Monday, August 9, 2010

Be Careful What You Ask For

When the US Supreme Court ruled that corporations could donate money like people can, it raised a whole lot of issues.  But the unintended consequences may, just may, bite the corporations on their asses (if they can be people, they can have asses).  The focus is on Target, which has donated to anti-gay lobbying groups, as has Best Buy.  As this piece suggests, Target is now appropriately a target for boycotts.  What does this mean?  Well, it may mean that corporations and their unaccountable bosses may learn from this experience and avoid taking sides in hot political battles.  Or they may decide that the boycotts may not really be that harmful.

It if funny because in the old days (of Mad Men), companies were worried about their advertising appearing in or near controversial political messages.  Now, companies are willing to sponsor controversial political messages. But the internet may just serve as a balance to the cash that these corporations can dump--that the information can get out pretty quickly because our American form of corruption is still pretty transparent.

If I was a smart CEO, I would have preferred that the Supreme Court stayed out of it.  Better to have no ability to take sides than to face lots of difficult choices about all kinds of issues.  After all, once you can condemn a company for supporting one side of an issue, you can condemn it for not supporting your side.  Either you are for us or against us.....  as both GW Bush and Anakin Skywalker asserted.  Perhaps they may not be role models, but political combatants will use that view to "target" any corporation that is not sufficiently enthusiastic for their cause.

People worried that companies would have endless $$$ to fund lobbying that would give them lower regulations, more tax benefits and so on, but the dollars here may, ultimately, be swamped by the complexities of their involvement in other issues.

As always, be careful of what you ask for.

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