By Barbara Powell

When the Founding Fathers wrote the First Amendment protecting free speech, they were fresh from the Revolutionary War, during which the vast wealth and power of England were overcome by 13 small colonies intent on governing themselves. The First Amendment was meant to protect a citizen’s right to dissent and to ensure that the minority is protected from the tyranny of the majority.

In the stunning Jan. 21 Citizens United ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that, contrary to years of state and federal law stretching back to Teddy Roosevelt’s crusades against the power of money in politics, corporations should be able to spend as much as they want to support or oppose candidates in national elections.

Here in Mississippi, just as in other states, we have seen first hand the corrupting influences of money in political campaigns. An egregious example was the 2000 Mississippi Supreme Court race in which Lenora Prather, a sitting justice, objected to attack campaign ads run supposedly in her behalf. She couldn't get the ads stopped, and even the secretary of state was unable to help. Prather lost the race. This, of course, is nothing in comparison to what Big Tobacco, Wall Street and the behemoths of the banking industry can do now that campaign spending regulations have been dismantled by the high court.

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