Corporations are not citizens

Story by Breann Schossow

Posted at 8:00 p.m. 2/14/10

I was casually scrolling through my Twitter feed last week, when, after a double-take, my jaw dropped. Literally.

MinnPost, the Minneapolis-based news Web site, had tweeted this:

“Civil Rights Breakthrough: First Corporation ever announces candidacy for Congress.”

After following the link to the article, and then searching for more information, I realized again how disappointed I am in one of our governing bodies. And then wondered how our country is going to dig itself out of this mess.

Within a month of the Supreme Court overthrowing years of campaign reform, it seems that companies now may move forward as “people, or citizens” and run for public office, among other new rights.

In this case, the corporation Murray Hill, Incorporated, plans to seek the Republican nomination for the U.S. House seat in the eighth district in Maryland.

Murray Hill, Inc., describes itself as a “progressive firm that works hard and smart to make sure our clients get the support they need. Murray Hill partners share the same values with our clients. Our goal is to work on meaningful, creative and challenging campaigns that will also let us get a good night’s sleep,” according to their Web site – basically, a public relations firm.

Sounds promising, right? Well, at the bottom of the link to the article, MinnPost had thoughtfully included the corporation’s campaign video, which can be viewed by searching “MurrayHillCongress” on YouTube.

After watching, I couldn’t believe what I had just seen. I love political commercials, the more insulting and shocking, the better. But, during the course of the video, Murray Hill, Inc., used statements that resembled the following “gems” that showed just how much trouble the U.S. is in:

– “However, as much as corporate interests gave to politicians, we could never be absolutely sure they would do our bidding.”

– “It’s our democracy – we bought it, we paid for it, and we’re going to keep it.”

– “Murray Hill, Incorporated, will bring enlightened self-interest and corporate accounting to government to put business first.”

– “Now that democracy is truly for sale, Murray Hill Incorporated is offering top dollar . For the best democracy money can buy.”

Although it’s no secret that our country is, if not run, then heavily-influenced by corporations, this blunt honesty leaves viewers in a state of shock. If there’s one thing to be grateful for, it’s that this corporation and their human representative, president Eric Hensal, are being upfront with the public, which we could never count on with a majority of politicians who could be purchased and tried to keep it a secret.

So, the democracy that the U.S. is so proud of is for sale to the highest bidder. And only the citizens and corporations can afford to play the game, leaving people disillusioned, and left behind.

It’s too late to go on and on about how disappointed I am in our country and our government. Instead, it’s time to move on and begin to fix this damage, because this could be the perfect way to start reform. Our country relies on big government, but this type of candidacy can only lead to an increase of that reliance, especially if Murray Hill and other large corporations, foreign or otherwise, continue to run for and win seats in our government.

They may be running under the right as “citizens,” but corporations, despite this ruling, are not citizens. They’re filled with citizens who run them and work for them, but at the end of the day, they’re concerned with how they’ve succeeded or failed as a company.

Reform can happen – all it needs is a spark. And we, as real citizens, all have the power to stand up and change things. We may be lacking the funds they have at their disposal, but a little faith in our ability to change our government can go a long way to leveling the playing field. And that’s one thing that we’ll always have over corporations.

Fortunately, efforts to protect real citizens have already started in the legislature. Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer (NY) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (MD) have begun to pick up the pieces from the damage done by the Supreme Court with legislation that would ban expenditures from foreign interests, government contractors and forces corporate executives to issue disclaimers at the end of ads, among other rules.

Thankfully, we can still have faith in some of our leadership. But now it’s time to do our part by writing letters to congressmen and women, protesting, writing to our local media and doing what we can to bring real citizens back to politics. It’s the only way to prove to the corporations, the Supreme Court and to ourselves that democracy isn’t for sale.