"Merchants have no country," wrote Thomas Jefferson in 1814. "The mere spot they stand on does not constitute so strong an attachment as that from which they draw their gains." The former president was ruing the way New England traders and ship owners, fearing the loss of lucrative transatlantic commerce, failed to rally to their country in the War of 1812. 1
What was true in 1814 remains true today. The loyalty of corporations goes to the producers of profits and the reducers of wages and taxes. Yet, there has been one hugely significant change since 1814. The Supreme Court, in Citizens United, declared corporations and other entities to be persons, with an unlimited right to make political donations. Not only does this spending power influence the outcome of elections; perhaps more importantly, it influences the selection of candidates from which voters choose. While we can make the argument that the power of the ballot box can offset the power of money, that’s only true if good candidates make it to the ballot on election day.
1 This story first appeared on the TomDispatch website and republished by Mother Jones.