A couple of days ago I received email notification from an activist group that Target had become the first corporation to use the new Supreme Court ruling to influence elections, with a $150,000 contribution to one candidate for governor of the state of Minnesota.
I immediately said I was ready to visit my local Target store to protest, and "signed" an on-line pledge not to shop at Target. Today, Friday August 6, 2010 at noon was the time all protesters were to visit their stores and lodge a complaint with the manager.
This morning's newspaper had an item "Target CEO apologizes for political donation." I looked at it with curiosity. Apparently a gay rights group was the swiftest to make its displeasure known, for the candidate receiving the cash was strongly opposed to gay rights initiatives. Minnesota is known as a politically progressive state. An action such as Target took wouldn't sit well with a great many people there, gay or straight, I'm pretty sure. However, this is not the reason I am boycotting Target.
It's not WHO they gave the money to, it was that they made a corporate donation--not from the CEO's personal wealth, not from an employee collection, but from the corporate treasury. And there is enough money in corporate treasuries right now to overwhelm funds contributed by individuals and small organizations, enabling corporations as "entities" to buy almost any election if allowed. Paid-for mass media would determine election outcomes, even more than it does today. Our nation's experiment in democracy would be finished.
In the article about the apology, the CEO was reported to have said the decision for the political campaign contribution had to do with the candidate's business policies and not his social policies. He admitted the donation affected people in ways he did not anticipate. He said Target would set up a review process for political donations.
This example shows exactly why the dissenting justices on the Supreme Court opposed this ruling. A corporation is not a person, not a voter, not an entity that must live with ALL the consequences of putting a certain individual into public office. A corporation cannot evaluate the pros and cons of a given candidate, business policies versus social policies and such. There is no conscience to tell the corporation that doing right trumps making money. The corporation is not a moral creature. A corporation is not entitled to human rights.
The Target CEO should be honest. He is going to make decisions that will make money for the shareholders. Like the externalized costs to the environment, human misery costs are not part of the corporate balance sheet. However, I'm sure next time he donates to a politician, he will have his public relations office prepare the proper message to the public.
Now that unlimited financial influence has been released to corporations by the Supreme Court decision, they are going to use it. It's been said that corporations already have so many ways to control Congress and buy elections, this added perk won't matter much. Possibly. Or, it may just be the last straw, the thing that causes public opinion to turn against it.
Our culture has created a monster and given it dominion over people. This is analogous to the science fiction story theme of robots or androids who take charge and enslave us. And we can all say together,
"We are BORG."
That, by the way, comes from a Star Trek script in which a machine-run spaceship colony incorporates any life forms it finds in the universe into itself, with sentient beings losing their identity--becoming a slave brain connected to the machine.
Our fiction has experimented with various ways humans might be enslaved, from computers that would turn tables on us and take over, to invaders from outer space like BORG, to Orwellian "Big Brother" totalitarian rule. But corporations, with a little help from our Supreme Court, have nearly finished that job.I'd like to thank Keith Farnish, environmental activist and blogger, for being the first person to enlighten me about the nature of corporations and of our failure to understand what we have enabled them to do.