Supreme Court rejects limits on corporate spending in electoral campaigns

Discussion in 'Soap Box' started by Bob26003, Jan 21, 2010.

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  1. Bob26003

    Bob26003 Well-Known Member

    I bet conservatives are cheering about this:

    one step closer to complete fascism

    By Robert Barnes and Dan Eggen
    Thursday, January 21, 2010; 3:46 PM

    A divided Supreme Court on Thursday swept away decades of legislative efforts to limit the role of corporations in election campaigns, ruling that severe restrictions on corporate spending are inconsistent with the First Amendment's protection of political speech.

    The court split 5 to 4 over the ruling, with its conservative members in the majority.

    The decision upends the court's precedent that corporations may not use their profits to support or oppose candidates, and it rejects a large portion of the so-called McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform act that the justices had declared constitutional just six years ago. It seems likely to apply to the political role of labor unions as well.

    "When government seeks to use its full power, including the criminal law, to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought," the court said in a decision written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. "This is unlawful. The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves."

    President Obama sharply criticized the decision, saying it gives "a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics" and represents "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."

    In a statement released by the White House, Obama said the 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." He said he was instructing his administration "to get to work immediately with Congress on this issue" and coordinate with Democratic and Republican leaders on a "forceful response."

    The case arose from a conservative group's production of a scathing look at Hillary Rodham Clinton, a documentary produced during her run for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. The case is Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

    The decision does not address the restriction on direct contributions to candidates, and it upholds disclosure requirements for groups that mount advertising campaigns for and against candidates.

    The far-reaching ruling marks a triumph for groups that have fought the McCain-Feingold provisions, formally known as the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002.

    It also is a telling reminder of how quickly a court can change. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor supported the constitutionality of the act in 2003. But Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and O'Connor's replacement, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., have supported each challenge to the law since they have joined the court. They supported Kennedy's opinion, along with Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

    The court's liberal bloc, which included new Justice Sonia Sotomayor in the case, dissented. Justice John Paul Stevens took more than 20 minutes to read a dissent from the bench, a move justices reserve for emphasizing their disagreement.

    "A radical change in the law," Stevens called the decision. He said Thursday's majority rejects the decisions of Congress dating from 1907 and "the overwhelming majority of justices who have served on this court."

    Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who co-wrote the 2002 campaign reform law with Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), said he was "disappointed" by the decision. But Feingold went further, calling it "a terrible mistake" and saying it ignored "important principles of judicial restraint and respect for precedent."

    "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," Feingold added

    Both senators noted, though, that the court had retained the law's ban on so-called soft money contributions.

    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation's largest business group, said the ruling provides "clarity and predictability" for corporations, unions and nonprofit groups seeking to take part in the political process.

    "Today's ruling protects the First Amendment rights of organizations across the political spectrum, and is a positive for the political process and free enterprise," said Robin Conrad, executive vice president of the chamber's litigation center.

    But Fred Wertheimer, a veteran campaign reform activist who heads Democracy 21, called the ruling "a disaster for the American people and a dark day for the Supreme Court."

    "In a stark choice between the right of American citizens to a government free from 'influence-buying' corruption and the economic and political interests of American corporations, five Supreme Court Justices today came down in favor of American corporations," Wertheimer said. "With a stroke of the pen, five Justices wiped out a century of American history devoted to preventing corporate corruption of our democracy."

    A lower court said the Clinton film ran afoul of a McCain-Feingold provision that forbids corporations, unions and special interest groups from using money from their general treasuries for "any broadcast, cable or satellite communications" that refer to a candidate for federal office during election season.

    In the past, that has meant 30-second to one-minute campaign ads. But the lower court said the same rule applied to Citizens United's 90-minute film about Clinton, which it proposed to broadcast on demand on cable channels.

    But during oral arguments in March, conservative justices were more interested in the larger questions of how far government could go to corral corporate spending. Even though the law is specifically about broadcasts, justices asked the government's lawyer whether the ban could include books that endorsed a candidate.

    Instead of deciding the case at the end of the term in June, the court set a special hearing for Sept. 9 to decide whether to overturn the court's 5 to 4 decision in 2003 declaring McCain-Feingold constitutional.
  2. Prinnctopher's Belt

    Prinnctopher's Belt Antiquities Friend SF Supporter

    Eh, I agree with this decision, from a legal perspective. Legally, corporations can and should be able to contribute unlimited funds to whatever campaign they choose to lend their support; free speech.

