SCOTUS Throws Out Corporate Campaign Limits

I'm still reading through the very long opinions, which you can access here, but the Supreme Court of the United States today overturned decades of precedent and, as The New York Times aptly puts it, "a century-old understanding" by throwing out virtually any restrictions on corporate campaign expenditures. This is an exceedingly disappointing decision, one that seriously worries me for the future of democracy in this country. But more after I finish reading all of the concurrences and dissents.

UPDATE from desmoinesdem: Adam B posted excerpts from the decision and the dissents.

The SCOTUS blog posted the complete text of the ruling and linked to many reactions and commentaries.

Election law expert Richard Hasen concludes that the court just killed campaign finance reform:

It is time for everyone to drop all the talk about the Roberts court's "judicial minimalism," with Chief Justice Roberts as an "umpire" who just calls balls and strikes. Make no mistake, this is an activist court that is well on its way to recrafting constitutional law in its image. The best example of that is this morning's transformative opinion in Citizens United v. FEC. Today the court struck down decades-old limits on corporate and union spending in elections (including judicial elections) and opened up our political system to a money free-for-all.

All in all, a depressing day for our sorry excuse for a democracy.

Tags: Supreme Court, Citizens United, campaign finance, First Amendment (all tags)

Comments

17 Comments

RE: SCOTUS Throws Out Corporate Campaign Limits

well there goes the country.....

 

by jeopardy 2010-01-21 11:53AM | 1 recs
if only O'Connor hadn't retired

She reportedly regrets retiring from the court. She did it to take care of her husband, but within a year he needed to be in assisted living anyway. If we had her instead of Alito, this ruling might have been 5-4 the other way.

by desmoinesdem 2010-01-21 12:01PM | 3 recs
If only Gore or Kerry won

O'Conner might not have retired and Rehnquiest would have been replaced with Sotomayor.

 

 

by ND22 2010-01-21 03:50PM | 0 recs
A few reasons this isn't the end of the world

Hard contribution limits were treated as assumed constitutional, disclosure requirements were upheld, these are things that can be campaigned on.

But there's something else mentioned in the opinion being too overlooked.  Corporations are still legal entities bound by their charters.  Stockholders and dissenting directors are always allowed to take the Board of Directors to court, often even as individuals, to sue them challenging their decisions on expenditures as violating the corporate charter.  This tactic has been used by conservative stockholders and board members to sometimes prevent companies from giving lots of money to charity.  It's never been tried in the political scene, but that's because it hasn't been an issue until now.  My guess is, you'll see these suits popping up, and corporate spending on elections will be limited in part by BoD's afraid of getting sued.

by bannana873 2010-01-21 12:55PM | 1 recs
RE: A few reasons this isn't the end of the world

Maybe... But I have the feeling that the majority of people who can afford to sue the BODs for these companies don't mind them supporting the GOP.

by FUJA 2010-01-21 01:12PM | 0 recs
RE: A few reasons this isn't the end of the world

Many of the largest shareholders in these companies are public employee and union pension funds, where the leadership is not exactly pro-GOP.  The pension fund for state employees may be administered by someone like the state comptroller, who may even be an elected Democratic official.  So there's more political diversity among the very largest investors than you might think.

That said, it's going to be hard to challenge political expenditures under the business judgment rule, but it would be hard for a public company to get away with anything excessive like a multimillion-dollar campaign to run ads in favor of Republican candidates.  They'd want to run issue ads that are more closely tied to the corporation's mission.

That said, there's an awful lot of money in the hands of private and closely-held corporations and I don't see any meaningful check on their ability to spend millions to elect a given candidate.  It will be interesting, and probably not in a good way, to see how the effects of this decision play out.

by Steve M 2010-01-21 01:58PM | 1 recs
RE: A few reasons this isn't the end of the world

Yea right let put the "Share Holders in charge". This is truly grasping at ponies!

by eddieb 2010-01-21 01:18PM | 0 recs
RE: A few reasons this isn't the end of the world

we've seen a scaling back of effectiveness of shareholder dirivative suits by the courts and the legislature in recent years though

 

by jeopardy 2010-01-21 01:26PM | 0 recs
I knew we were in trouble when Kerry lost to B---bag

Now were faced with a bush supreme court. God help us all

by eddieb 2010-01-21 01:16PM | 0 recs
Another Reason

This is yet another reason why Bush will be looked back on as one of the most influential Presidents of our times. Not for good things, that's for sure.

Anyway, given the hard limits to candidates are still in place (and party committees too I assume), and given that Labor too can go head long into the spending of money for candidates, I don't think its as big of a deal as what people think.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-01-21 02:05PM | 1 recs
RE: Another Reason

And disclosure. Can you believe that Thomas was a dissent on this aspect? What a tool.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-01-21 02:06PM | 1 recs
RE: Another Reason

Having corporations drowned out or counter-balanced by Unions is not the kind of electioneering I would like to see.

by vecky 2010-01-21 02:21PM | 0 recs
RE: Another Reason

That's not for good things, that's for sure. Well, certainly and it was a major reason Obama why was elected. Throw the bums out. Looking back over this past year, I would say the biggest fault with this administration, if the not the Democratic party as a whole, was to permit Bush to hide out for a year while the economic mess he put us in was slowly pushed onto Obama's back. We are told it is now Obama's economy. And nothing could have pleased the Republicans in congress more.

Obama's first action as president should have been to fire Bernacke, who inherited Greenspan's economy, and indicate that a new era of economic policy was needed to prevent Bushonomics from ever returning. Instead, Obama listened to the wrong people, and as such Greenspan somehow returned to continue proWall Street eonomics. And Wall Street indeed has done great.

A Democratic president would have looked first at growing unemployment and sought to remedy it, not the banks or Wall Street.

by MainStreet 2010-01-21 03:04PM | 0 recs
RE: Another Reason

Firing Bernanke in the midst of an economic crisis was not feasible. Even now it's tough. The stock market is already cratering even though Obama justed opened up a little bit about regulating the banks.

by vecky 2010-01-21 05:29PM | 0 recs
RE: SCOTUS Throws Out Corporate Campaign Limits

"I for one welcome our new Corporate overlords. I'd like to remind them that as a trusted activist liberal, I could be helpful rounding up others to toil in your underground sweatshops"

 

 

 

 

by jeopardy 2010-01-21 02:12PM | 1 recs
RE: SCOTUS Throws Out Corporate Campaign Limits

One of Steven's footnotes: (64)

"The majority declares by fiat that the appearance of undue influence by high-spending corporations 'will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy.'

The electorate itself has consistently indicated otherwise, both in opinion poll ... and in the laws its representatives have passed, and our colleagues have no basis for elevating their own optimism into a tenet of constitutional law."

by jeopardy 2010-01-21 02:52PM | 0 recs
SCOTUS

Although misuse of the filibuster (helped by the supineness of the Democrats) is a big problem, the major impediment to effective legislation and governance is the financing of campaigns and thus the careers of politicians. This decision is a blow to finance reform.On top of Massachusetts election, a really bad week for our country.

homer  www.altara.blogspot.com

by altara 2010-01-22 12:49PM | 0 recs

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