Health, Democracy & the Citizens United Decision

15 05 2010

“All contributions by corporations to any political committee or for any political purpose should be forbidden by law”

Teddy Roosevelt

 Democracy for human beings in the U.S. is in jeopardy as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United v Federal Elections Commission on January 21, 2010. Corporations can now spend unlimited amounts of money directly from corporate funds during election campaigns to ensure defeat of any candidate who takes a position on a health issue that is contrary to the corporation’s interest.

 We have already experienced the influence of corporations on legislation related to worker safety and health, the environment, product safety, human rights, food safety, motor vehicle safety, unhealthful snack foods, tobacco, alcohol and other health hazards. Hospital corporations, insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry wielded tremendous influence during the health care reform debate of 2009-2010.

 Individual citizens, independent citizens groups and labor unions cannot by any means match the amount of money corporations have to influence the democratic process.

 A variety of proposals are under consideration to redress the Citizens United decision.

 See Movetoamend.org, Freespeechforpeople.org, or Public Citizen’s “Don’t Get Rolled”

Some proposals that address the most fundamental issues include: 

1. Add a Constitutional Amendment that would declare that corporations are not persons.

2. Pass the “Fair Elections Now Act” that provides federal financing for Congressional elections.

 3. Require that corporate shareholders must approve political spending.

Professionals and advocates in the field of public health need to make corporate reform a priority and join with the many other organizations (see lists on this web site) who are working in this effort.

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