Home Opinion Bill Franks: Excessive Amounts of Money Have Corrupting Effect on Democracy

Bill Franks: Excessive Amounts of Money Have Corrupting Effect on Democracy

Bill Franks

This opinion column reflects the views of its author, and not necessarilythose of FoxValley365, its staff, funders, advertisers or board of directors.

It is worth noting that last week Monday, the 9th anniversary of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission fell on the same day as Martin Luther King Day. And one thing is very clear from Dr. King’s teachings and the Citizen’s United ruling: excessive amounts of money have a corrupting effect on democracy.

The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination. The vision of the NAACP is to ensure a society in which all individuals have equal rights without discrimination based on race. Every American will have free, open, equal, and protected access to the vote and fair representation at all levels of the political process.

One of our key concepts under the Voting Rights and Political Representation Policy Preferences is:
“By protecting democracy, enhancing equity, and increasing democratic participation and civic engagement. Blacks folks will be proportionally elected to political office.”

Citizen’s United, a 5-4 vote of the United States Supreme Court, stands as a repudiation of our Association’s position on Black Political Representation and Participation. The reason this decision is a civil rights issue is obvious. The less money you have, the less effective you are in influencing anything of value in your life and the things we all need and deserve.

Limiting access that average working class folks have to those officials who represent them can only yield an adverse effect on those persons without the money it takes to have such an effect. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated when he was summoned to Memphis, Tennessee to help resolve an impasse between City of Memphis officials, particularly Mayor Loeb and the sanitation workers in early 1968. He put the “Poor People’s Movement” on hold while diverting to the sanitation worker’s strike. His famous “I Have Been To The Mountain Top” sermon was delivered the night before his murder. What would Martin have said about all this? It’s clear from his writings and teachings, he would have been convinced that excessive amounts of money have a corrupting effect on democracy.

It’s not exactly as if wealthy individuals and corporations have been suffering lately. We have no objection to paying our fair share. Subsidizing those who don’t need that advantage is what we find objectionable and quite frankly, and not (small “d”) democratic.

Once you see the onslaught of political advertising every campaign season, it becomes clear to me (and others) that too great a portion of the money spent on advertising is a sad waste of time and effort. Saturation bombing voters a continuous supply of negative and frequently misleading messaging does nothing to further the interests of our democracy. The reasonable limits of spending and disclosure of who’s contributing to campaigns (dark money) are intended to shield these “donors” from scrutiny. This lack of transparency allows those with questionable motives to influence our political decision makers.

No, money is not and should not be the same as or equal to speech. Only speech is speech.

And that speech must come from the people.

William Franks chairs the Labor & Industry Committee of the NAACP of Dane County and has been a member of POWRS (Protect Our Wisconsin Retirement Security) since retirement from the State of Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.