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Friday, January 22, 2010


Three random observations about unlimited corporate donations

1) Media are of course corporations. Imagine a ballot proposition coming up which, say, attempts to restrict media consolidation. Now imagine that every other advertisement you see on TV is someone telling you what a bad idea that is. Nor is this restricted to media issues, since some media companies (e.g., NBC owned by GE before being sold to Comcast, ABC being owned by Disney) are owned by entirely unrelated businesses, who again can use the unlimited power of their own airwaves to promote their corporate interest.

2) In some jurisdictions, judges are elected. Imagine trying to sue a corporation in a court whose judge had his or her election financed by that corporation.

3) If a corporation gets a politician elected to help pass a bill giving them some financial benefit (tax break, big contract, whatever) and then they get that financial benefit, the donation is just as much a "business expense" as any other form of marketing, which means, if I'm a corporate lawyer (I'm not, I assure you!), I'm telling my client that it's tax-deductible. Expect corporate taxes to get even lower than they are (to the extent that's even possible).

Finally, though, while this Supreme Court decision does augur a quantitative shift in corporate power over politics, if you're under the impression this is an sea change, you're mistaken. Money has been talking for a long, long time in politics.

Update: Illustrating my first point, and proving my final (unnumbered) point, is this:

N. Christian Anderson III, the new publisher of The Oregonian, reportedly earns more than a quarter-million dollars a year and therefore will pay slightly more in personal income taxes if Oregon's Measures 66 and 67 are approved by voters. That explains why Anderson is using his prerogative and The Oregonian's considerable resources -- EVEN delivering FREE editions of the paper, wrapped in anti-measure advertisements to non-subscribers! -- to convince Oregon voters to vote against the measures.

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