No, US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse doesn’t believe that corporations are people. No, he doesn’t think that corporations are bad. But, yes, he does want them out of American politics.
At least that’s the topic of the senator from Rhode Island’s new book, “Captured: The Corporate Infiltration of American Democracy,” written with Melanie Wachtell Stinnett, who is based in Boston. The book was released Feb. 21.
In an interview, Whitehouse, a Democrat and Hillary Clinton supporter, said the way that Donald Trump was elected president — without mega-donors or an effective Super PAC — could have changed the relationship between politicians and the corporate donor class.
“Instead, what you are seeing are corporate tentacles just wrapping the White House,” Whitehouse said.
A former state attorney general now in his second Senate term, Whitehouse said that he wants to increase discussion on how corporations influence politicians and regulators.
“I suspect that a lot of the frustration people feel about government would feel a lot better if we had corporate influence out of our politics and were running a democracy like the founding fathers intended,” he said. “In a nutshell: don’t beat up on democracy, get corporate power out of democracy.”
With Republicans running the show in Washington , D.C., Whitehouse allows that his some of his proposed changes -- such as overturning the US Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling or creating a new government watchdog agency — aren’t likely to happen soon.
“I think that unless there is a really significant epiphany, the tentacles of the corporate sector will continue to wrap themselves tighter and tighter around the White House,” he said. “I think he is going to continue to be more and more hemmed in by the very power structure he ran against.”
While Trump is president, the various checks and balances of the American system must do their part to check Trump and corporate influence, Whitehouse said.
“If it fails, then this could be Mussolini time in America, and that would not be good,” he said.
James Pindell can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell or subscribe to his Ground Game newsletter on politics:http://pages.email.bostonglobe.com/GroundGameSignUp