Donna Smith, American SiCKO, is executive director of the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation
Forgive me for being a tad confused. I am finding it difficult to understand why one person goes to jail for privately selling an appointment for elected office while others have a legal right to buy their elected positions. The U.S. Supreme Court says corporations are persons in terms of exercising free speech through political contributions. Other persons who behave more like corporations than persons are spending personal fortunes buying positions of power in the public sector.
Meg Whitman is working hard to buy the governorship of California. Rick Scott is doing the same in Florida. Millions and millions of dollars of their own personal fortunes have already been spent in their primary battles and both plan to spend “whatever it takes” to win. In both states, the good that could be accomplished with what these two corporate born and bred candidates are spending to win their elections points to how insane our election process has become.
In contrast, former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich faces another trial and millions in public funds will be spent trying to convict him of selling his favor in the appointment of a new U.S. Senator to Barack Obama’s seat after the 2008 Presidential election.
We call selling a political office a crime; we don’t seem to mind buying those same seats.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like what Blagojevich purportedly did. In fact, I am annoyed beyond what is probably reasonable that the former governor of my home state of Illinois makes the appointment process seem so ugly and tawdry. Illinois just doesn’t need any more corruption scandals. There are millions of wonderful, honest people in Illinois who deserve the best of governance.
Is it acceptable if a corporation contributes huge amounts of money with the intent of gaining political and policy favor? It certainly is legal. In fact, the Supreme Court said we violate the “corporate person’s” First Amendment rights to free speech if we limit their spending on campaigns and issues.
But wait. Suggest that the same political or policy favor will be granted during a private phone conversation and you may go to prison?
Is it just that we object to being left out of the secret transactions? Do we think the public purchase of our democracy by corporate persons like Whitman and Scott is somehow more ethical?
Meg Whitman didn’t care enough about the political process to vote much at all over the past three decades. Many California women are offended by that after women fought and suffered to secure the right to vote in this nation just 90 years ago. See one report about the action in Sacramento during which thousands of women expressed their views on the non-voting Whitman.
Whitman has admitted her registration and voting history is terrible but says talking about it now is a distraction. And furthermore, she’s showing up now, so what’s the problem? Her disconnect with the people of California and the way they have to work and live is appalling and her disregard for the seriousness of being an active participant in one’s own governance through exercising the right to vote shows a level of arrogance and cynicism that is nauseating.
Rick Scott is a self-funded, rich candidate of quite another sort. He wants to govern Florida. He was at the helm of a huge healthcare corporation at a time when that corporation perpetrated the most serious Medicare fraud in this nation’s history. Do I need to repeat? He was in charge of a company that profited illegally by defrauding the federal Medicare program. Some of the personal wealth he is using now to buy the Florida governorship was acquired while his corporation was bilking the taxpayers of Florida and of the nation.
Scott takes no personal responsibility for the Medicare fraud discovered under his corporate watch. Does that give the people of Florida a clue as to what kind of responsibility he’ll take for ethical governance of their state or for any policy failings? He expresses disdain for anything government – especially government healthcare. That’s interesting in that he sure loved the Medicare dollars that helped him amass his own fortune. Medicare dollars are taxpayer dollars – government dollars. Scott’s arrogance, his belief that voters are too stupid to connect the dots between his “I-hate-big-government” propaganda and his “I-love-big-government money” financial success story, and his cynicism are nauseating.
What are we doing? Could we explain how money works in this political process to any other sane society? Buy an office? Legal. Sell an office? Go to prison. Tell us you will buy our votes? Legal. Actually pay us for our votes? Illegal. Corporate personhood? The right to unlimited free speech protected by the Constitution. Private personhood? Taken for a fool.
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