Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Money as Speech

My brother is the Supreme Court expert, not me, but I know at some point the Court determined that use of money is a protected form of free speech.  The Court also recently ruled that corporations are people too ... or at least they get the same rights as us.  Polls seem to indicate that in general people support the idea that giving money to campaigns is a form of free speech and should be protected and thus not restricted.  At the same time I think we have a reluctance to recognize the other ways that we let money speak for us.  Target Corporation recently gave money to support a business minded Political Action Committee (PAC) ... that PAC then gave money to support Emmer, the endorsed GOP candidate for governor in MN.  This obviously upset a portion of Targets faithful shoppers who had no intention of personally giving money to support Emmer and do not like the idea that a fraction, however small, of the money they spend at Target is going to support someone they do not support.  I feel like I could spend a great deal of time discussing the pros and cons of Targets choice to support Emmer (who the PAC considers the better candidate for big companies) but I would rather focus on something else, which is why more of us do not remember that like Target we have the ability to use our money as a form of speech as well.  I am not saying we should all go out and give the legal maximum to whataver candidate or party we support but instead we should consider what other ways we make a statement with our money.  We could make a statement that we do not want companies using profits to make campaign contributions, and not give our business to those companies that do.  Or we make a statement by shopping at local business over big corporations, or buying Fair Trade coffee (or similar brands) instead of other types of coffee.  Every dollar we spend can be used to make a statement, just like ever word we say expresses something.  Are they all of equal importance, probably not, but I feel we do ourselves a disservice if we do not think about what we are saying, with our mouths and with our wallets.  I may not place a lot of trust in corporations, but I do trust that they are willing to do what it takes to make money, and so the message that each of us sends with our dollars makes a difference ... maybe now we just need to be more intentional about what that message is.