In the Arena

“…And I Approve This Message”

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President Obama is rightly outraged by the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case, which allows corporations and unions to directly support political candidates during campaigns. Anything that adds to the sum total of consultant-driven crap that besieges us at election time is a bad thing.

But. There are no ground rules yet–and the diversion of this ghastly proposition into a force for reform is not impossible. The key thing is that there should be no intermediaries–no front groups like “Americans for Loveliness”–for entities supporting a candidate, as opposed to a cause (or even a cause, come to think of it). Corporations and unions should be forced to abide by the current disclosure rules. There should be a tag line at the end of every corporate or union ad like, for example, “I’m Lloyd Blankfein, chairman of Goldman Sachs and I approve this message…”

If such transparency prevails–and it won’t unless someone makes a fuss–I suspect it will have a dampening effect on the willingness of corporations to bare themselves in support of this candidate or that. There is a reason why most businesspeople are small-c conservative. They don’t like to make waves, offend potential customers–and by backing one side in a hot political battle, you run the risk of offending half your market.

This also could open a new vein of creative advocacy. Groups like MoveOn could run ads saying, “Senator Ben Nelson, brought to you by Mutual of Omaha,” and so forth.

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