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Local group pushes to end corporate personhood

Photo: Michael Barajas, License: N/A

Michael Barajas

The sentiment outside San Antonio's federal courthouse Friday.


Saturday marked the two-year anniversary of the Supreme Court's Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision that wrenched open the spigot on corporate cash, drowning us in breathless campaign-season attack ads. Marking the anniversary, a small crew pushing to add San Antonio to the growing list of cities adopting resolutions decrying corporate personhood and the High Court's decision brought their theatrics to San Antonio's federal courthouse on Friday.

"Just like separation of church and state, we want separation of corporation and state," said local attorney Michele Petty. Some in the small group of activists donned faux judges' robes patched with corporate logos at the event. Coordinated with over 300 groups nationwide, Petty and a cadre of roughly 50 local activists gathered to decry corporate-cash-driven politics.

John Bustamante, running in the Democratic primary to challenge GOP Congressman Francisco "Quico" Canseco, was one of several local candidates at Friday's rally. He bashed Citizens United and a political system "awash in anonymous corporate money." Citizens United, Bustamante said, was "predicated on two fundamental errors," that corporations are people and that money is speech, adding, "I'm afraid we are straying from the Constitution."

Citizens United set the stage for unprecedented political spending in the 2010 midterm election, particularly by expanding ways to give anonymously, granting corporations and unions new ways to throw cash at political races or causes. By Monday, in a sign of what's to come this election season, at least 290 Super PACs had registered for the 2012 cycle, according to Open Secrets, a website run by The Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan national nonprofit dedicated to tracking money in politics. Some have already thrown a collective $29 million at the ongoing GOP presidential primary, like the Super PAC "Make Us Great Again," started by former Rick Perry legislative director Mike Toomey that spent over $4 million pushing Perry to the public in key caucus states. Tea Partiers hungrily eyeing the seat of retiring Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison have already spent $575,000 pushing ads supporting GOP candidate Ted Cruz through the Senate Conservatives Fund, a Tea Party-aligned PAC.

PAC-driven attack ads are hitting locally too. The Latino Project of the American Worker PAC, a labor-backed group, began airing 60-second ads on local radio attacking Canseco this month — essentially pumping support behind Bustamante or Canseco's two other potential Democratic challengers. The PAC says it could spend more than $5 million in 2012 targeting over a dozen congressional districts across the country, including other Texas districts, like Canseco's, that could be up for grabs this cycle.

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