Hugo Chavez’s state-owned Petroleos Corp set to spend on your U.S. election

Blogging on the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling is more of what we love about the web. It’s the kind of typical collective dissection we have now come to expect but that never really existed before: serious, speculative, arcane, funny, brilliant, baked, etc. The Sunlight Foundation blogging is predictably good. Paul Blumenthal dips into the multinational dimension of the new “corporation as full citizen-person” framework, drawing on blogging going on at Newsweek and the Center for Public Integrity.

“Looks like [the Court] might support allowing foreign companies to spend freely in elections in the United States. I guess this would be the corporate globalization of the U.S. electoral system.” So you gotta ask yourself: Who does Hugo Chavez want for President?

Blumenthal excerpting the Center for Public Integrity:

Justice Thomas
Justice Thomas

The Center for Public Integrity looks at this closer and shows what kind of foreign influence we are looking at:

One prominent examples is CITGO Petroleum Company — once the American-born Cities Services Company, but purchased in 1990 by the Venezuelan government-owned Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. The Citizens United ruling could conceivably allow Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has sharply criticized both of the past two U.S. presidents, to spend government funds to defeat an American political candidate, just by having CITGO buy TV ads bashing his target.

And it’s not just Chavez. The Saudi government owns Houston’s Saudi Refining Company and half of Motiva Enterprises. Lenovo, which bought IBM’s PC assets in 2004, is partially owned by the Chinese government’s Chinese Academy of Sciences. And Singapore’s APL Limited operates several U.S. port operations. A weakening of the limit on corporate giving could mean China, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and any other country that owns companies that operate in the U.S. could also have significant sway in American electioneering.

I really can’t see Americans being too happy about this.

Dahlia Lithwick reported for Slate from the Supreme Court as the opinions were being read. She offered this aside:

While Stevens is reading the portion of his concurrence about the “cautious view of corporate power” held by the framers, I see Justice Thomas chuckle softly.

Was it a disdainful chuckle at the impotence of his colleague? Was it merely a chuckle of disagreement, of good-natured exasperation? Was it a chuckle at an anachronistic vision of the framers set beside today’s modern corporate silicon and steel behemoths? I doubt he was thinking about Hugo Chavez.

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