The January 21 decision was a startling one.
Michael Waldman, former Bill Clinton speechwriter, now executive director of the Brennan Center, a non-partisan public policy institute that specializes in political reform, said this: “Exxon Mobil’s profits in 2008 were $45 billion. At 9 a.m. Thursday morning, Exxon’s managers could not spend any of that money to back candidates. And at noon on Thursday, after the Supreme Court ruled, they could. There is nothing to prevent them from spending Mike Bloomberg-level money in every congressional district in the country.”
Politics Daily put it this way, “A little more than a century ago – just about at the same time Congress outlawed all campaign contributions by corporations – humorist Finley Peter Dunne, channeling the diction of an Irish bartender, shrewdly wrote, ‘Th’ Supreme Court follows th’ election returns.’
“Normally, though, the Supreme Court has the self-restraint to wait more than two days. On Tuesday, Massachusetts voters rebelled against special interests, Wall Street bailouts, and one-party rule by vaulting Republican Scott Brown into the Senate.
“Thursday morning the Supreme Court, by an ideologically predictable 5-to-4 margin, overturned as unconstitutional laws that ban corporations from running TV ads explicitly backing or opposing candidates during election campaigns.”
Startling as the decision is, it’s also an opportunity for communications professionals to craft messages executives should be giving to their stakeholders in the coming weeks and months.
If corporations decide to take advantage of the ruling to back specific candidates with funding for campaign ads, the reasons for those decisions should be explained to employees, customers, investors and industry peers through speeches, blogs, podcasts, policy pieces, and other communications vehicles.
If some corporations decide not to use corporate funds in this manner, these are also opportunities to communicate why.
Corporate, executive and strategic communicators will be delighted to be in the thick of it all – happy to advise corporate leaders on the pros and cons of this new option based on corporate values, business goals and best practices.
And we’ll be even happier to write the communications materials required to disseminate information on these choices.
With apologies to Sally Field, “They need us, they really need us.”
Even a bad Supreme Court decision can be good news for communications professionals.
Cindy Starks is a freelance speechwriter based in Central Indiana.