Wednesday, April 7, 2010
A Horrible Example
25 workers died in Massey Corporation coal mines in West Virginia this week. One would be hard pressed to come up with a better example of the lack of wisdom inherent in the recent Citizens United ruling from the Supreme Court allowing unlimited spending on election issues and candidates. Don Blankenship, Massey's CEO, contributed three million dollars several years ago to a candidate for West Virginia's state supreme court. Quite naturally, the judge who was elected gave Massey the deciding vote relieving it from the impact of a multimillion dollar jury award for, you guessed it, mining violations that placed miners at substantially increased risk of harm. Although the issue in Citizens United was different, i..e., the conditions which must exist before a judge should recuse himself/herself from participating in a decision in a particular case, the lesson is open and obvious. Money talks. The tie-in between these two events did not occur by coincidence or mere tragic accident. Just think about the possibility that spending three million dollars on the correction of unsafe conditions in the Massey mine that culminated in this week's outcome might have prevented. I have often criticized the concept of treating corporations as 'persons' within the meaning of the Constitution principally on the basis that their only purpose for existence is the making of profit. Corporations have no soul, no moral purpose in 'life' other than generating earnings for owners or shareholders. The U.S. is a strange country in at least one respect; if the events in West Virginia this week resulting in the deaths of these miners had been caused by a single person, very few of us would lose any sleep if that person was put to death. Why we don't offer the same solution for a corporation whose actions cause so much harm is the question that begs an answer. This horrible example of the impact of money on the governmental process serves as a poster child for why such changes are necessary. Our current U.S. Supreme Court is headed in exactly the wrong direction. As I said above, Money talks.