for corporations."

-- Rutherford B. Hayes (U.S. President 1877-81)

"Corporations, which should be the carefully restrained creatures of the law and the servants of the people, are fast becoming the people's masters."

-- Grover Cleveland (U.S. President 1885-89 and 1892-96)

1889 - Minneapolis & St. Louis Railroad v. Beckwith - The Supreme Court rules a corporation is a "person" for both due process and equal protection.

1893 - Noble v. Union River - The Supreme Court rules corporations have claim to the Bill of Rights.

1908 - Armour Packing Co. v. U.S. - The Supreme Court rules corporations get 6th Amendment right to jury trial in a criminal case. A corporate defendant is now considered the "accused."

"The citizens of the United States must effectively control the mighty commercial forces which they have themselves called into being. There can be no effective control of corporations while their political activity remains. To put an end to it will be neither a short nor an easy task, but it can be done."

-- Theodore Roosevelt (U.S. President 1901-09)

"The government, which was designed for the people, has got into the hands of the bosses and their employers, the special interests. An invisible empire has been set up above the forms of democracy."

-- Woodrow Wilson (U.S. President 1913-1921)

1938 - Connecticut General Life Ins. v. Johnson - Upholds "Corporate Personhood." Justice Black dissents: "I do not believe the word 'person' in the Fourteenth Amendment includes corporations."

"The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism - ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or any controlling private power."

-- Franklin D. Roosevelt (U.S. President 1933-45)

1947 - Taft-Hartley Act - Corporations are granted "free speech."

1949 - Wheeling Steel Corp. v. Glander - Upholds "Corporate Personhood" ruling that corporations are given rights as persons under the 14th Amendment.

1967 - See v. City of Seattle - Supreme Court grants corporations 4th Amendment protection from random inspection by fire departments.

1976 - Buckley v. Valeo - The Supreme Court rules that political money is equivalent to speech extending the right of corporations to donate money to political candidates and parties.

1976 - Virginia Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Consumer Council - The Supreme Court protects commercial speech. Corporate advertising is now free speech.

1977 - First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti - Upholds "Corporate Personhood." Dissent by Justices White, Brennan, Marshall:"...the special status of corporations has placed them in a position to control vast amounts of economic power which may, if not regulated, dominate not only our economy but the very heart of our democracy, the electoral process...The State need not allow its own creation to consume it."

1977 - First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti - The First Amendment is used to overturn state restrictions on corporate spending on political referenda. This precedent is used, with Buckley v. Valeo, to thwart attempts to remove corporate money from politics.

At this point the great white shark has entered the kiddy pool and...

"the people are entirely at the mercy of the capitalists." -- Thomas Jefferson

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By 1977 the power of the American people is nullified by corporate wealth and power. The main point here is the source of our problems comes from too much big money in politics. All of that money translates into wins for the political candidate who spends the most money on TV ads. IDEA! - Encourage people to always vote against the candidate that buys the most TV air time. If enough of us do that, it eliminates the benefit of big money and reforms government without any help from Washington.

We have to stop chasing the "Commie" "Fascist" games which are designed to distract us from the task at hand. We need to reach out to people and work together to save our Democracy and restore the governing power back into the hands of the people. The first step is to inform the people of the real problems we face. We also need to push aside the radical wing nuts who try to take advantage of the situation and push us into the gutters on the far right or far left. Every time we engage in arguments between liberal and conservative, we only make the situation worse. We need to carry out the hard work of electoral politics until we win back our country. And then we need to educate our children so this never happens again.

"Educate and inform the whole mass of the people... They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty." -- Thomas Jefferson

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Action Steps:

  1. Discourage people from falling in the trap of negative discourse, which makes the problem worse.

  2. Learn and clearly communicate the problem as widely as possible. "A problem well stated is a problem half-solved." -- Charles Kettering

  3. When you find people who say "There's too much money in politics. Politicians will never reform it." Encourage them to always vote against the candidate that buys the most TV air time. If enough of us do that, it eliminates the benefit of big money and reforms government without any help from Washington.

  4. Encourage candidates to offer access to voters as an alternative to big money access. Offer to hold regular town hall meetings and ways to reach out and listen to the people that will hold them accountable to voters and not big money (report card/score card etc.).

  5. Promote a new campaign issue: "Tax cuts for teachers." Rather than invest in tax cuts for people who are using it to finance the outsourcing of our own jobs, let's roll back those tax cuts and invest in teachers who can help our children compete in a tough new global job market. This strikes at the heart of the propaganda used to buy people off and get them to vote against their own interests.

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Compiled, edited and summarized by Todd Smyth

Further reading:

Unequal Protection: The rise of corporate dominance and theft of human rights by Thom Hartmann

Please send constructive suggestions to: