The Supreme Court Rules On Campaign Finance

From NPR’s “Watching Washington” Blog:

The Supreme Court Scrambles Politics — Again

Many people will hear about Thursday’s landmark Supreme Court decision freeing corporations to mount political campaigns and say the court has blown up politics as we know it.

By bringing corporations (and by extension, labor unions) back into the electioneering fray, the court has restarted a spending war Congress had tried to restrain over the past generation — most recently with the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, best known for its co-sponsoring senators, John McCain (R-AZ) and Russell Feingold (D-WI).

So long as they do not give to candidates directly, corporations can spend whatever they wish to support or oppose candidates for president or Congress. They are free to exercise their rights of free speech under the First Amendment. Just like citizens. Their rights cannot be suppressed on the basis of their “corporate identity,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy.

The ramifications for this year’s congressional elections and the 2012 presidential contest are sure to be profound. What does it mean, for example, for an investment bank such as Goldman Sachs, which had the cash to pay $16 billion in compensation to its employees for 2009, when a major issue before Congress this year is a tax on those bonuses? (Read the whole column here).

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) has launched an online petition against the decision. The text reads:

Unlimited corporate spending on campaigns means the government is up for sale and that the law itself will be bought and sold. It would be political bribery on the largest scale imaginable.

This issue transcends partisan political arguments. We cannot have a government that is bought and paid for by huge multinational corporations. You must stop this.

From The Courthouse News Service:

WASHINGTON (CN) – The Supreme Court today killed a central part of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law and ruled that corporations may spend as much as they wish to support or oppose candidates for president and Congress. The 5-4 vote left intact limits on corporate gifts to individual candidates (read the whole story here).

Following the decision, George Will declared the ruling as a radical defense for freedom of speech. In reply, E.J. Dionne argues that will amount to a corporate take over of politics.

Also see here for the story on the Court’s ruling on campaign finance reform from RealClearPolitics.

11 Responses to The Supreme Court Rules On Campaign Finance

  • Paul Zummo says:

    If Alan Grayson (Lunatic-FL) is against it, it must be a good thing.

    Seriously, I don’t care what your opinions of campaign finance are, the McCain-Feingold abomination was a full frontal attack on the First Amendment. It’s a shame that the entire thing wasn’t upended by the Court in the McConnell case, but I’ll take the piecemeal approach.

  • S.B. says:

    I like Tom Smith’s take: http://rightcoast.typepad.com/rightcoast/2010/01/citizens-united-cases-comes-down-tom-smith-.html

    Much wailing and gnashing of teeth too is to be anticipated no doubt from younger persons at various lefty blogs, and I sympathize. It takes a lot of legal and political theory to explain why in the larger and profoundly understood scheme of things a bunch of people who have filed some papers cannot spend their money to talk politics the way a bunch of people who have not filed some papers can, and it would seem these ideas have not sold to our nine person speech planning panel.

    There is hardly anything more irritating than the political speech of persons, natural or artificial, with whom one disagrees. In my own defense, however, I will note it does not occur to me that I should be able to use the power of the state to shut these irritants up, even if they are, oooh scary, hiss hiss, Big Corporations. Or as was the case in this case, a very little one, laws to regulate speech being so notoriously hard to get right, even when they are wrong.

  • Art Deco says:

    I think prohibitions on corporate funding of federal campaigns has been in effect for over a century. A corporation is a legal construct to bring into effect limited liability in the course of engaging in commerce or philanthropy. To participate in elections is not why its owners have come together, and such activity is incongruent with the interests and purposes of some large portion of the corps of owners. I cannot figure why the grant of limited liability cannot come with some strings attached and why the associates of a corporation cannot be told to convene in some sort of parallel formation that does not have access to the firm’s capital. This is all unjust.

  • John Henry says:

    The good news is that previously defenseless large corporations will finally have a voice in the political process.

    I kid, I kid. I think it’s hard to make the case that this will make much of a difference one way or the other. Money finds its way to politicians and their advertising campaigns under either regime. I think this might improve transparency, however, which could be a good thing.

  • Mike Petrik says:

    Leaving aside the substance of the law struck down as well as the Court’s reasoning (since I’ve not taken the time to familiarize myself with either), I agree with Art that there should be no reason that corporations cannot be prohibited from participating in political campaigns in exchange for limited liability. That said, it is not at all clear to me why justice requires such a prohibition. Corporations are voluntary associations. One can choose to invest, trade, or work for one or not. A widely held public corporation has perfectly legitimate legal interests to protect, which individual shareholders with diluted interests are not necessarily in a practical position to address. Finally, limited liability is a benefit accorded by state law, not federal law; it is not obvious to me why the federal government is entitled to exact something in exchange for it.
    Don’t get me wrong. I think a fair argument can be made favoring such a prohibition. But it is not obvious to me that justice demands such a prohibition.

  • jonathanjones02 says:

    I like Kathleen Sullivan’s solution: any person or group may donate as much as they wish. However, there must be immediate disclosure on the Internet, and very heavy fines if this is not done.

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    I have always believed that the First Amendment is quite clear and that restrictions on political speech and issue advocacy are completely unconstitutional. Individuals, corporations, unions, churches, associations of any sort should be allowed to spend as much as they like to make their beliefs heard.

  • Colin Gormley says:

    “jonathanjones02 Says:

    Thursday, January 21, 2010 A.D. at 1:53 pm
    I like Kathleen Sullivan’s solution: any person or group may donate as much as they wish. However, there must be immediate disclosure on the Internet, and very heavy fines if this is not done.”

    Amen.

  • Pinky says:

    Wow, that Representative Grayson really doesn’t understand how the system works, does he? Congress passes an unconstitutional law; the Supreme Court overturns it; Grayson starts an online petition in protest. Amazing.

  • I like Kathleen Sullivan’s solution: any person or group may donate as much as they wish. However, there must be immediate disclosure on the Internet, and very heavy fines if this is not done.

    I think a problem with that is information overload. It’d work better if we had, say, a 9-member congress. We’d save a lot in salaries too.

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