by Max Brantley
The U.S. Supreme Court today, in a 5-4 decision, struck down the federal law's ban on corporate campaign contributions and also the ban on late-campaign issue advertising by corporate and other interests. The now solidified right-wing prevailed, thumbing its nose at precedent and holding that the First Amendment meant to protect corporate free speech.
Scalia attempts to explain the mockery he's made of his originalist legal theory. It's judicial legislating, pure and simple.
The precedent on federal campaigns can now be applied to state limits. Not to worry. Arkansas doesn't prohibit corporate contributions and our practice shows the evil. It's typical for certain fat cats to give contributions through many different corporate veils as a way to evade campaign limits.
Good comments from an advocacy group opposed to corporate campaign contributions:
WASHINGTON, DC – A coalition of public interest organizations strongly
condemned today's ruling by the US Supreme Court allowing unlimited
corporate money in US elections and announced that it is launching a
campaign to amend the United States Constitution to overturn the ruling.
The groups, Voter Action, Public Citizen, the Center for Corporate
Policy, and the American Independent Business Alliance, say the Court's
ruling in Citizens United v. FEC poses a serious and direct threat to
democracy. They aim, through their constitutional amendment campaign, to
correct the judiciary's creation of corporate rights under the First
Amendment over the past three decades. Immediately following the Court's
ruling, the groups unveiled a new website –
http://www.freespeechforpeople.org – devoted to this campaign.
"Free speech rights are for people, not corporations," says John
Bonifaz, Voter Action's legal director. "In wrongly assigning First
Amendment protections to corporations, the Supreme Court has now
unleashed a torrent of corporate money in our political process
unmatched by any campaign expenditure totals in US history. This
campaign to amend the Constitution will seek to restore the First
Amendment to its original purpose."
The public interest groups say that, since the late 1970s, a divided
Supreme Court has transformed the First Amendment into a powerful tool
for corporations seeking to evade democratic control and sidestep sound
public welfare measures. For the first two centuries of the American
republic, the groups argue, corporations did not have First Amendment
rights to limit the reach of democratically-enacted regulations.
"The corporate rights movement has reached its extreme conclusion in
today's Supreme Court ruling," says Jeffrey Clements, general counsel to
www.freespeechforpeople.org and a consultant to Voter Action. "In recent
years, corporations have misused the First Amendment to evade and
invalidate democratically-enacted reforms, from elections to healthcare,
from financial reform to climate change and environmental protection,
and more. Today's ruling, reversing longstanding precedent which
prohibits corporate expenditures in elections, now requires a
constitutional amendment response to protect our democracy."
In support of their new campaign, the groups point to prior amendments
to the US Constitution which were enacted to correct egregiously wrong
decisions of the US Supreme Court directly impacting the democratic
process, including the 15th Amendment prohibiting discrimination in
voting based on race and the 19th Amendment, prohibiting discrimination
in voting based on gender.
"The Court has invented the idea that corporations have First Amendment
rights to influence election outcomes out of whole cloth," says Robert
Weissman, president of Public Citizen. "There is surely no originalist
interpretation to support this outcome, since the Court created the
rights only in recent decades. Nor can the outcome be justified in light
of the underlying purpose and spirit of the First Amendment.
Corporations are state-created entities, not real people. They do not
have expressive interests like humans; and, unlike humans, they are
uniquely motivated by a singular focus on their economic bottom line.
Corporate spending on elections defeats rather than advances the
democratic thrust of the First Amendment."
"With this decision, the Court has abandoned its usual practice of
adjudicating non-constitutional claims before constitutional ones, a
radical departure that indicates how far the Roberts Court may be
willing to go in order to serve the powerful 'business civil liberties'
agenda," says Charlie Cray, director of the Center for Corporate Policy.
"While the immediate effect is likely to be a surge in corporate cash in
election campaigns, this could also signal the beginning of a sustained
attack on the rights and ability of everyday people to govern the
behavior of corporations, which, if successful, could effectively
eviscerate what's left of American democracy."
“American citizens have repeatedly amended the Constitution to defend
democracy when the Supreme Court acts in collusion with democracy's
enemies, whether they are slavemasters,
states imposing poll taxes on voters, or the opponents of woman
suffrage,” says Jamin Raskin, professor of constitutional law and the
First Amendment at American University’s Washington College of Law.
“Today, the Court has enthroned corporations, permitting them not only
all kinds of special economic rights but now, amazingly, moving to grant
them the same political rights as the people. This is a moment of high
danger for democracy so we must act quickly to spell out in the
Constitution what the people have always understood: that corporations
do not enjoy the political and free speech rights that belong to the
people of the United States."
For more information on the constitutional amendment campaign, see