Worst SCOTUS Decision of the Decade, Hard to Top


#1

The idiots ruining this country:

John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy

And those trying to save Democracy in vain:

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, John Paul Stevens

Court OK’s Unlimited Corporate Campaign Spending

WASHINGTON - A sharply divided Supreme Court ruled yesterday that labor unions and corporations can spend unlimited amounts to influence federal elections, throwing out a ban that had been in effect for 63 years and adding an explosive new element to this year’s midterm elections.

The 5-to-4 ruling dismayed lawmakers and public interest groups that fought for decades to limit the influence of wealthy special interests in politics. But it cheered those who have railed against what they see as government control of free speech in election campaigns.

The decision also could provoke changes in Massachusetts law, which bans corporate spending to influence an election. Campaign finance specialists said that while the high court opinion specifically applies to federal races, the First Amendment issue cited in the ruling could end up preempting state laws or enabling new lawsuits to challenge them.

The court said that corporate and labor union spending amounted to free speech and should be constitutionally protected. “The censorship we now confront is vast in its reach,’’ Justice Anthony Kennedy said in the majority opinion.

The justices left in place the dollar limits for contributions to candidates by individuals and political action committees. In doing so, the justices adhered to previous rulings that there is a more significant “quid pro quo’’ attached to such direct contribution to a candi date, said David Primo, a First Amendment specialist and University of Rochester political science professor.

The high court’s ruling also lifts the ban on corporate and union-paid “issue ads’’ in the waning days of a campaign, upending a key element of a 2002 reform law.

Martin Meehan, chancellor of University of Massachusetts Lowell and a former US representative who coauthored the 2002 act, said he was devastated by the ruling.

“I think it’s the worst campaign finance reform case in Supreme Court history,’’ Meehan said in an interview. “The court has abandoned longstanding judicial principles and precedents, and I believe this decision will result in influence-buying and corruption. The decision will empower financial companies, banks and energy companies to spend millions of dollars to elect federal candidates.’’

Under the ruling, corporations and unions will not be able to contribute unlimited amounts directly to a candidate, but may spend what they please on behalf of a candidate. The money must be disclosed, the court said.

Justice Stevens, dissenting: “The court’s ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions around the nation."

For my opinion on this issue, just read my signature.


#2

When I saw this, I was literally enraged. I don’t think i’ve ever been so angry. They literally managed to roll back the clock a century. Thank you, Roberts Era SCOTUS. Bush strikes again.
I suppose i was enraged because I had been deceived to believe that SCOTUS was one of the last institutions to be corrupted. But now, I guess not. Insurrection is coming my friends.
Welcome to Pre-revolutionary France.


#3

I am fucking furious, I hope all five of those motherfuckers get heart disease and die.


#4

It has been fascinating to observe the reaction to the decision. Those progressives objecting almost 100% of the time do so using partisan rather than legal arguments (including on this thread). That exposes the hypocrisy of the progressive argument, in my opinion.


#5

[QUOTE=JPS;217612]It has been fascinating to observe the reaction to the decision. Those progressives objecting almost 100% of the time do so using partisan rather than legal arguments (including on this thread). That exposes the hypocrisy of the progressive argument, in my opinion.[/QUOTE]

I’m confused by all of this.

On the one hand, articles seem to indicate companies can now donate infinite amounts of $ to campaigns, whereas before their contributions were functionally limited by PAC spending limits and a prohibition on direct contributions.

But this article seems to indicate otherwise (emphasis mine). Can someone clear this up?

http://onthedocket.org/articles/2010/01/21/justices-roll-back-campaign-spending-limits-landmark-case-jan-21-2010
Justices roll back campaign spending limits in landmark case (Jan. 21, 2010)

Case Reference:
Citizens United v. FEC
A Supreme Court divided along ideological lines today struck down several key provisions of landmark campaign finance legislation, which held that corporations can be prohibited from using money from their general treasuries to pay for campaign ads.

The case centered on whether a federal campaign finance law prohibited a conservative interest group from broadcasting and promoting a movie critical of Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton during the presidential primaries.

