hearts and minds

June 5, 2008

How Wisconsin Legislators Voted on Ending Legalized Bribery

Let’s spotlight two cases where the U.S. Supreme Court legislated from the bench and violated common sense and our shared values. Next we’ll see what our state legislators have (or have not) done recently to arrest and restrain the government corruption that resulted. We’ll look at where the problem is most festering. And there is one important legislative step that is needed right now. Let’s get er done. By the way, there’s a scoop here, too, with news of three grassroots candidates for election to the state legislature, working to expose and unseat some of the very worst of the “Public Enemies” to be described below.

When big money oils politics, corruption of the democratic process and legalized bribery of elected representatives is certain. Bribery is the right name because no corporations, groups, or well-heeled “persons”, anywhere in the world, provide that kind of money to election campaigns and political parties without expecting, and getting, a nod, a wink, and a huge return on investment. Taxpayers must pay for that swindle. And it’s legalized in the USA by two strange Supreme Court rulings.

In an 1886 case (Santa Clara County v Southern Pacific Railroad corporation) U.S. Supreme Court Justice Morrison Waite stated before the beginning of argument that “The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution … applies to these corporations… it does.”

The Court reporter entered into the record of the Court’s findings that, “The defendant Corporations are persons within the intent of the clause in section 1 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Earlier Supreme Court rulings granted no such rights. No legislature gave those rights to corporations. And the Constitution does not even mention corporations. This is a crystal clear case of Supreme Court justices altering the Constitution (re-writing it, if you will) and is the most damaging and dangerous case in U.S. history.

That’s it. The Supreme Court never even allowed arguments on the subject. Yet an uncontested assertion, as interpreted by a court reporter, utterly reversed all precedent, radically distorted the 14th Amendment (only 18 years after it was ratified) in order to establish and “protect” the supposed right of corporations to due process and equal protection, and absurdly asserted that a corporation is a “person”. What a cruel and evil irony. The 14th Amendment was clearly intended to prohibit the states from violating the rights of all people (including former slaves) to due process and equal protection of the laws. Up to then, due process and equal protection rights had only been required of the federal government, and only for “white” men – according to the infamous Dred Scott Supreme Court ruling, which the 14th Amendment was intended to reverse after slavery was abolished.

The Court conferred the same civil rights you and I have, on “persons” of unlimited size, power, and longevity. These are “persons” devoid of natural needs, conscience, or a soul; “persons” without happiness, sorrows, or faith; “persons” having no allegiance to family, friends, or nation; “persons” careless of elders, children, or any living things. These are “persons” without love or morals; “persons” without regard for ancestors or descendants; “persons” motivated (by law) only by acquisitiveness and the profit motive. “Persons” who cannot bleed or be jailed for their crimes, now possess rights equal to those of living, breathing human beings. The door was opened for global corporate rule, and the course of history changed with the rise of the Robber Barons.

This government definition of a “person” is contrary to human rights and the founding fathers’ intent. Exxon-Mobil and GE and Yamaha now claim the same rights as the Constitution provides you and I, our family and neighbors, and veterans injured in combat. It violates natural law and all that is holy. It is dead wrong.

The second fatal Supreme Court ruling was in Buckley v Valeo, in 1976. The Court held that the use of money to influence government policy and elections is equivalent to free speech. This is the infamous “money equals speech” ruling. That’s ridiculous. Money is not speech. Money is a material possession.

A huge problem erupts when these two Court rulings are combined. A person’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech has been grotesquely twisted by the U.S. Supreme Court to mean that a corporation has the right to use money to influence government actions and elections. Nothing could be more wrong than that.

So the term “legalized bribery” is a perfect description of the dilemma corrupting our representative democracy with a stench that cannot be ignored and cannot be allowed to continue. It is not the perception of corruption (as our very own elected officials like to insist) that is the problem. It is legalized corruption itself that is the problem.

The non-partisan Wisconsin Democracy Campaign tracked and ranked votes and actions of Wisconsin legislators on bills to reform corruption and legalized bribery during the just ended annual legislative session. Only nine legislators were honored as “Democracy Defenders”. Fifty-four of our current state legislators are rated as “Public Enemies” of efforts to return democratic control of government to the people. (45 were rated as “Public Allies”, and 22 were rated as “Bystanders”.)

