Hightower: Toxic, Mud-Slinging Campaign Ads Make Voters Stay at Home

When five Supreme Court justices decreed that corporations are entitled to full free speech rights in our elections and that corporate money is a form of speech that can’t be restricted, they produced a nightmare tsunami of corporate cash that is now drowning our people’s democratic rights.


After all, if money is speech, then speech is no longer free — it’s for sale.

This year, we’re seeing what the Court’s absurd edicts are costing us.

First, the corporate purchase of political speech has reached tsunamic force in the 2014 midterm elections. Spending may cost a record total of $4 billion, with somewhere between $1 billion and $2 billion dished out on TV commercials intended to influence voters.

Second, the bulk of this speech isn’t being bought by candidates or parties, but by secretive outside front groups that hide the corporate interests funding the ads. In Senate races alone, these shadow groups have already run some 150,000 TV spots. The Koch brothers’ main front group, Americans for Prosperity, is by far the biggest buyer of speech.

Third, and most pernicious, the court-created “right” of moneyed front groups to flood the airwaves has handed them the power to dictate any campaign’s message. Advertising created and bankrolled by those secret fronts now define the issues and even the candidates themselves before races really get going.

Because the outside groups are anonymous, their “speech” consists almost entirely of the nastiest, most vituperative attacks on candidates they oppose, turning our election-year discourse into toxic slime-fests that turn off voters and shrivel turnout.

To help stop the corporate purchase of the People’s political speech rights, connect with MoveToAmend.org.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

Close