The Washington, D.C.-based group Citizens United intended to release its film, “Hillary: The Movie,” to theaters and for store sales on DVD during the 2008 presidential primary season. It did not go forward with plans to put out the movie in TV-on-demand access on cable TV, because it feared the FEC would apply the ad ban to it.

The group seeks challenged the federal “electioneering communications” disclosure requirements in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act as applied to its film. The law prohibits corporations and nonprofits from airing broadcast ads, which refer to a federal candidate 30 days before a primary election.

Using the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Wisconsin Right to Life v. FEC, which exempted issue advocacy from the electioneering communications prohibition, Citizens United argued that the ads should be exempt as constitutionally protected for their discussion of issues.

In January, a three-judge panel on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia rejected Citizens United’s motion for a preliminary injunction, and in July, the court granted the Federal Election Commission’s motion for summary judgment, finding that the Supreme Court’s 2003 decision in McConnell v. FEC, upholding the BCRA’s disclosure requirements even if a particular radio or TV ad would not be banned under that law.

On Jan. 21, 2010, a divided Supreme Court removed limits on independent expenditures that are not coordinated with candidates’ campaigns. The 5-4 majority also struck down part of the 2003 McCain-Feingold law that barred union- and corporate-paid issue ads in the closing days of election campaigns.

[B]The ruling leaves in place a prohibition on direct contributions to candidates from corporations and unions.[/B]

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority while Justice John Paul Stevens wrote a 90-page dissent joined by the Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.

Question presented: Whether federal campaign finance laws apply to a critical film about Sen. Hillary Clinton intended to be shown in theaters and on-demand to cable subscribers.


#6

Your article is correct, Brandon, though your confusion is understandable. The problem is that many progressive outlets have been exaggerating/misrepresenting the content of the Court’s decision as an expression of their disappointment that the Court did not abolish the doctrine of “corporate personhood”, which they have sought for years as part of their ideological program notwithstanding the crippling theoretical and practical problems with their position.


#7

[QUOTE=JPS;217612]It has been fascinating to observe the reaction to the decision. Those progressives objecting almost 100% of the time do so using partisan rather than legal arguments (including on this thread). That exposes the hypocrisy of the progressive argument, in my opinion.[/QUOTE]
It has been fascinating to note the responses of so-called free thinking moderates on this decision. These moderates eager to deride all negative reactions do so using knee-jerk responses rather than any attempt at discourse (including on this thread). That exposes the hypocrisy of these so-called moderates in my opinion.


#8

Here is some actual substance about the corporate personhood issue, for those interested in something other that the usual attacks from progressives directed at literally everyone who dares dissent from their hegemony on this forum: http://volokh.com/2010/01/21/people-organized-as-corporations-are-people-too/


#9

And that the belief in free access to democracy and limiting special interest influence is a ‘partisan’ issue only highlights to me the degree with which ‘partisan’ ideology has been hijacked by special interest. There is nothing left versus right, liberal versus conservative, progressive versus regressive (okay maybe the latter) about this issue, allowing special interests, which already have significant tools at their exposal not available to the average American, such as lobbyists, additional tools by which to influence candidates and policy is both negative for the average American and a significant step back in terms of an open Democracy.


#10

[QUOTE=AFA_Brandon;217613][B]The ruling leaves in place a prohibition on direct contributions to candidates from corporations and unions.[/B][/QUOTE]
The ruling allows corporations unlimited spending for ads on behalf of a candidate, but keeps in place the amount of money they are allowed to donate directly to a candidate. So now corporations can become the advertising arm of electoral campaigns.

The problem with even that limit, of course, is that corporations frequently bundle (campaigns even have tracking numbers for when companies want to indicate that they are donating on behalf of another individual, so that the campaign knows who their big contributors are), and that corporations spending money on ads in a state free up campaign resources to direct their own money elsewhere, making it about as close as a direct contribution needs to be.


#11

Law Professor Steven Bainbridge offers a good summary on why “corporate personhood” (which necessitates giving corporations the same free speech rights as anyone else) is well-settled law: http://www.professorbainbridge.com/professorbainbridgecom/2010/01/citizens-united-v-fec-the-first-amendment-rights-of-corporate-persons.html

The problem with even that limit, of course, is that corporations frequently bundle (campaigns even have tracking numbers for when companies want to indicate that they are donating on behalf of another individual, so that the campaign knows who their big contributors are), and that corporations spending money on ads in a state free up campaign resources to direct their own money elsewhere, making it about as close as a direct contribution needs to be.

