Tennessee Ushers In Era Of For-Rent Politicians With New Campaign Finance Law
During the 2010 election season, we heard Republican candidates from coast to coast run on creating jobs. In the 2011 Tennessee legislative session, the Republican majority forgot that message and went after teachers and teacher unions. Any other year this would have been enough to make the staunchest conservative proud, but in a session where Republican legislators presented bills by non-citizens with corporate interests, according to the Tennessean, the measure of success was also to include rewriting existing campaign laws to lift the ban on corporate donations. The ban was lifted late Wednesday when Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law SB 1915, which allows direct corporate donations to candidates.
SB 1915 changes existing law T.C.A. § 2-10-131 which did read: “No corporation may use any funds, moneys or credits of the corporation to make contributions to candidates. This means corporations are prohibited from making contributions to any PAC that supports the election or defeat of any candidate.” This has been nullified and allows for direct contributions without penalty.
For the first time in Tennessee history, direct corporate contributions to candidates and political parties will be allowed.
“This basically would just level the playing field, because unions are allowed to do this by statute now,” said Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, according to the Nashville City Paper. Ketron was in the spotlight earlier this year, along with House Speaker Pro Tempore Judd Matheny, for introducing and sponsoring legislation they introduced without reading.
The argument for passing such legislation to allow the influx of corporate money into Tennessee politics was based on fairness. Republicans were quick to point to unions and their political action committees as justification of needing this change, implying that P.A.C. money was unfairly going to the Democrats. This was not the case.
When we examine the numbers, we find that it is the Republicans who are benefiting from PAC money by a margin of $3-$1, reports Knox News. SB 1915 was written to become law as soon as the governor affixed his signature to the bill. So corporate America, Tennessee is now open for business: You are free to directly contribute to any candidate you wish.
The 107th Tennessee General Assembly’s 2011 session was one filled with controversy and fundamental changes to our state’s political structure. While the majority worked to silence one voice in government, they simultaneously opened the door to another. Republican supporters of SB1915 contend that they are complying with the Citizens United ruling that extends First Amendment rights to corporations and lifts prior bans on corporate independent expenditures. Critics of the bill contend that it will lead to a decline in good government and pit legislators against each other for corporate donations.
In a time when citizens are getting more impatient with their representatives, how does allowing corporate influence increase accountability? The financial summary of SB1915 shows that it will actually cost taxpayers money to implement. Not only do the taxpayers get silenced by corporate interests, they get to pick up the tab of implementing the changes. Gov. Haslam has signed the bill and it is now law in Tennessee. Let the era of rental legislators begin. May the highest bidder win.
By: Chris Robison, Associated Content, June 2, 2011
No comments yet.