Casting a vote for Telecom, Inc.

The U.S. Supreme Court's controversial ruling in the Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission case (which last week loosened restrictions on election-related financing and promotional activities by corporations by classifying them as free speech) is being seen in the extreme as the event that swings the door open to the complete corporate takeover of America.

Nevermind that fans of American Idol could have told you AT&T may have already had experience in influencing the polling process. Nevermind that every event, organization or building that has a name is nothing more than a number on the naming rights market (Next year's big college bowl game will be the Bank of America BCS Championship at the Wal-Mart Dome featuring the University of Verizon Linemen against the Gigantuans of Google Tech). Nevermind that James Brown "interviewed" the E-Trade baby before yesterday's AFC Championship. (Today, gamblers everywhere are explaining to their bookies that they bet on the Jets only because "that baby told me to.")

No, none of this stuff signaled that corporate influence was going a bit too far. Only the forward-looking observations of a group of elderly people who sit around in robes all day brought it to our attention.

The next two years or so will test how far corporations are willing to take their new freedom to spend as much as they want, wherever they want, in whatever way they want, to influence the electoral process. Will AT&T and other telecom giants drop everything to spend untold amounts of money to get Net neutrality-backing Democrats out of office? (Though, who's with me in thinking they may not have to spend so much to make that happen?) Will video franchising decisions by state and municipal bodies come down to who has the bigger bankroll--Verizon or Comcast?

So, we're having a bit of fun with this topic, but what will the new reality be? Given the opportunity, telecom giants certainly will funnel more money toward the political candidates whose agendas fit their own--because why wouldn't they? Whether or not we see much more than increased campaign contributions, however, depends on how willing the telecom giants are to part with the illusion that the customer comes first, before their own wishes for greater regulatory freedom.

-Dan

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