    But from a social and political standpoint, this pretty much seals in the deal that whoever with the most money, best advertising, most TV/radio/media time = exposure, will win. It's straight up oligarchy, which isn't much different from how this country has been for the past 200 years anyway.
  3. Bob26003

    Bob26003 Well-Known Member

    I do disagree legally, a corporation is a profit seeking entity. It is not a church or a protest group.

    corporations should be restricted as to what they say and what they engage in.

    for example: corporation should not be able to say that cigarettes are good for you.

    And corporations should not be able to have their own paramilitaries

    And also, corporations should not be able to influence elections. Why? Because their interests are not that of the nation or society as a whole, their interests are purely bottom line with no regard to externalities such as social costs etc.

    A corporation is not a citizen............

    after all, these are the same corporations that actively undermine the welfare of the US by outsourcing jobs and driving down wages and frequently and often illegally trampling on the rights of employees.

    Corporations need to be regulated. Corporations will do anything they are allowed to for a profit.

    also, we have all seen the ill effects of corporate lobbying. they allready have WAY too much influence

    I would venture to say that corporations have more influence over elected officials than the people do.

    I think the founders would be disgusted to see this: Did they create the US to be a corporate oligarchy? No, it is setup to be a representative republic. and this ruling clearly goes against that principle


    Corporate Oligarchy (Corporatocracy)

    Corporate oligarchy is a form of power, governmental or operational, where such power effectively rests with a small, elite group of inside individuals or influential economic entities or devices, such as banks, commercial entities that act in complicity with, or at the whim of the oligarchy, often with little or no regard for constitutionally protected prerogative. The United States of America is a prime example of a corporate oligarchy.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 21, 2010
  4. Prinnctopher's Belt

    Prinnctopher's Belt Antiquities Friend SF Supporter

    You don't have to be a church or protest group to exercise free speech in this country. Technically, free speech is not restricted from corporations -- they exercise free speech in advertising certainly, and also have the right to support political candidates and campaigns. I agree with the Supreme Court justices on that. An amendment can always be proposed in Congress to specifically change that; that's not the job of the SCOTUS. They just interpret the law, and the law, the constitution, doesn't prohibit private entities within the U.S. from contributing to political campaigns.

    Whatever you, the citizen, believe they should not be able to do, you can tell your legislator; it's their job to make the law, not the court.
  5. Bob26003

    Bob26003 Well-Known Member

    See thats the problem though man. our legislator is allready owned by big business. Do you think that the people actually can have more influence than the financeers? Come on now. They come out every couple of years and say what they need to say to get elected. then its back to surving their sponsors as usual.

    Do you think they are gonna vote against the same lobbyists and corporations that line their pockets, pay for their campaigns, give them jobs after they serve their terms, send their kids to school etc?

    Hell, because of the way elections are financed they are allready bought before they even get elected.

    They might as well wear suites like in nascar that shows all their corporate sponsors
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 21, 2010
  6. Prinnctopher's Belt

    Prinnctopher's Belt Antiquities Friend SF Supporter

    It's a lose-lose situation really. It's an unfortunate truth that we're living in an oligarchy, but this is definitely nothing new and it certainly won't change just because we don't like it. Lobbyists and corporations have always bought our representatives; SCOTUS is just acknowledging that it's legal to do so without $$ limitations. They haven't flipped the script or made anything worse at all.
  7. johnnysays

    johnnysays Well-Known Member

    Trans-national corporations and crazed billionaires.
  8. Bob26003

    Bob26003 Well-Known Member

    Foreign businesses might be the real winners in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, the landmark case that allows corporations and unions to spend limitless amounts of money on presidential and congressional political campaigns. A majority of large businesses are now owned by foreign entities, and this means international corporations could pour tons of money into the United States political scene, potentially swaying the political climate.

    The biggest questions with this ruling is the scope of the term "corporation," says Edward Foley, law professor at the Ohio State University College of Law and director of the election-law program. Does the high court want this decision to apply to foreign corporations as well as domestic ones, he ponders? The truth is, the court didn't make a decision one way or the other.

    Foley best explains the potential issues by talking about the electronic, video, and communication giant, Sony. The corporation is headquartered in Japan, but a large number of its shareholders reside in the United States. In fact, people can even buy and trade Sony's stock on the New York Stock Exchange. The issue is whether this corporation, with strong ties to a foreign country and the United States, should be permitted to independently contribute money to presidential and congressional campaigns.

