REPRESENTATIVE KENT SMITH'S REMARKS, SOUTH EUCLID CITY HALL, SEPTEMBER 14, 2016, AT PRESS CONFERENCE ANNOUNCING INTRODUCTION OF MOVE TO AMEND RESOLUTION IN OHIO HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
In the most basic terms, corporations are not people and money is not speech.
Only human beings are legal persons with constitutional rights. Corporations are not people. They are institutions of the economic marketplace and therefore can be regulated.
I believe it goes without saying that when the founding fathers wrote the First Amendment they were concerned with the rights of John Doe the individual, not John Doe’s Land Speculation and Investment Company.
Money, in the form of campaign contributions and expenditures, is not equivalent to free speech and therefore can also be regulated.
When money is considered “speech,” those who have the most money have the most speech. This contradicts the basic cornerstone of American Democracy of one person, one vote.
Campaign finance laws protect our Democracy from corruption and preserve the integrity of elections.
If I have learned anything in this my first term in the Ohio House it’s this – that Democracy, often times, is a conflict between the power of the present vs the possibilities – both good and bad – of the future.
But unlimited and often untraceable money tips the scales so far to the powerful present, I fear that tough decisions needed to secure a livable future will never be made.
There is and should be a natural and healthy tension between Capitalism and Democracy. Capitalism is the survival of the fittest in the marketplace, Coke vs. Pepsi, GM vs. Toyota, Cavs vs. Warriors.
Democracy is the survival of the majority such as Obama over Romney or, here in South Euclid, Welo over Gray [Editor’s note: incumbent Mayor Welo retained her position in the 2015 mayoral election in which she was challenged by City Councilperson Ruth Gray].
But Capitalism and Democracy, both powerful forces, sometimes collide and as a general statement, that conflict is FINE. They need to balance each other out. But often times, the free market may overpower the common good. The marketplace is driven by stock market dividends. It does not see the harm its economic system can do. It only sees the green its greed returns.
Democracy needs to provide the balance to corporate ambition. It needs to develop forward thinking, future-minded policies to protect the future and present generations from the dash for cash that can trample lives. Problems can arise when government does not have the backbone to stand up to the corporate interests because it has been bought off.
Government by the rich and for the rich leads to a nation that only the wealthy want to live in and winners in the economic marketplace should not be allowed to solely dominate the political sphere.
US elections have become less democratic and more susceptible to corruption. As a result of the shift, wealthy donors and special interest groups can buy influence among the representatives they help to elect – all while keeping their identity and motives secret.
We should be able to follow the money. The problem is not just how much is being spent – it’s knowing who spends and what they get in return.
We have a Senate race here in Ohio that will likely be the most expensive in history.
Let me just share two numbers: 46,000, and 70 million.
According to the Wesleyan Media Project, Ohio is the number 1 state in the country for US Senate TV advertising. Over 46,000 TV ads have run in Ohio for the Senate race. That’s more than the next two highest states (Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) put together. Those totals are through August 18, 2016.
Last week [Plain Dealer columnist] Brent Larkin wrote the following about Ohio Senator Rob Portman: “Portman and his allies are smashing every Ohio campaign spending record imaginable. Before it’s over, expect about $70 million to be spent on his behalf. A huge portion of it is coming from some genuinely awful human beings, people like the Koch brothers and the folks who run the gun lobby.”
If Senator Rob Portman were solely responsible for raising the $70 million that is going to be spent on his reelection campaign he would have had to raise almost $32,000 ($31,963) per day, every day of this entire six-year U.S. Senate term. As a comparison, it is worth pointing out that Ohio’s per capita income, according to the U.S. Census, is $26,520.