Abolish “Electoral” Capital Punishment

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Ohio prison officials announced this week that they are delaying executions until at least 2017 due to a shortage of lethal injection drugs. Ohio joins several other states that are delaying inflicting “capital punishment” for this reason.

We associate “capital punishment” as the ultimate form of harm that a state can afflict on a human being — a death penalty for a committed crime so hideous that no other punishment seems sufficient.

There are 31 states in the U.S. where this form of capital punishment is legal. AFSC has been against this form of capital punishment nationally since its inception almost 100 years ago.

But this isn’t the only type of “capital punishment.”

There is another version.

It’s best described as this: if a person doesn’t invest sufficient financial capital in the political process, (s)he will be punished.

Call it “electoral capital punishment.”

The punishments in this version are not literally fines, whippings, jail time or physical death of those who don’t cough up cash to candidates, political parties, SuperPACs or “dark money” groups that run political “educational” ads. It should be a glaring omission, however, not to state the obvious that CEOs of Wall Street financial institutions responsible for the 2008 financial implosion which caused untold suffering to homeowners tricked into buying more home than they could afford or investors who thought their investments were AAAAAA but turned out to be absolute junk have politically invested like Godzilla over the last several year to federal candidates. Their political capital (i.e. campaign contributions or investments) has produced no serious federal investigations resulting in indictments, convictions or jail time. In this case, lots of political capital produced no punishment.

Rather, the punishments in this “electoral” version are the crimes of ignorance and neglect. The absence of campaign cash to the political process by the vast majority of people in this country has yielded an absence of our voices from authentically being heard, the absence of our basic needs being met, the absence of our communities being helped, and the absence of viable alternative non-mega corporate solutions from being realistically considered.

All because of the presence of huge sums of political capital from a sliver of the 1% and giant corporations that have made sure their voices, their needs, their communities and their solutions are anything but ignored and neglected.

While there remains a division of opinion on the issue of human capital punishment, there is growing recognition that the “electoral” version needs to be go. The hurts, harms and horrors of too much political “capital” from too few sources is a form of punishment that is absolutely “cruel and unusual” for the vast majority of people as well as what’s left of our self-governance.

It’s time to abolish “electoral capital punishment” constitutionally by abolishing the constitutional doctrines that corporations are legal persons and money is equal to speech.

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