From the Washington Post:
By MARK SHERMAN
Thursday, January 21, 2010; 10:18 AM
WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court has ruled that corporations may spend freely to support or oppose candidates for president and Congress, easing decades-old limits on their participation in federal campaigns.
By a 5-4 vote, the court on Thursday overturned a 20-year-old ruling that said corporations can be prohibited from using money from their general treasuries to pay for their own campaign ads. The decision, which almost certainly will also allow labor unions to participate more freely in campaigns, threatens similar limits imposed by 24 states.
It leaves in place a prohibition on direct contributions to candidates from corporations and unions.
Critics of the stricter limits have argued that they amount to an unconstitutional restraint of free speech, and the court majority apparently agreed.
"The censorship we now confront is vast in its reach," Justice Anthony Kennedy said in his majority opinion, joined by his four more conservative colleagues.
However, Justice John Paul Stevens, dissenting from the main holding, said, "The court's ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions around the nation."
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor joined Stevens' dissent, parts of which he read aloud in the courtroom.
The justices also struck down part of the landmark McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill that barred union- and corporate-paid issue ads in the closing days of election campaigns.
Advocates of strong campaign finance regulations have predicted that a court ruling against the limits would lead to a flood of corporate and union money in federal campaigns as early as this year's midterm congressional elections.
The decision, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, removes limits on independent expenditures that are not coordinated with candidates' campaigns.
The case also does not affect political action committees, which mushroomed after post-Watergate laws set the first limits on contributions by individuals to candidates. Corporations, unions and others may create PACs to contribute directly to candidates, but they must be funded with voluntary contributions from employees, members and other individuals, not by corporate or union treasuries.
It's interesting (and fitting in a way) that this ruling would come just as Health Care Non-Reform is perhaps taking its last breaths, after months of being changed, watered down at every turn, and dismantled by the powerful insurance lobby which threw millions of dollars into all sorts of campaigns to kill it. Even if some sort of Health Care bill passes...the insurance industry has already used its power (and the members of Congress that it owns) to shape the legislation in a way that would favor big insurance companies. So they had all bases covered either way.
The Supreme Court move will allow the insurance companies & other corporate interests to reward the members of Congress that they already own...and to (literally) buy more politicians. It's like a D.C. meets Nevada kind of thing. It makes Prostitution legal in the U.S. Congress... & turns the Capitol into a legal brothel.
Read the full decision here, or in window below.