The Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission is seen by many as probably the most frightening and destructive decision in the history of the Supreme Court and the United States of America. Far worse than the Dred Scott decision, which was horrific and some believe led directly to the Civil War. Here is some reading to help frame this fiasco. I'll update it as more gets said. Citizen's United vs. Federal Election Commission (Overview)
The Court's decision struck down a provision of the McCain-Feingold Act that prevented corporations and unions from spending freely from their own treasuries in the final days of political campaigns.
Such a bill protecting natural persons from out-of-control governments or commercial monopolies shouldn’t just be limited to America, Jefferson believed. “Let me add,” he summarized, “that a bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular; and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference.”
Analysis and Commentary
Citizens ruling: an intellectually dishonest power grab — by Ruth Marcus *Must Read*
In opening the floodgates for corporate money in election campaigns, the Supreme Court did not simply engage in a brazen power grab. It did so in an opinion stunning in its intellectual dishonesty.
That the majority would stoop to this claim underscores the weakness of its case — and the audacity of the result it has inflicted on the political process.
How the Supreme Court's decision will affect the corporate media's policy governing corporate political advocacy remains unclear, which is precisely why I contacted the major cable and broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, NBC/MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News — with a few simple questions. First, will the networks announce clear policies for corporate political advertising? Second, and of equal if not greater importance, do the networks' corporate parent companies plan on taking advantage of the high court's decision by spending money for and against candidates for office?
In a ruling that has overwhelming implications for how elections are funded, the Supreme Court has struck down a key campaign-finance restriction that prevents corporations and unions from pouring money into political ads.In a 5-4 ruling, in the Citizens United v. FEC case, the door is now wide open for unrestricted amounts of corporate money to flow into American politics.
"Thomas went along with the majority in agreeing that corporations and unions can once more be permitted to spend freely on political issues, thus driving a stake through the heart of the democratic process in the United States. But he dissented in part, because he didn't think the ruling went far enough. Specifically, he argued that the court was wrong to continue requiring that the sponsors of political advertising disclose who paid for them."
How the Citizens United Case Affects Money & Politics — Sunlight Foundation
Ellen Miller writes: The ramifications of today’s Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC are breathtaking – opening the floodgates of political money such as we have never seen before. If you thought Congress was ‘for sale’ to the highest bidder, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Nothing less than a fundamental rethinking of our campaign finance laws is demanded as a result of today’s decision.
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.
Heather seems to agree with Salon's Glenn Greenwald, that the court "got it right," and that it's not the end of the world. But both of them seem to feel that things can't be much worse than they already are. I think both of them are unfamiliar with what Blackrock and the Swiftboat Funding Network are all about, and how this decision completely removes any remaining complications in their devious strategy of empowering any 3rd rate partisan flake to spend unlimited amounts of money without having to worry about the messy business of message crafting or media distribution.
“One day the Constitution of Colorado is the highest law of the state,” said Robert F. Williams, a law professor at Rutgers University. “The next day it’s wastepaper.” The states that explicitly prohibit independent expenditures by unions and corporations will be most affected by the ruling. The decision, however, has consequences for all states, since they are now effectively prohibited from adopting restrictions on corporate and union spending on political campaigns.
What Can Be Done
That's still shaking out. I will be posting regular updates as they come in.
But there will be plenty of time to dissect the several lengthy opinions in this case and to opine on the merits, and it’s not my purpose in this brief comment to add to that growing body of commentary. I would say only that I share neither the jubilant sense that the First Amendment has scored a major triumph over misbegotten censorship nor the apocalyptic sense that the Court has ushered in an era of corporate dominance that threatens to drown out the voices of all but the best-connected and to render representative democracy all but meaningless.
Citizens United and Transparency: A Look Ahead — Dan Schuman (Sunlight Foundation)
Looking to transparency — disclosure of who funded the ads — only Justice Thomas (who dissents in part) would strike down measures requiring disclosure of donors. But the majority and minority have very different views on the usefulness of transparency in addressing money-related problems. They also leave open a big loophole to knock down transparency laws in the future.
What You Can Do To Fight
Sign every one of the petitions you see that support those who are taking on this fiasco.
On January 21, 2010, with its ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are persons, entitled by the U.S. Constitution to buy elections and run our government. Human beings are people; corporations are legal fictions. The Supreme Court is misguided in principle, and wrong on the law. In a democracy, the people rule. Be sure to see who backs this petition, including Bill Moyers.
We have filed six bills to reverse this assault, the "Save Our Democracy" platform. Sign this petition today, and show your support for saving our democracy. Together, we will move these bills forward and prevent the sale of our government to the highest bidder.