Worried about the influence of money in American politics, the huge cash payouts that the US supreme court waved through by its Citizens United decision – the decision that lifted most limits on election campaign spending? Corporations are having their way with American elections just as they’ve already had their way with our media.
But at least we have the courts, right?
Wrong. The third branch of government’s in trouble, too. In fact, access to justice – like access to elected office, let alone a pundit’s perch – is becoming a perk just for the rich and powerful.
Take the young woman now testifying in court in Texas. Jamie Leigh Jones claims she was drugged and gang-raped while working for military contractor KBR in Iraq (at the time, a division of Halliburton). Jones, now 26, was on her fourth day in post in Baghdad in 2005 when she says she was assaulted by seven contractors and held captive, under armed guard by two KBR police, in a shipping container.
When the criminal courts failed to act, her lawyers filed a civil suit, only to be met with Halliburton’s response that all her claims were to be decided in arbitration – because she’d signed away her rights to bring the company to court when she signed her employment contract. As Leigh testified before Congress, in October 2009, “I had signed away my right to a jury trial at the age of 20 and without the advice of counsel.” It was a matter of sign or resign. “I had no idea that the clause was part of the contract, what the clause actually meant,” testified Jones.
Here’s his statement as I transcribed and lightly cleaned it up from my recording:
The thing we’re facing now is that, you know, the State Department is suddenly really cozy with Twitter because they are like, “Oh wow, we were trying to get this done with AK-47s and you guys got it done with Tweets. Can we be friends?” But I maintain that it has to be a neutral technology because there are different forms of democracy. You don’t want your technology, you don’t want Twitter, to look like it’s simply a tool for spreading U.S. democracy around the world. You want it to help for good, but you don’t want it to look like you’re in the pocket of the U.S. government. So we try to speak out and say that they have no access to our decision-making.