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Voter Suppression & Corporate Election Cash: Two Sides of the Same Coin

By Dalvin Butler

Billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch are looking to call the shots in the 2012 elections.

The Koch brothers are using their vast financial resources to push policies and candidates that favor the one percent, at the expense of the rest of us. If left unchecked, these schemes would be disastrous for our democracy.

The Koch strategy?

Diminish the rights of ordinary people and maximize those of corporations and the super-wealthy.

First, the Koch brothers and their allies at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have launched an attack on voting rights in states across the country.

To date, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Virginia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin and Indiana have all passed laws requiring voters to obtain identification cards in order to cast ballots.

Elections experts agree, however, that voter fraud is rare, leaving the motives for such laws highly suspect.

At a recent meeting of its Republican Committee, Pennsylvania State House Majority Leader Mike Turzai said outright that the passage of a recent state Voter ID law was part of a strategy that would “allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”

New Voter ID laws are likely to disproportionately affect African Americans and Latinos, groups who have historically tended to vote for Democrats. These voters are also statistically less likely to have a driver’s license. Their busy work schedules and lack of access to transportation ultimately makes it more difficult for them to obtain the new identification documentation required to vote.

Viewed in this light, the push for Voter ID laws is all too reminiscent of an old evil: the poll tax. Such practices were used to suppress and intimidate African American voters for decades.

Not surprisingly, ALEC has come under fire by many civil rights organizations. The NAACP, National Urban League and Color of Change are all calling on corporations to stop funding ALEC. Thanks to these efforts, a number of corporations, including Wal-Mart, Dell and Johnson & Johnson, have withdrawn their funding.

But, ALEC is not the only factor hurting ordinary citizens.

The surge of Super PACs and other outside groups is weakening the voices of ordinary people while strengthening those of the wealthy. This is a direct result from the disastrous U.S. Supreme Court ruling Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which swept away a century of precedent limiting corporate spending in elections.

The Koch brothers are engaged there too. Their 501(c)(4) Americans for Prosperity (AFP), plans to spend roughly $395 million to influence elections in 2012.

In addition to launching AFP, the brothers have been steering cash from a close network of Koch-affiliated donors to additional groups with agendas similar to AFP, including The American Energy Alliance, American Future Fund, Americans for Limited Government, 60 Plus Association and National Right to Life.

Voter suppression and unlimited corporate spending on elections are both incredibly damaging to our democracy.

That’s why Public Citizen’s Democracy is For People Campaign is fighting tirelessly to overturn Citizens United by calling on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment.

Dalvin Butler, Fannie Lou Hamer Fellow for Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign. Sign the petition and join the fight to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission (FEC) by visiting www.DemocracyIsForPeople.org, following @RuleByUs and liking the campaign on Facebook.