CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Americans revere democracy. It is the absolute and ultimate bedrock of the nation. But if we are to remain a thriving democracy, then we need to pay attention to alarming recent changes in American elections.Lord Acton said, "Power corrupts." If he had observed the 2012 election in the United States, he might have restated his warning as, "Corporate money corrupts" -- our elections.A recent decision by the U. S. Supreme Court known as Citizens United sent shock waves through the nation. For the first time in our history, this decision established two new principles:Corporations are persons. They have the same rights as a human citizen.Corporations are free to spend unlimited amounts of money trying to influence elections, often in secret and with no public accountability.
We now know what the results of this decision are. In the 2012 election a veritable tsunami of corporate money poured in to outside groups and Super PACs. They spent the money -- as much as they wanted, on whatever candidates they wanted, often refusing to identify the sources of the money.Even here in West Virginia, the winners in a number of electoral races were the ones that out-of-state groups lavished buckets of money on.This is not democracy. Democracy is the rule of the people -- not rule by wealthy corporations.
Why do I care about unlimited corporate influence on our elections? After all, I'm an environmentalist, so what's it to me?Sad to say, too often corporations seek to repeal basic protections of our air and water and our health. They work to block enforcement of basic legal protections -- all in the name of the bottom line. With the Citizens United decision, these corporate power brokers gain unparalleled sway over candidates, officeholders, and the electoral process itself. This must change.It's high time that we stand up and take our democracy back. Our West Virginia Legislature will soon be deliberating over resolutions to declare loud and clear that West Virginia believes in democracy for the people -- and that corporations are not people. We need to let the legislators know we support them in urging the nation to restore the basic foundation of our democracy.Join me at the Rally for Democracy on Feb. 19, on the Ground Floor of the Capitol under the Rotunda, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Together we can raise our voices for democracy, and let our legislators know we support the resolutions they are seeking to return decision making to the people, not the corporations.Sconyers, of Terra Alta, is chairman of the West Virginia Sierra Club.