Out of 33 total state Senators, Caucus Chair Glenn Grothman (20), Senate Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (13), Mary Lazich (28), Neal Kedzie (11), and Ted Kanavas (33), were the only five rated as “Public Enemies”. Those five contiguous Senate districts form a reactionary “halo of hubris” surrounding Milwaukee. Check out the map.

Each state Senate district is comprised of 3 Assembly districts. All but one of the representatives of the Assembly districts in those five notorious “Public Enemy” Senate districts are also public enemies of needed reforms. So less than 20 tightly bundled state legislative districts, containing just one-seventh of the people of the state, account for one-third of the Wisconsin legislature’s elected “Public Enemies”.

These few, adjoining legislative districts reach from Walworth at the Illinois border to Sheboygan, and include everything from Port Washington to Beaver Dam, and from New Berlin and Waukesha to Sullivan and Lake Geneva. We need allies and defenders of democracy, instead of public enemies.

Both the Senate and the Assembly have six Officers each. The majority Party elects four, the minority Party elects two. (The majority officers then set the agenda for that body, and the majority of each and every committee, and every committee chair, are members of that same Party.) Unfortunately, about 40 percent of both the membership and the Officers of the entire legislature are currently rated as “Public Enemies”. Just one-sixth of the State Senate (and one-sixth of the Senate Officers) are “Public Enemies”. But fully half of the Assembly, and no less than sixty percent of the current Officers of the Assembly are “Public Enemies”. The Assembly is what’s troubling us, Bunky.

Reforms to restrict legalized bribery and corruption of state government are the only regular or special session legislative issue still pending before the November election. Tell your state legislators to pass Special Session Senate and Assembly Bill 1 now with no funny stuff.

Oh yeah, I promised a scoop. My six years as a free-lance columnist for the Ozaukee News-Graphic ended with my firing after I submitted this article for publication. So I’ve decided not to wait a moment longer for a qualified candidate to challenge Republican Caucus Chair Glenn Grothman for the 20th Senate District. The voters have never yet had a choice available when Grothman’s name has appeared on the ballot in a general election. I’m going for it myself, and now intend to officially file a Campaign Registration Statement as an Independent. Drop me a comment here if you have any suggestions, questions, or offers of assistance. I could use a little help qualifying for the ballot, and then getting the issues in front of the people.

This fresh breeze in the 20th Senate District is not the only one this year. A progressive candidate, Perry Duman, is running as a Democrat against Speaker pro tempore of the Assembly Mark Gottlieb, in Assembly District 60. And a combat veteran of Vietnam is running as a progressive Independent against Pat Strachota in the 58th Assembly District which includes West Bend and much of Washington County. It is unprecedented for the voters to actually have a choice in the general election when these incumbents appear on the ballot. It is sorely needed to finally have contested elections coming directly from the grassroots in this region.

Without a choice, there is no democracy.

“Politicians: Owned and Operated by Corporate America” by Jack Lohman
“When Corporations Rule the World”, by David Korten
“The Best Democracy Money Can Buy”, by Greg Palast


  1. […] U.S. Supreme Court did that for you, but as blogger Clyde Winter writes, money is not speech. It is a possession, like your house or car. You use cash to buy things and […]

    Pingback by Free Speech and a country in trouble « Moneyed Politicians — June 5, 2008 @ 4:30 am | Reply

  2. Excellent article, Clyde, it’s one of your best.

    I particularly like the fact that if you have money you therefore have political speech, and if not you have no political voice at all. We all know that money spent on political ads generates votes, thus without money a “person” cannot generate those votes. They have no voice at all.

    So that’s “equal protection under the law?” I can use my money to drown out the votes of those who have no money?

    If that’s what democracy is all about, we need to re-evaluate this process.

    But one way of leveling the playing field is to pass full public funding of campaigns so challengers can opt to not take special interest money. But don’t count on the current politicians to make this change. Glad to see that you have thrown your hat into the ring. We need new (and clean) blood!

    Comment by MoneyedPoliticians — June 5, 2008 @ 6:39 am | Reply

  3. Great article.

    We can change it, by voting in a Democrat PResident & Congress.
    They can change the laws, and impeach the courts ‘GOP annointed ” Activists’.
    We now have a similar pair in Wisconsin with Zeigler & Gableman.
    Recall elections should be made far easier to accomplish.

