'We the People' Must Take Back Our Political Process

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Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Jon Bartholomew

If you thought that big corporations have too much say in Congress now, just wait a year. From stalling health care reform to weakening banking reform, big business has been calling the shots in Washington, D.C., for some time.

And that's without corporations being able to spend unlimited cash on campaigns.

The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case changes all that. The ruling had two key aspects, both of them shocking.

First, the court said that corporations have the same First Amendment rights to freedom of speech that flesh-and-blood people have, thus they should be able to spend as much money as they want on campaigns.

Second, the court said that such spending has no possibility of corrupting politicians or even the appearance of corruption.

Let that sink in for a minute. Five Supreme Court justices believe that if Exxon-Mobil spends $20 million to support a candidate, that politician won't be influenced in any way, and the public won't think it will.

That is pretty hard to swallow.

It is also difficult to agree with the idea that corporations, which are created by the state to facilitate economic activity, should be given the same rights as citizens. Last I checked, the Constitution started with the phrase, "We the People."

How will this decision affect Oregon? On one level, not at all. For state elections, Oregon currently has no limitations on campaign contributions from corporations or anyone else. This alone is cause for alarm and needs to be changed. Oregon is one of only a few states with no limits on campaign contributions. If they wanted to, corporations, big unions and wealthy individuals could all flood Oregon state races with huge sums of cash.

But most big corporations are more concerned with federal regulation and the results of congressional and presidential elections. Oregon has a history of being a swing state in presidential races, and has often had close House and Senate races. Think about the 2008 U.S. Senate race between Jeff Merkley and Gordon Smith - then imagine 10 times as many campaign ads on TV and radio, more phone calls, more mailings, etc. …