It may seem like corporations have had a firm grip on U.S. politics for generations, but their current level of influence is actually a fairly recent phenomenon. Today, big corporations are setting the agenda, picking the candidates and drowning out the voices of ordinary citizens, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
When corporations own our democracy, the interests of the people get trampled by a stampede of campaign cash from corporations and the 1 percent — meaning that the government serves their interests instead of ours.
People and organizations that care about and work on the environment, along with civil rights, labor unions, women’s rights, and many other issues have come together because all of our rights — from clean air and water to the right to vote — are being undermined by corporate control of our government.
It hasn’t always been this way, and it doesn’t have to stay like this. We can — and will — hold our government accountable as we push for a democracy that is truly of, by and for the people.
Money in Politics
Every year, fossil fuel corporations like Shell, BP and ExxonMobil and dark money groups like Koch Industries make billions by maintaining the status quo.
But this extent of corporate influence in political campaigns and decision-making is fairly recent. The 2018 midterm elections were the most expensive elections in U.S. history, with more than $5.7 billion dollars spent at the federal level alone.
So, how did it get this way? And how can we stop it?
In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court opened the door for unlimited political spending by wealthy individuals and corporations. This has allowed big polluting corporations to funnel money towards political candidates who will do their bidding—often using “dark money” front groups that don’t disclose where their funding comes from.
Since the Citizens United ruling, corporate interests have spent billions backing political campaigns, and they’re spending more every day. Fossil fuel companies in particular are spending huge sums of money to make sure politics favors the polluters.
Unlimited corporate money in our democracy means that the people’s interests are being drowned out, but it doesn’t have to be this way. The Citizens United decision was a bad call for our democracy, and it’s got to go.
Then there’s ALEC, short for the American Legislative Exchange Council. Since 1981, ALEC has convened corporate lobbyists and state lawmakers in secret meetings to draft “model bills” that benefit corporations at the public’s expense. One in five of these bills eventually makes it into law.
ALEC is funded by big polluters like ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, and Koch industries, and its number one purpose is to serve their interest. Laws written by ALEC have reversed state targets on renewable energy, prevented the regulation of toxic coal ash, and turned over millions of acres of public land for exploitation, in addition to mandating voter identification laws that disenfranchise voters.
Money Out, Voters In
Corporate interests — particularly fossil fuel companies — wield far too much influence over our democracy. In the 2016 election cycle, just 158 families made half of all contributions on the presidential campaign trail. The consequences are clear: the 1 percent is buying elections while making it harder for the rest of us to vote in the first place.
This is all made possible by the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court case, which opened the door for unlimited political spending by wealthy individuals and corporations.
Every dime our elected officials take from the fossil fuel industry warrants our scrutiny. We the people deserve better, and we’re asking for it.
Congressmen are taking millions of dollars from fossil fuel companies to deny climate change.