Former Senator Warns of Corporate Dominance

Article excerpt

Byline: Karen McCowan The Register-Guard

Correction (published Nov. 9, 2011): Luke Novak, an Occupy Eugene participant, said he favors doubling the size of Congress to open the political process to more representatives and to make each accountable to a smaller group of constituents. A front page story Tuesday, about a speech given by former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, incorrectly suggested that Novak favored electing 870 delegates only for a one-time reform convention proposed for next July in Philadelphia.

A controversial 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision giving corporations the same free speech rights as people should be a top issue in the 2012 presidential election, former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold said Monday in a speech at the University of Oregon.

"We are at a fork in the road," Feingold told his audience. "We are going to have total corporate dominance of our political system, or we're going to have a wake-up call where the public finally says, 'Enough! We're going to figure out a way to turn this around.' That's what the Occupy Wall Street and the wider Occupy movement is all about."

Some members of the Occupy Eugene movement were among those who nearly filled the UO's Erb Memorial Ballroom to hear Feingold's remarks on corporate power, U.S. politics and the economy.

Ending "corporate personhood" has been a common goal at nationwide protests that began in New York this summer with the Occupy Wall Street movement. Occupy Eugene, an offshoot of the national movement, rose up last month and is now encamped in Washington- Jefferson Park.

Feingold charged that the high court's 5-4 ruling in Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission overturned more than a century of laws and court rulings limiting corporate campaign contributions.

The decision handed corporations "unlimited power to pervert and corrupt our political process," Feingold said.

As a Democrat from Wisconsin, Feingold famously teamed with Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona to pass a 2002 law closing a loophole in campaign rules that allowed unlimited contributions for so-called "issues ads."

The ads don't tout a particular candidate, but rather attack the candidate's opponent. Most of that law still stands, he said, but the Citizens United decision gutted underlying regulations on which it was built. …