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Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010 02:06 pm

Corporate America speaking out

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House minority leader John Boehner.
PHOTO BY CHUCK KENNEDY/MCT

Congressional Republicans have spent the first two years of the Obama administration as the rock-solid party of “no,” “uh-uh,” “no way,” “forget about it,” “nothing doing,” “we’re-against-it-and-we’ll-kill-it.” This is one reason their job approval rating is lower than that of BP executives.

But now, GOP leaders in the House say they are shifting from pure negativity. Instead, they intend to step forward with their own bold policy ideas. Terrific! What are some of those ideas? “Uh ... um ... well,” say the leaders, “we don’t know yet, but that’s why we’ve launched an exciting new campaign that we call America Speaking Out. We’ll go directly to the grassroots people, asking for their ideas, and letting them shape ‘the new Republican agenda.’”

Again, terrific! Where are you starting your grassroots campaign? “Uh ... um,” stumble the leaders, before mumbling: “Washington, D.C.”

Indeed, only six weeks after America Speaking Out was introduced as “an unprecedented initiative to listen to the American people,” ASO did not rush out to hold open policy-crafting town hall forums in places like Fargo, Fresno and Freeport. Instead, they held a closed session in the snug confines of House minority leader John Boehner’s Capitol Hill office.

And just who were the plain folks the GOP leader invited? His e-mailed solicitation went to 20 top lobbyists representing big corporations and such business front groups as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers. Apparently, this is the bunch Republican leaders consider to be their real “grassroots” constituency.

 Well, sniffed an ASO spokesman, it’s important to “receive input” from the nation’s largest employers.

 Bovine excrement! These corporate lobbyists give their input every day, usually with campaign donations attached. They’re the problem, not the solution, and ASO is just more of the same — listening to the money interests at the top rather than the workaday majority.

Speaking of corporate campaign spending, the dam was dynamited back in January by the Supreme Court’s infamous decision in the Citizens United case, and the deluge is now upon us. By decreeing that corporations are now free to spend unlimited sums of cash from their vast treasuries to elect or defeat anyone they want, the court is allowing these narrow special interests to swamp America’s elections, displacing our democracy with their plutocracy.

You might recall that the five-man judicial majority that pulled off this black-robed coup argued disingenuously that there was no evidence that corporate spending would even increase under the court’s ruling, much less flood the process. Nice theory, but here comes the flood.

In addition to unfathomable sums that corporations will pour directly into this fall’s congressional elections, they are also channeling unparalleled amounts of cash into assorted front groups. For example, in 2008, a presidential year, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce put $36 million into elections, which was the most ever by a corporate organization. This year the chamber intends to more than double that, funneling $75 million into campaigns, with practically every penny going to Republicans.

American Crossroads, a new corporate outlet run by former Bush operative Karl Rove, collected more than $8 million in June alone and expects to put $52 million into this year’s elections. Various laissez-faire, anti-government extremist groups will also add to the rising tsunami, including $45 million from Americans for Prosperity, $25 million from American Action Network, $24 million from The Club for Growth and $5 million from FreedomWorks.

With such gross levels of spending, moneyed corporations intend to overpower America’s democratic process and purchase a government that’ll do their bidding. To stop them, We the People must repeal the Supreme Court’s malicious, anti-democratic ruling. To help, connect with a grassroots campaign pushing for a constitutional amendment that will overturn the Citizens United decision. Find them at www.freespeechforpeople.org.

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist and author.

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