Friday, March 05, 2010

How To Smear Without Leaving A Smudge

The U.S. Supreme Court's display of judicial activism on steroids in the area of election financing has Americans across the political spectrum united in revulsion. The court's legislating from the bench even is creating nervousness around the water coolers at Fortune Magazine and the Wall Street Journal.

Ordinary citizens are right to be outraged. But it's doubtful the fretting by business-sector types will last. Even though the nation's highest court legislated into existence the right of corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections, don't expect the likes of Wal-Mart or Microsoft or Goldman Sachs to be sponsoring their own campaign ads any time soon. Most will be too afraid of alienating customers to do that.

That doesn't mean mega-corporations won't be dumping huge sums of money into efforts to sway voters and control election outcomes. In fact, one of Washington's lobbying titans (which also happens to among the 10 largest law firms in America and one of the 20 largest in the world) is already busy advising corporate clients on how to sling mud without actually getting their hands dirty.

Look for trade associations and phony front groups to be even more loaded than they've been up to this point.

Unless major improvements are made to state and federal disclosure laws, corporations will be able to take center stage in elections, imposing their will and turning most candidates into mere bystanders. And they'll be able to do it without much of any fear of a public backlash because their money will be laundered to remove any trace of its true origins and the public will be left without a clue about who is really behind the blizzard of advertisements we all will have to endure.

(Image courtesy of Lisa Larson.)

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