Monday, June 25, 2012

Montana v. the Supremes

The big Supreme Court decision today, from a news media perspective, was the decision on Arizona's immigration law.  I have no comment on that, since I expect it will be back before the court not all that long after Arizona actually starts enforcing the provision the Supremes upheld today.

More important, from my perspective, was the Supremes' refusal to uphold Montana's ban on corporate contributions to political campaigns.  Citizens United was upheld, presumably by the same five to four majority that made the original ruling.  If I recall correctly, I have not had much to say about Citizens United in earlier posts — actually, I don't think I weighed in on it at all.  Well, here I go: Constitutionally speaking, I think the decision was correct.

Corporations are not persons, however the law is interpreted.  Not being a person, however, should not deprive an institution of First Amendment rights — at least not until the First Amendment is rewritten to apply only to individuals.  Anyway, it wouldn't make a difference so long as there are individual persons like, say, Sheldon Adelson, whose fortunes rival those of some pretty big corporations.

The real problem is that some people are just too goddamned rich, given that money is power.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the class war is over, and we lost it.  The plutocracy reigns.

Montana (where Frank Zappa hoped to raise a crop of dental floss) had a history of plutocrats (most notably, copper barons) buying its political leaders.  Its century-old legislation that sought to combat that problem, sadly, turned out to be unconstitutional.  Well, what can I say?  That's the Constitution for you.

On the other hand, I have no idea why 501(c)(3) organizations should not be required to disclose who the hell their donors are.  Donors to truly "charitable" groups — no matter whether they're rescuing puppies, fighting rare diseases, or even providing rehabilitation to persons previously kidnapped by aliens — should not object to having their names disclosed.  Hell, they're doing good, right?

Going one step further, 501(c)(3) organizations whose objectives are entirely political — like Crossroads GPS — not only should have to disclose their donors, but should lose their non-profit status.  They're not promoting any sort of public good.  They're just promoting plutocracy.


Here's another thought: Mitt Romney tithes to the LDS Church.  I'm not sure how much of that money is devoted to genuine good works.  Personally, I don't see any public good at all in converting Samoans, Nicaraguans, and (in Mitt's case) the French to Mormonism.  Just because it's "good" for the Mormons (or the Catholics or the Seventh Day Adventists or the Sunni Muslims) doesn't mean it's good for the public at large.  A lot of Mormon money went to fighting same sex marriage in California.  Is that a public good, or just more politics?

Moreover, who cares if the Pentecostals are saving "souls" in Kenya if they are not simultaneously saving Kenyan children from malnutrition or river blindness or being forced to become child soldiers?  Wouldn't it make sense to separate out ideology from action?  Public good should be observable and measurable in terms of life expectancy, reduction of suffering, and the general well-being of real people.  Changing someone's belief about what you have to do to get the gods to like you should not count.

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