Thursday, January 21, 2010

SCOTUS removes campaign spending limits on corporations

You know, it's been a really shitty week for justice and democracy.

In a stunning reversal of the nation's federal campaign finance laws, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Thursday that as an exercise of free speech, corporations, labor unions and other groups can directly spend on political campaigns.

Siding with filmmakers of "Hillary: The Movie", who were challenged by the Federal Election Commission on their sources of cash to pay for the film, the court overturned a 20-year-old ruling that banned corporate and labor money. The decision threatens similar limits imposed by 24 states.

The justices also struck down part of the landmark McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill that barred union- and corporate-paid issue ads in the closing days of election campaigns.

Because, after all, corporations are people too, and they need First Amendment protection like any other living, breathing person.

The ruling is sure to send a jolt to political campaigns throughout the country that are gearing up for the 2010 midterm elections. It will also impact the 2012 presidential race and federal elections to come. ...

It also undercuts recent congressional legislation mandating tighter controls on political donations that had restricted the flow of corporate dollars into the political system.

Some other opinions of the ruling:

The ruling marks the boldest step yet for Roberts and fellow George W. Bush appointee Alito, who previously had shied away from explicitly reversing precedents. The majority overturned a 1990 Supreme Court decision that said corporations can be barred from using general treasury funds to pay for campaign advertisements.

-- BusinessWeek

Today’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC abolishes the previously settled distinction between corporate and individual expenditures in American elections and would appear to apply to state and local elections as well as Federal ones given that the Court recognizes such a First Amendment right. This is literally an earth shattering change in the lay of the land in campaign finance, and it will have ramifications in every way imaginable for the foreseeable future.

-- emptywheel at firedoglake

If you like Congressional gridlock and insider politics, then you'll love this decision. If you think the lobbyists for the banks, insurance firms, and oil companies need more power, you'll love this decision. But if you value fairness, democracy and the free speech of ordinary citizens, this is a disaster. It is an immoral decision that puts the Roberts' Court on the side of Wall Street and the big money lobbyists against the interests of Main Street America.

-- Nick Nyhart of Public Citizen

Update: Olbermann spells it out.

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