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Speech for Sale: How Toxic Slime-Fests Can Shrivel Voter Turnout

Chief Justice John Roberts of the United States Supreme Court. (Image: DonkeyHotey/flickr/cc)

When five Supreme Court justices decreed that corporations are entitled to full free speech rights in our elections and that corporate money is a form of speech that can’t be restricted, they produced a nightmare tsunami of corporate cash that is now drowning our people’s democratic rights.

After all, if money is speech, then speech is no longer free — it’s for sale.

This year, we’re seeing what the Court’s absurd edicts are costing us.

First, the corporate purchase of political speech has in fact reached tsunamic force in the 2014 midterm elections. Spending may cost a record total of $4 billion, with somewhere between $1 billion and $2 billion dished out on TV commercials intended to influence voters.

Second, the bulk of this speech isn’t being bought by candidates or parties, but by secretive outside front groups that hide the corporate interests funding the ads. In Senate races alone, these shadow groups have already run some 150,000 TV spots. The Koch brothers’ main front group, Americans for Prosperity, is by far the biggest buyer of speech.

Third, and most pernicious, the court-created “right” of moneyed front groups to flood the airwaves has handed them the power to dictate any campaign’s message. Advertising created and bankrolled by those secret fronts now define the issues and even the candidates themselves before races really get going.

Because the outside groups are anonymous, their “speech” consists almost entirely of the nastiest, most vituperative attacks on candidates they oppose, turning our election-year discourse into toxic slime-fests that turn off voters and shrivel turnout.

To help stop the corporate purchase of the People’s political speech rights, connect with MoveToAmend.org.

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Jim Hightower

Jim Hightower

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the book, Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow. Hightower has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be - consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks.

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