Corporate Money and Politics

I find it hard to imagine a bigger blow to the political process than the Supreme Court's decision to treat corporate and individual speech equally.  Let's hope I'm wrong.

As a principal, corporate speech and individual speech are on a very different magnitudes and the opening created by the Court can open a floodgate of contribution dollars into the political system.  I think if there is near unanimity on any principal, it would be that money plays a pernicious role in politics and elections and we are already at risk, a risk that will surely be exacerbated by the Supreme Court decision.

From my own perspective, it certainly seems that the incidence of corporate donations would probably match the distribution of dollars from business Political Action Committees, the PACS created to evade the historic restrictions on corporate donations, which heavily skew towards the Republican Party.  Even if corporations don't act to advance one party or another, they will certainly play the front runner and support incumbents over challengers, acting to hold back change and reform.  The Supreme Court decision will have a very profound political impact on elections.

Let's now address implementation issues, like deciding which corporations are allowed to participate.  If corporations can contribute, Ford, BP America, Bayer Corporation USA and Daewoo Motor America are all to be treated on an equal basis as they are all US corporations. To treat them otherwise invites lawsuits in US courts, but I think it defies logic to think that there isn't at least the potential that foreign interests will impact US elections.  To take it one step further, US trade law generally prohibits distinctions between US corporations and truly foreign corporations (under concepts referred to as "national treatment").  Where do you draw the line?

I think there is a lot of room for analysis, but this is a BIG DEAL and the risk of tainting the political system, forever, is substantial.  After the money flows, and there is concern that the outcomes are tainted, how do you ever put the genie back into the bottle?  

So what's the solution? Is this the cut that makes the current system hemorrhage credibility so badly that a Constitutional Convention should be called?  Should President Obama threaten to pack the Court like FDR to establish the constitutionality of his minimum wage laws?  Can states change the definitions of corporations? Can constitutional amendments to clarify that corporate speech is not protected by the First Amendment be introduced, a process that overturning prohibition demonstrates takes years, at a minimum?

For years, the only call for a Constitutional Convention came from those who supported defining life at conception or called for a balanced budget amendment, crowds with which I was never terribly comfortable.  However, it almost seems like a constitutional convention is on the horizon, to redefine our basic governing document to address the Supreme Court decision.  The Constitution lasted for over 200 years with a fairly short list of amendments (a significant chunk of which were adopted as a block, called the Bill of Rights), but now it looks almost inevitable that we, as a nation, are going to have to take a look at possible amendment process, including a Constitutional Convention. Once we go through the looking glass, who can forecast where we end up?