    Tossing them should be very easy, and we would get judges who want to play fair, and will do so, under the threat of the ruin of their career.
    We cannot keep protecting them from any oversight.

    Comment by goofticket — June 5, 2008 @ 11:05 am | Reply

  4. This election year is setting itself up for great history. Your run for the Senate is welcomed and appreciated.

    Comment by Greg Dombro — June 11, 2008 @ 10:42 pm | Reply

  5. Thanks for your great courage, Clyde, in submitting such a hard-hitting article. I am not surprised (though not pleased) that the “powers that be” at the News Graphic decided they could do without your truth-telling! It means they are actually not in favor of democracy, though they would not see it that way. I hope you will continue writing with your unique perspective, and good luck with your campaign against one of the “Public Enemies”, Glenn Grothman.

    Comment by Marliss R — June 13, 2008 @ 5:13 pm | Reply

  6. Good Luck to you, Clyde. I know you can rattle Grothman’s cage. Let your love of people shine through, and good things will come! … You’ll need some support!

    Comment by Mike — June 14, 2008 @ 10:36 pm | Reply

  7. […] U.S. Supreme Court did that for you, but as blogger Clyde Winter writes, money is not speech. It is a possession, like your house or car. You use cash to buy things and […]

    Pingback by Free Speech and a country in trouble — June 17, 2008 @ 5:15 am | Reply

  8. Run as a Democrat- it’ll give you more credibility and visibility, plus you’ll be able to get public financing to really take some shots at him!

    Comment by StickItToGrothman — June 25, 2008 @ 1:10 am | Reply

  9. The preceding message was sent from the Wisconsin Democratic Party state senate campaign organization.

    As you can see, no person signed this comment. It was sent from senate@wisdems.org.

    And it kinda ticks me off. The establishment Dems have abandoned the working families of this entire region to one-party Republican rule, with no representation, no hope, and no alternative to the monoculture dominating the local media and the government and the political discussion about issues important to families here. They have done this for many decades, because they have decided they “can’t win” here. So it’s been up to an isolated grassroots movement and a few individuals to keep hope alive. And then they tell me I should run as a Democrat to give me more credibility. Maybe it’s projection on their part. Maybe it is the establishment Dems who crave and need credibility here, and other regions like this.

    The part of the comment about public financing for matching funds is right on the money, however. It’s one of many laws and rules that deny access and fairness to any political viewpoint other than those emanating directly from one of the two major political parties. The rules unfairly prevent Independents from qualifying for matching funds. You’ve got to be a Republican or a Democrat to get public financing. We need to break that duopoly that shuts the door on other points of view, other parties, and Independents. The first reform needed to accomplish that is Instant Runoff Voting.

    Comment by clyde winter — June 25, 2008 @ 10:42 am | Reply

  10. … given (Grothman’s) radical disdain for higher education and the generally positive attitude most other people have about the UW, it would be a good issue to highlight in the campaign.

    … I have given some recent coverage to Grothman’s latest remarks about UW. From what I can gather from your blog about your stances on issues you would be a much more pro University candidate than Grothman… We would really like to see one of the University’s biggest opponents defeated and support of the University made an issue in the campaign.

    Comment by Fearless Sifting — July 10, 2008 @ 9:21 pm | Reply

  11. […] two party system is inherently and invariably, ‘a divider not a uniter’, and cannot serve the people. The current legal interpretations (that corporations have the same constitutional rights as human beings, and that distributing money […]

    Pingback by Governing People for Profits « hearts and minds — November 16, 2009 @ 2:58 am | Reply

  12. […] citizens who disdain voting simply because an individual’s vote in a democracy (whether the political process is corrupted to the core or not) is not a magic bullet and because voting does not make the voter feel as though he or she […]

    Pingback by Why Feingold is out in Wisconsin « hearts and minds — November 19, 2010 @ 12:47 pm | Reply

  13. […] How Wisconsin Legislators Voted on Ending Legalized Bribery […]

    Pingback by The Difference between a Person and a Party – according to the U.S. Constitution « hearts and minds — April 1, 2011 @ 6:09 pm | Reply

  14. […] “How Wisconsin Legislators Voted on Ending Legalized Bribery” […]

    Pingback by Corporations v. Persons – What would Martin and Malcolm say? « hearts and minds — May 27, 2011 @ 1:44 pm | Reply

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