Thursday, January 21, 2010

U.S. Supreme Court Embraces Corruption

Court rules 5-4 to remove certain corporate spending limits for campaigns.

From the Washington Post:

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.


redante said...

The organization Common Cause is looking at two bills in Congress to counter this ruling. Senate Bill S.752 and House Bill HR 1826. Will this tactic work?

I've talked to people about it who are pessimistic. Even if the bills pass the Supreme Court can just shoot them down as well. They say the Supreme Court is not going to reverse itself anytime soon and certainly is not going to bend to outside political pressure.

Is that it? Are we supposed to just accept this decision, throw up our hands and say we can't do anything about it so why bother?

That's a rhetorical question of course. I'm interested in hearing from people -- Left, Right, Independent, Centrist, etc. -- what you think about this Supreme Court ruling.

rikyrah said...

I believe this is a day that those of us who actually care about democracy, little d, should mourn.

I've been thinking about it all day, since I heard about the decision, and I'm still in a sort of shocked state.

We already are disgusted by the money and influence that corporations have upon our political system. Now, it's just gotten 100x worse.

Maybe I'll be back with something else once I stop mourning.

PS- you know which way Justice Sambo voted.

Andre said...

I was absolutely floored when I read about this. Equally as mind boggling was the rationale that went into this decision. Essentially, five judges with LAW degrees decided that corporations are nothing but people. As such, they are protected under the 14th ammendment to offer free speech...that free speech coming in the form of their spending. This is prime example of how basic word-massaging can have far reaching implications.

I guess if I start pop can collecting corporation, I'll have enough money raised by 3050 to buy an election. Apparently, it's my Constitutional right.

Roderick said...

Why is anyone surprised?

This is what the Republican Party and their corporate sponsors have been working for years.

From what I understand this ruling overturns about 100 years of settled law. So now I guess conservative justices are the new liberal activist judges.