As we honor Martin Luther King's legacy this month, we also mark the third anniversary of Citizens United v FEC. This landmark Supreme Court decision essentially declared corporations to be people, opening the floodgates for unlimited political corporate contributions, and changing the face of election campaigns.
Citizen's United v. FEC undid over a century of campaign finance reforms, and the effects of the decision were clearly evident in the November elections. One clear example was the opposition to California's Proposition 37 — an initiative to label genetically engineered (GE) food in the state — which was almost entirely funded by corporations. Contributions totaled 46 million dollars.
The "Big 6" pesticide and GE companies alone, with Monsanto leading the pack, invested more than 20 million dollars in this ballot fight. It paid off. The initiative was defeated, even though baseline polling (before campaigning from either side) showed that 90% of California voters support GE labeling.
From industry-funded science undermining decision-making on bee-toxic pesticides to the pipeline of new GE seeds being pushed through USDA by the Big 6, the story of corporate capture is repeated all too often. As PAN organizer Devika Ghai notes:
Today more than ever we need our political leadership to hold themselves up to the indisputable truth that corporations are not people.
Voters in Massachusetts, Montana, Colorado, Illinois and elsewhere have led the way by putting state and local measures in place overturning corporate personhood. At PAN, we continue to work in partnership with people across the country to name and challenge the ways in which corporations wield undue influence over the food we grow and eat. And we are inspired in this work by the words and wisdom of Martin Luther King:
Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.