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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hallelujah! Common sene from the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has struck down limits on corporation and union spending in political campaigns in their much-awaited decision in Citizens United v. FEC..
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 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.

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.

It leaves in place a prohibition on direct contributions to candidates from corporations and unions
It shows what a difference of one position on the Court can make as Samuel Alito replaced Sandra Day O'Connor's position in McConnell v. FEC.

This decision is a blow for a common-sense understanding of the First Amendment. Expect a lot of howls about how this will let loose so much more money in political campaigns. Well, have you noticed any lack of spending in elections since we passed the 1974 Federal Election Campaign Act or 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. When will people learn that just passing a law to limit spending by certain groups doesn't remove money from politics? It always finds a way. As long as government is involved in every aspect of our lives, people with specific interests will want to influence government. And banning corporations and unions from spending 60 days before an election didn't make any sense when every mysterious 527 or 501(c) group could air as many ads as they wanted.

Steve Hoersting at Bench Memos comments,
The Austin [199-] precedent was always an outlier, upholding as it did outright bans on corporate (and union) electoral speech to prevent “corrosive and distorting effects” on political debate by “large aggregations of wealth” garnered via the corporate form. In short, the Austin rationale was gussied up egalitarianism; silencing some to make way for others. This had always been “foreign to the First Amendment,” with the Court making clearer, since the high-water mark for regulation in McConnell v. FEC, and with the arrival of C.J. Roberts and J. Alito, that campaign finance restrictions are constitutional only to prevent the corruption of candidates that may one day act as elected officials....

For now, there is little doubt that the Citizens United ruling will free up many more resources for politics in coming election cycles. We can expect existing unions to turn on the spigots even more openly, and for new entities to crop up to accept corporate money.

The only real question is whether corporations brave enough to take advantage of the opinion, and go against the Democrats, will risk audits or the nationalization of their businesses.


Skay said...

These laws certainly did not get the crooks out of politics -- the "Chicago Way" made it all the way to the White House.

freckled lemonade said...

It's kind of ironic that striking down McCain-Feingold before this past election could've helped McCain himself become President since, per NPR, "corporations have generally supported Republican candidates more." Did McCain bring about his own demise in the name of campaign finance reform?

Pat Patterson said...

I sense another possibility as well in that by now being allowed to make larger donations to PACs or most importantly the political parties the money for some of these voter groups might just dry up. Why pay ACORN and risk the continued bad publicity when these types of voter turnouts can be orchestrated by the parties themselves.

Well, maybe some wishful thinking on my part. But also how many big donors or corporations are going to put up with handing bags of cash to Michael Steele?

tfhr said...

Pat Patterson,

Good points but I still think ACORN will linger on as a means for laundering tax dollars through various advance liberal agendas.

Pat Patterson said...

Undoubtedly but ACORN also could become a fully own subsidiary of grant money from the public and thus less likely to engage in the kinds of things that fall outside normal review. I'm not arguing that they would turn into the Ford Foundation or Habitat for Humanity or even the Woodside Foundation but serving as laundromats for political goals might be much harder to do.

Maybe I should have added how much negative publicity would someone like George Soros be willing to take for the privilege of watching overweight ladies in red t-shirts on the nightly news counselling prostitutes.

Of course then there are examples of what could happen such as Bebe Reboso(sp) and Richard Nixon or the absolute nightmare possibility of Michael Huffington being able to spend even more of Arriana's community property on becoming the governor of California. Hmmm, that might have meant no Huffington Post?

That also might mean that Jerry Brown's increasingly lackluster political career might be over as he could never match the start up campaign money that will be available to Meg Whitman or Steve Poizner.

Pat Patterson said...

PS-It's been fun watching people who should know better fulminate on how dare SCOTUS consider a corporation a person without even checking their state's laws to see what status corporations have there.

tfhr said...

Pat Patterson,

Another good point on [certain] state campaign laws that DO already allow corporate access. I understand that Oregon is one such state, so any "blue state" complaints about favoritism toward "red states" is easily challenged.