    The court sought to expand First Amendment protection for corporations, but did it really mean to promote the free flow of ideas from Russian or Chinese corporations, Foley asks? Justice John Paul Stevens focused on the same concerns in his dissenting opinion. The majority's position "would appear to afford the same protection to multinational corporations controlled by foreigners as to individual Americans," he writes.

    This afternoon, President Obama asked Congress to "develop a forceful response" to the ruling. But with Congress juggling so many other important issues, it's unlikely that a change will be made in the immediate future. This could mean that foreign cash could be supporting political candidates in next year's congressional midterm elections.
  9. GabrielConroy

    GabrielConroy Well-Known Member

    im 100% behind this decision because i hate poor people, freedom, and democracy
  10. DarnTired

    DarnTired Antiquitie's Friend

    I need a passport: this country just isn't any fun anymore.
  11. Bob26003

    Bob26003 Well-Known Member

    Since the Roberts Court has now ruled that corporations have the same rights as people and overturned decades of laws regulating their speech, I'm wondering: Do they now have the right to arm themselves by employing Blackwater-type mercenaries and post them all over their office buildings?

    Will Wal-Mart post armed guards in their parking lots?

    Seems like a natural consequence. If corporations can enjoy full First Amendment protections, wouldn't they likewise get Second Amendment rights?
  12. Sparky55313

    Sparky55313 Well-Known Member

    This is news? Been going on as far as I have known.
    democracy also brings with it capitolism. No matter what the government does there will be some groups who don't like it. Being as broke as I am, I am still in favor of democracy. My vote counts very little but I am blessed with having been born in this country.
    I totally disagree with many de regulations and many regulations. But its way col to know I don't have to join a miltia to get my point across.
  13. Vangelis

    Vangelis Well-Known Member

    I agree, elections should be done with only the pockets of politicians not corpies pay rolls. Imagine the worst conservative or liberal president ever, becomes rich over night because Microsoft decides to sponsor a billion dollars to their campaign and changes the electoral outcome. Not fair that the richest person with the most sponsors become president..might as well elect Tiger Woods then.
  14. Zurkhardo

    Zurkhardo Well-Known Member

    We should read both the majority and dissenting opinions. Each made very good points, and the dissenting opinion by Stevens was particularly long and passionate. We should also consider that other laws are in place to at least make these companies account for what they contribute to who. It may not be much for some but it's something.

    Indeed, the court is not only conservative by nature, but that justicies are as prone to being influenced by outside factors as any of us. We often have an image of the court as being impartial and autonomous. Officially perhaps, but each justice has a history, an ideological bias, and a personal experience that shapes their belief system and legal opinion.

    Interestingly, all 5 of the justices that voted to shoot down corporate limitations were considered to be of conservative ideology. Justice Thomas even worked as corporate lawyer for a time.

    The issues affecting this country are the result of iron triangle between corporations, politicians/lawyers, and lobbyists, which are furthermore often one in the same. After all, wealthy interest groups could throw more than enough money to keep the laws they want in place - or to sway new ones in their favor.

    For the record, I'm not being leftist about this. I don't have a problem with corporations, lawyers, or any of that (unless of course they're corrupt). Its no better to have big and powerful private interest groups that are opague and democratically unaccountable than it is to have a bloated, all-powerful government.
  15. Bob26003

    Bob26003 Well-Known Member

    Its no better to have big and powerful private interest groups that are opague and democratically unaccountable than it is to have a bloated, all-powerful government.""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""

    Its worse.

    key point here is "democratically unaccountable" no checks and balances..... nothing

    our Gov. at least to some degree has these things built in.

    Right Now, I would say that an uninformed public and the vast inequality between the rich and everyone else are the biggest threats to our democracy.

    The top 20% control eighty percent of the wealth. With the tp 1% controlling 40%.

    Until we have REAL conflict of interest laws and public financing of elections................ The will and good of the people and society will continue to play second string to the interests of the wealthy few.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 25, 2010
  16. shades

    shades Staff Alumni

    This will most likely turn out to be the "death-nell" of the U.S. It pits individual rights against corporations. All future elections will be settled by which corporation backs which politician and what concessions they will get in return.

    Not to mention that many of these corporations have tons of foreign money behind them.

    This is what happens when friends of BIG BUSINESS (see Bush Crime Family) place THEIR friends on the SUPREME COURT.

    For a look at our future...please see the original 1970's movie "Rollerball". The underlying theme is about how corporations dominate the world and individual rights are suppressed.
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