Editorial: Corporations keep trying to throw out progressive California laws. Do we need reforms?
In a state where it’s increasingly difficult to vote in even your local elections and where corporations can buy and sell elected politicians, it’s no wonder that Californians are sick of corporate power and want change.
But corporate influence in government does not justify its abuse, as evidenced by a recent example of one corporation that was given a free hand to influence the state Legislature, while also keeping its corporate profits insulated.
The situation is a case-in-point for the increasingly complex, diverse and contradictory legislation passed by the Legislature over the last three decades — including, of course, the one that allows corporations to sue government. The measure allows lawsuits when corporations “willfully violate” environmental protection laws; it lets corporations sue over the costs of labor; it gives businesses the right to sue government agencies, including the state courts, when they consider whether to approve mergers; and it allows corporations to sue state government workers when they are injured, even when that suit is filed outside the state.
Some may argue that no corporation, no matter how large, has the ability to take down a government in any given election. While perhaps true, this is irrelevant to the larger issue of corporate influence — and as long as citizens are fighting those corporations in a variety of different ways, the companies have a difficult time convincing us that they are not changing the rules that they themselves set.
The first big blow to corporations came in the form of the passage by the California Legislature in 1978 of California’s landmark anti-trust law (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 16500 et seq.), which is intended to protect all Californians from corporate abuse that could lead to monopoly. But this law has been consistently exploited by businesses intent on protecting their own interests at the cost of the public good.
One of many examples of this occurred in the 1980s, when the California Legislature passed