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This Is What Happens When Congress Is for Sale

(Photo: Alexis Baden-Mayer / Flickr)

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No GMO(Photo: Alexis Baden-Mayer / Flickr)While all eyes were glued on the Supreme Court this week and the hearings surrounding marriage equality, Americans were dealt a major blow by the other two branches of government.

On Tuesday, President Obama signed into law H.R 933, a continuing resolution appropriations bill that had been approved by Congress – both the House and the Senate – just days earlier.

And while the bill sounds fairly innocuous by itself, buried 78 pages into it was a provision that protects GMO and biotech companies like Monsanto from nearly all forms of judicial oversight.

First it was the gun manufacturers, who, in 2005 got Senator Larry Craig to attach the “Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act” to a funding bill. That bill made it illegal for you and me – or the victims of Sandy Hook in Newtown – to sue weapons manufacturers or those who sell their products. Tobacco companies can – and have been – sued, but not gun manufacturers. In fact, you can sue just about anybody – except gun manufacturers.

And AT&T – you can’t sue them, either, along with other telecom giants, because the “Protect America Act of 2007” that “reformed” FISA provides “full immunity from civil suits” to the phone companies for snooping on you and illegally sharing the info with the Bush administration.

And now they’ve done it again – just last week – with many of Monsanto’s products.

Despite calls from more than 250,000 Americans to veto the bill, President Obama went ahead and signed it anyway, giving giant agribusiness companies like Monsanto free reign to develop, plant and sell all sorts of genetically modified crops, despite the wide range of health and safety concerns surrounding them.

According to Greenpeace International, the provision in H.R. 933, “will effectively bar US federal courts from being able to halt the sale or planting of genetically engineered (GE) crops even if they failed to be approved by the government’s own weak approval process and no matter what the health or environmental consequences might be.”

As you can imagine, the passing of H.R 933 has biotech companies like Monsanto jumping for joy.

Food Democracy Now, an organization that campaigned against H.R. 933, writes that, “Since losing a court case in 2010 to The Center for Food Safety for the unlawful planting of GMO sugar beets, Monsanto and other biotech companies have been desperate to find a way around court mandated environmental impact statements required as a result of a U.S. district court’s ruling.”

So now, Monsanto is free to develop, plant, and sell all sorts of genetically modified foods, without fear of being sued or prosecuted if they fail to abide by the federal government’s health, safety and environmental standards.

But just how did this teeny tiny provision get into an appropriations bill in the first place?

That’s where Missouri Republican Senator Roy Blunt comes in.

According to the New York Daily News, Blunt helped to carefully craft the provision’s language with the direct help of Monsanto.

Why would he do that you might ask?

It could be because, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, Sen. Blunt received nearly $65,000 in campaign contributions from Monsanto between 2008 and 2012.

In fact, Blunt has been the largest Republican Party recipient of funding from Monsanto in recent memory.

The good news here is that this provision that protects Monsanto from judicial oversight expires after a year.

The bad news is that this little provision with a big impact is just a symptom of a much larger problem in America today.

Right now, any corporation with money to spend can team up with elected officials, and slowly but surely tear away at our governmental protections. It’s really not even lobbying – it’s investing. These companies will often make far more in profits than they spend on buying legislators like Senator Blunt. It’s an investment that has a measurable return. Investing in politicians can be hugely profitable!

For generations, corporations have flooded our democracy with mountains of corporate cash, buying off our elected officials left and right.

And, while lawmakers could be bought and sold in the past, and it was particularly bad during the Gilded Age and the Roaring 20’s, the situation is far worse today than in the living memory of most Americans.

Earlier this week, I had former Congressman Bob Ney on The Big Picture.

In my interview with him, we talked about the state of politics today, and the corruptive effects that money has on our democracy.

Congressman Ney went to jail for his involvement with disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

But, he told me, his interactions with Abramoff paled in comparison to what happens in Washington today.

Right now, lobbyists and corporations can “raise” hundreds of thousands of dollars for elected officials, and thanks to our broken system, it’s all legal.

As a result, corporations like Monsanto are able to spend billions of dollars, work around the law, and put the lives of Americans at risk – all in the name of making a profit.

When something as important as food or gun safety, or the privacy of our phone calls, can be corrupted by corporate cash, you know something has to change.

Right now, in communities all across America, Americans are standing up, and saying that money is not speech, and corporations are not people.

Just yesterday, the West Virginia House of Delegates passed a resolution, calling on Congress to propose a constitutional amendment to overturn the disastrous Citizen’s United ruling, and to reduce the corruptive influence of money in politics.

As West Virginia Delegate Tim Manchin told a local newspaper yesterday, “This is doing the only thing we know how to do when the Supreme Court bases a ruling on a constitutional principle. This is what we’ve got to do, and that’s to change the constitution.”

We can’t continue to let corporations buy off our elected officials.

Now is the time to say, “Enough is enough,” and end the terrifying reign of money in politics.

Go to and join the fight to stop the fire-sale of our democracy!

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