Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Conservative Supreme Court majority gives corporations unlimited power to buy elections

This will go down as one of the worst Supreme Court decisions of all time:
Sweeping aside a century-old understanding and overruling two important precedents, a bitterly divided Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections.
That one paragraph pretty much says it all, right there. Five people - Antonin Scalia, John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Anthony Kennedy - have decided (PDF) that corporations should be able to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence the outcome of elections. Corporations still cannot contribute directly to candidates, but there are no longer any limits on independent expenditures. Consider, for a moment, what that means. Campaign finance, law as we know it, has just been destroyed. It's meaningless.

This ruling was not unexpected. Nor was its dissent, led by Justice John Paul Stevens, who blasted the majority's decision, along with his colleagues Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer.

The White House was quick to respond. In a statement to the media, emailed to NPI, President Barack Obama declared:
With its ruling today, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.

This ruling gives the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington - while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates.

That's why I am instructing my Administration to get to work immediately with Congress on this issue. We are going to talk with bipartisan Congressional leaders to develop a forceful response to this decision. The public interest requires nothing less.
Thank you, Mr. President. A Supreme Court decision this awful and this mistaken certainly deserves a forceful, immediate, and sweeping response.

Here's Senator Russ Feingold:
Presented with a relatively narrow legal issue, the Supreme Court chose to roll back laws that have limited the role of corporate money in federal elections since Teddy Roosevelt was president.

Ignoring important principles of judicial restraint and respect for precedent, the Court has given corporate money a breathtaking new role in federal campaigns. Just six years ago, the Court said that the prohibition on corporations and unions dipping into their treasuries to influence campaigns was ‘firmly embedded in our law.’ Yet this Court has just upended that prohibition, and a century's worth of campaign finance law designed to stem corruption in government.

The American people will pay dearly for this decision when, more than ever, their voices are drowned out by corporate spending in our federal elections. In the coming weeks, I will work with my colleagues to pass legislation restoring as many of the critical restraints on corporate control of our elections as possible
Senator Feingold is correct. This must not stand.

Whether by new federal statute or constitutional amendment, President Obama and Congress must move speedily to reverse this terrible decision.

Five conservative white guys have just made it legal for corporations to buy elections. I'll repeat that: Five conservative white guys have just made it legal for corporations to buy elections.

To say this is an outrageous attack on democracy would be a great understatement. A nation of corporations is not what our Founding Fathers envisioned for America.

Perhaps the next step is just to get rid of voting. Instead, we can have big corporations bid on which candidates they dislike the most. The candidate who is least disliked by the corporations takes office. Such an auction would be a cheaper and more expedient way of deciding who leads us in the new order that our conservative Supreme Court evidently wants to create.

UPDATE, THURSDAY EVENING: The New York Times has published a must-read editorial slamming the decision, declaring the conservative majority to be "deeply wrong on the law." We couldn't agree more. We've also been posting additional reaction from public interest groups and legislators, as well as quotes from Justice Stevens' dissent, over at In Brief under the tag "Corporations United Fallout".


Blogger Vigilante said...

Corporate entities are not persons. They can't donate blood; they only thirst for blood, and they are sucking the life out of the American democracy

January 21, 2010 8:24 PM  
Blogger Foggy said...

If you agree that ANY groups of people, i.e. UNIONS, shouldn't be able to speak, then I'd be willing to agree that the decision was wrong. However, we can't give one group of people more freedoms than another. If UNIONS can speak on elections, and let's face it, they are the major player in every election now, then other formed groups of people should also be able to speak.
Many corporations such as Google, Apple, and other technology and health care companies are run by Democratic liberals, so I am unhappy with the decision because although I believe it is fair and defends free speech, it is most likely to benefit Democrats far more than Republicans.

January 23, 2010 8:13 AM  

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