And unions do exactly the same thing. In fact, most unions are organized as corporations, when you get right down to it. This decision protects the rights of corporations and unions controlled by progressives just as much as corporations controlled by non-progressives.


#12

“Special interest” = “any political group I disagree with”. And, of course, progressive groups are “public interest”, not “special interest”, right? :wink:

If you want to do anything more than just regurgitate the talking points off of the protest signs, AK, please begin.


#13

Lobbying on Tax Returns Yields 22,000% Return on Investment

A 22,000 percent return on investment? Three professors at the University of Kansas say dozens of America’s largest companies got that sweet deal four years ago — not by hiring workers or purchasing new equipment, but by investing in Washington lobbyists. Those lobbyists, the three said, helped write a federal tax break that eventually put roughly $100 billion in tax savings in the pockets of the firms and their shareholders, at a cost to the companies of just pennies on the dollar.

Stephen Mazza, a professor at KU’s School of Law, and two associates spent six months examining the effects of one part of the American Jobs Creation Act, a major tax overhaul passed in October 2004. They looked at a provision that gave companies a one-year window to bring overseas earnings back into the U.S. at a 5.25 percent tax rate, rather than the usual 35 percent, as a jobs-creation incentive. The three professors then looked at how much such companies as IBM, Pfizer, and Eli Lilly and Co. spent lobbying for the break, and how much they saved when it passed.

[b]The result? Ninety-three of the country’s biggest multinational firms pulled in tax savings of more than $62 billion — after spending just $283 million to lobby for the bill.

The study concluded that almost 500 companies got an average 22,000 percent return on their lobbying investments.[/b]

[url=http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2009/04/09/big_companies_see_great_rewards_in_lobbying_efforts/]Big companies see great rewards in lobbying efforts:
With billions at stake, the industry booms

WASHINGTON – Big companies that spent hundreds of millions lobbying successfully for a tax break enacted in 2004 got a 22,000-percent return on that investment — proof that for those who can afford it, hiring a lobbyist can pay handsome dividends.

The figures, compiled by professors at the University of Kansas for a study to be released Thursday, offer a rarely seen glimpse of how the lobbying business works, and why — even as President Barack Obama vows to curb lobbyists’ influence — the industry is booming as never before.

The report details efforts by hundreds of companies in 2003 and 2004 to push through a one-time tax “holiday” that lowered for a year the tax rate they paid on profits earned abroad. All told, U.S. companies saved about $100 billion in taxes, with pharmaceutical behemoths Pfizer and Merck & Co., technology giants IBM and Hewlett Packard, and health products maker Johnson & Johnson among the top beneficiaries.

The study zeros in on 93 firms that spent as much as $282.7 million lobbying on the issue during that period, and ultimately saved a total of $62.5 billion through the tax change. Researchers used publicly available lobbying disclosures filed with Congress and financial statements submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission to compare the amount each company saved with its lobbying expenditures.

Campaign Contributions in Judicial Elections Affect Judge Leanings

97% of all elected state Supreme Court justices said they are under a “great deal” of, or some pressure to raise money during their election years. More than 90% of all elected judges said they are under pressure to raise money in election years.

60% of Florida judges reported that the tone and conduct of judicial campaigns have gotten worse over the last five years. 68% said they were under pressure to raise money for their campaigns during election years, and [b]30% [of judges] believed campaign contributions made to judges have at least some influence on their decisions. 56% supported a generic proposal for public financing of judicial elections.

79% of business leaders believe that campaign contributions made to judges have at least some influence on their decisions in the courtroom.[/b]

And those are our judges admitting that their decisions are influenced by corporate donations, think our candidates are saints?


#14

[QUOTE=JPS;217620]“Special interest” = “any political group I disagree with”. And, of course, progressive groups are “public interest”, not “special interest”, right? :wink:

If you want to do anything more than just regurgitate the talking points off of the protest signs, AK, please begin.[/QUOTE]
I’m sorry, did I at some point on this thread say liberal groups should be exempt or is my point that electoral rules should apply equally for everyone? If you want to stop being ridiculous at any point on this thread, feel free to begin.


