Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 6:27 PM
Much has been made of how the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling on campaign finance law sets the stage for corporations to wield much more influence in elections. Most of the focus has been on the ruling’s impact on national, and to a lesser extent, state politics. But the ruling could change the nature of even the most localized political campaigns.
When you think of corporate influence in elections, you tend to think of large national, or even multinational companies. John Green, who heads the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron, says those kinds of companies are the most obvious beneficiaries of the Supreme Court’s ruling, which upended long-established limits on corporate campaign spending.
Green: "But you know when you get down to the local level there are lots of corporations that are relatively small, they might be owned by just one or two people. and this decision could make it possible for the funds of those corporations to be spent directly in politics – something that has not been allowed Ohio and in other states has been prohibited as well."
Green says it’s likely those prohibitions at the state level and local level will be challenged and struck down, using the same rationale as was argued before the Supreme Court. Once that happens, Green says, we could see big changes in local political campaigns.
Green: "There’s the potential to not only have new money but to have a whole new set of issues come onto the agenda of an election, kinds of things that normally wer e handled through a county council or a city council or through a court."
Issues like zoning, permitting and other kinds of local business regulations, Green says, might become the centerpiece of local campaigns. But, he points out, such influence won’t be limited to just for-profit companies. Non-profits, union locals, and other interest groups would have the same ability to spend as they see fit to their political advantage.
Bill Rice, 90.3.