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Limiting Political Spending by Corporations

WHEREAS:

            Money from corporations and the super rich continues to infiltrate our politics and silence the voices of ordinary Americans. Business interests once again dominated American politics, outspending the labor movement by 11 to 1 in 2012; and

WHEREAS:

            Corporations and the wealthiest 1 percent use their immense wealth to influence elections, trick voters into voting against their economic interests and curry favor with elected officials, who will further rig the game in the favor of the super rich; and

WHEREAS:

            These corporate interests push an agenda that would decimate workplace rights and safety; threaten the right to vote for people of color, seniors, the poor and students; drop tax rates for corporations and the super rich to near zero, while cutting the safety net for American working families; and sell off public goods and services to private interests that do a worse job for more taxpayer money; and

WHEREAS:

            As the voice of working families and the 99 percent, unions are movements for economic and social justice through which workers come together to advance policies at the bargaining table and in the political sphere, where economic and social policies are crafted, adopted and executed; and

WHEREAS:

            Unions were created with a goal to establish a political environment in which all persons are entitled to social, economic and political justice and to fight for the common good, not the accumulation of wealth for its own sake; and

WHEREAS:

            Regardless of the disparity in wealth and the difference in reasons for existence between corporations and worker-led labor unions, campaign finance law has treated the two types of entities as if they were one and the same, existing in parity with one another since 1947; and


 

WHEREAS:

            In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court, in its Citizens United decision, ruled that corporations have the same right to freedom of speech as natural persons and are therefore entitled to unlimited election spending–a decision that further tilted the political playing field in favor of the top 1 percent; and

WHEREAS:

            In 2014, the Supreme Court, in its McCutcheon decision, ruled that an aggregate limit on political contributions was unconstitutional and that the government cannot limit the number of candidates to whom an individual may contribute, nor restrict his aggregate contributions to candidates; and

WHEREAS:

            These two court rulings have opened the flood gates on political spending from corporations and the super rich, further corrupting the democratic process; and

WHEREAS:

            Regardless of the notion of “corporate personhood,” business corporations are not people, they are man-made legal creations that cannot age, die or exhibit other qualities of being a person, but exist solely to make money for their shareholders; and

WHEREAS:

            At the state level, entities, like the Committee to Save New York, and think tanks, including the Mackinac Center and the Buckeye Institute, spend millions of dollars collected from corporations and the super rich to push an agenda of defunding and outsourcing public services, ending defined benefit pensions and destroying collective bargaining as we know it; and

WHEREAS:

            Shareholders have a right to know how corporate resources are spent, especially by a publicly traded company, as such expenditures could have an impact on the value of their investments through reputational and other risks; and

WHEREAS:

            Labor organizations are subject to strict reporting guidelines and must publicly disclose political and other expenditures, while campaign finance rules allow corporations to funnel their contributions to organizations like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, the Chamber of Commerce and other business associations.


 

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED:

            That AFSCME supports the disclosure of all corporate political payments, including campaign contributions, state lobbying expenditures, trade association payments and payments to organizations that engage in political campaigns, to shareholders of publicly traded corporations; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED:

            That AFSCME supports overturning the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in Citizens United and McCutcheon and calls for immediate action to end the dominance of our political system by corporations and the 1 percent; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED:

            That the International Union, its affiliates and members call on Congress to recognize the basic distinctions between labor unions, which are democratic institutions comprised of and governed by natural persons engaging in the workplace and political sphere for the general welfare, and business corporations, which are creatures of law existing only to create wealth, by passing legislation that would allow labor unions a more robust participation in the political process; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED:

            That AFSCME continues to support reforms aimed at returning corporations to their proper role as commercial institutions and limiting their influence in the political sphere and calls on Congress to pass necessary reform to protect our democracy from the power of money; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED:

            That AFSCME continues to participate in the creation and expansion of progressive, state-based think tanks to articulate and communicate progressive values; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED:

            That AFSCME supports reasonable, effective disclosure that effectively ends the “dark money” problem posed by Super PACs and so-called “social welfare” political groups; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED:

            That AFSCME supports an appropriately crafted amendment to the U.S. Constitution to counter Supreme Court rulings such as Citizens United and McCutcheon, to protect our democracy from the economic power of the 1 percent, while at the same time protecting the public’s right to organize and speak politically through democratic organizations and movements.


SUBMITTED BY:
Grace Baltich, President
Kathy Johnston, Recording Secretary and Delegate
AFSCME Council 65
Minnesota

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