Friday, January 22, 2010

Adam Liptak: Justices, 5-4, Reject Corporate Spending Limit in Political Campaigns

(This is devastating blow--in a long series--against the remnants of our democratic society... now, there should be no doubt who is controlling our "representatives" in congress and other elected positions.)

Justices, 5-4, Reject Corporate Spending Limit
New York Times

WASHINGTON — Overruling two important precedents about the First Amendment rights of corporations, a bitterly divided Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections.

The 5-to-4 decision was a vindication, the majority said, of the First Amendment’s most basic free speech principle — that the government has no business regulating political speech. The dissenters said that allowing corporate money to flood the political marketplace would corrupt democracy.

The ruling represented a sharp doctrinal shift, and it will have major political and practical consequences. Specialists in campaign finance law said they expected the decision to reshape the way elections were conducted. Though the decision does not directly address them, its logic also applies to the labor unions that are often at political odds with big business.

The decision will be felt most immediately in the coming midterm elections, given that it comes just two days after Democrats lost a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and as popular discontent over government bailouts and corporate bonuses continues to boil.

President Obama called it “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.”

The justices in the majority brushed aside warnings about what might follow from their ruling in favor of a formal but fervent embrace of a broad interpretation of free speech rights.

“If the First Amendment has any force,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority, which included the four members of the court’s conservative wing, “it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech.”

The ruling, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, No. 08-205, overruled two precedents: Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, a 1990 decision that upheld restrictions on corporate spending to support or oppose political candidates, and McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, a 2003 decision that upheld the part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 that restricted campaign spending by corporations and unions.

To Read the Rest of the Article


David Kairys: Money Isn't Speech and Corporations Aren't People -- The misguided theories behind the Supreme Court's ruling on campaign finance reform

New York Times Editorial: The Court’s Blow to Democracy

Riki Ott: 4 Positive, Practical Steps for Responding to Citizens United

Thomas Linzey and Mari Margill: Whose Rights?
A new Supreme Court decision promotes corporate rights at the expense of the rights of citizens. What happens when the legal structure itself stands in the way of democracy?

Democracy Now: In Landmark Campaign Finance Ruling, Supreme Court Removes Limits on Corporate Campaign Spending

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