Last year, in the Citizens United decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the United States may not ban corporations from spending their own money to support or oppose candidates for political office, because such a ban would violate the corporations' First Amendment right to free speech. The Court's decision effectively gutted the restrictions of the McCain-Feingold act and followed a line of decisions holding that corporations formed in the United States are citizens of the United States.
Untrammelled spending on elections is demeaning to the candidates who have to beg unions and businesses for campaign dollars. It also doesn't seem to produce better politicians; the difference in quality and horsepower between a $20,000 car and one that costs $60,000 is more noticeable, and far easier to describe, than the difference in quality and brainpower between a senator that costs $2,000,000 and one that costs $6,000,000.
My guess, unhindered by asking any actual politicians, is that most of them would gladly give up the ceaseless quest for campaign dollars (and it is ceaseless; I received from my congressman today an invitation to his first campaign fundraiser for the 2012 election) if they knew that their opponents would have to operate under the same restrictions. I've therefore devised the Laquedem Good Corporate Citizenship Campaign Finance Reform Plan. It has two parts.
The first part is to amend the United States Constitution to provide that corporations and other business entities are citizens of their state of formation, and of no other state. Corporations formed by the United States (national banks, and certain special entities such as Fannie Mae) would be citizens of the state in which their principal office is located, and of no other state. Foreign corporations would not be citizens of any state. The amendment would provide that corporations' federal rights under the Bill of Rights are the same as of non-citizens lawfully present in the United States. All this is mere background to the main Laquedem idea. The same rules would apply to labor unions and other similar organizations. Corporations owned by other corporations, and labor unions that are subsidiaries of other labor unions, would take the citizenship of their ultimate parent organization.
The second and more important part of the Laquedem Good CCCFR Plan is to allow corporations and labor unions to contribute to presidential candidates, to candidates in their state of citizenship, but not to candidates in any other state. Political action committees will have to select a state of citizenship and raise money only from citizens of that state.
Here's one of the amusing and provocative results. Many large corporations have chosen to be incorporated in Delaware. They doubtless have an interest in the United States Senate. Under the Laquedem Plan, they could contribute large sums to the candidates for Delaware's two senate seats and one house seat, but nowhere else.
Similarly, a labor union headquartered in Illinois, and all of its affiliates and locals, could exercise their free speech rights to contribute to Illinois candidates, and nowhere else.
I'm willing to allow a slight tweak to this Laquedem Plan, which is to implement an idea similar to one suggested by Justice Stevens in his dissent in the Citizens United case. That's to allow corporations and labor unions to contribute to candidates outside their home state, but only if the specific contribution is authorized by a vote of the shareholders or union members first. Instead of staying up on election night to see if Obama, Clinton, or Romney has carried Ohio or New York, we could watch the returns to see if they have carried Alcoa, Archer-Daniels-Midland, or the SEIU.