Archive for February, 2010

Corporate Influence on Elections

February 14, 2010

The recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling to allow corporations to spend unlimited funds for or against political candidates threatens our democracy.

Even though unions and other independent groups also had spending limits removed, it is large corporations that have the most money to spend… and thus could wield disproportionate influence.

However, it is not just the state and national elections that will be affected. Local elections are also fair game.

We here in Scio Township, Michigan, saw an example of corporate influence on elections back in 1994. The Township had a referendum on the ballot for a 3-year, 0.5 millage for an Environmental Protection Fund to help the Township protect local water supplies against a major groundwater contamination.

Corporate funded VOTE NO

VOTE NO "rolling billboard" truck hired by CREA funded by Gelman Sciences

A pseudo-citizen front group, Committee for Rational Environmental Action (CREA), surfaced to oppose the millage. An extensive campaign funded by CREA resulted in the millage being defeated 2988-1924.

Campaign funding documents filed for 1994 revealed that CREA was almost totally funded by the Gelman Sciences Inc., the company responsible for the groundwater contamination and cleanup. Those documents showed that GSI gave about $30,000 to defeat the millage… about $10 for each NO vote.

It was only years later that I stumbled upon CharlesGelman.com, the personal website of GSI’s founder and CEO. A posting to charlesgelman.com disclosed that Gelman Sciences actually spent about $90,000 on the 1994 anti-millage campaign. The posting also bragged that the campaign had won a national PR award… but ironically, the award was not publicized so as not to upset the public.

This is the kind of tactics we’ll see more of as a result of the Supreme Court decision.

[Footnote: charlesgelman.com has since been taken down, but the postings are still mostly available at archive.org.]

Next Posting: How to negate the effects of the Supreme Court decision.

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