#15

Because none of the progressives on this thread have yet agreed to dispense with personal attacks and actually address substance, it is hard to tell. But assuming that they stick with the usual progressive argument that corporate free speech is bad because it exacerbates political inequalities, law professor Ilya Solmin has a turn: http://volokh.com/2010/01/22/why-restrictions-on-corporate-speech-undermine-political-equality/


#16

Yeah let me summarize your turn from the article you posted:

If you’re a millionaire, you can probably exercise substantial influence over the political speech of at least one corporation, if you want to.”

Hahahhahahahahahaaa!

Thanks Jason, for proving my point about the accessibility of democracy.

And the idea that owning stock in a corporation allows you access over their political beliefs is pretty ridiculous and not support by any literature I’ve ever read. If I own significant stock in Safeway, the CEO is still Steve Burd, who is still close friends with GWBush.


#17

And if I am friends with George Soros, I get similar advantages. I don’t see what you’re complaining about.

Cutting off free speech for people that happen to have money destroys the idea of equal treatment under the law. As the horrific historical experiences with communism should have taught us by now, freedom comes from procedural equality of rights, not coercive attempts to impose exact substantive equality of wealth.

BTW, cherry-picking one phrase from one line out of three large substantive links does not constitute a substantive, serious, or honest response to the issues. Hopefully, this is not a technique you consider as exemplary of “good debate”.


#18

Well, for one, that the average American is friends with neither and having wealthy donors be your access to Democracy is counter-intuitive to the whole point of an equal Democracy. These arguments all return to this same problem here, “well Unions can do the same” “well there’s leftist corporate leaders” - how about we stop relying on the ultra-wealthy as our access to democracy and make it equal for everyone? I hope you see what I’m complaining about now. (And for the record, George Soros is a hypocritical piece of trash.)

As for “cutting off free speech,” free speech is not cut off, its simply made equal. Its rather interesting that you note the notion of “equal treatment under the law,” when the effects of influence peddling promotes unequal treatment under the law, just read the links I posted earlier, where even 30% of judges say that corporate contributions affect their leanings in trials, or where lobbyists got a 22,000% return on investment by lobbying for tax breaks. If you are for equal treatment under the law, then you should really reconsider your position.

And also, I’m not in favor of “exact substantive equality of wealth,” wealth will affect these people in many more ways throughout the course of their lives, to pretend otherwise is ridiculous, my point is simple: their wealth should not increase their already disproportionately greater access to K street. These corporations and wealthy donors already get the upper hand, we don’t need to worsen it and pretend to ourselves we’re just looking out for free speech.


#19

[QUOTE=JPS;217623]Because none of the progressives on this thread have yet agreed to dispense with personal attacks and actually address substance, it is hard to tell. But assuming that they stick with the usual progressive argument that corporate free speech is bad because it exacerbates political inequalities, law professor Ilya Solmin has a turn: http://volokh.com/2010/01/22/why-restrictions-on-corporate-speech-undermine-political-equality/[/QUOTE]

Oh no, its an excellent argument, since that is the whole link turn. Everything else is just uniqueness. He argues that there is already inequality in access for several reasons, then argues that corporations are important because they allow more people access, and then reasons that millionaires have the capacity to exact political change by donating significantly or controlling corporations.

The article you posted is structured like this: Politics is already unequal, see: media, celebs, academics, bureaucrats, and plutocrats (though oddly not mentioned). Then, the only argument in favor of lifting corporate restrictions:

Tens of millions of Americans own stock in corporations, belong to unions (which, as a legal matter, are corporations too), or contribute to nonprofits that use the corporate form (including most charities). Even if you assume that only rich people have enough influence to “really” be able to use corporate speech, there are some 5.1 million millionaire households in the United States. If you’re a millionaire, you can probably exercise substantial influence over the political speech of at least one corporation, if you want to. Even if you aren’t, you can have an impact by donating to one of the many nonprofit corporations that engage in political activism for a vast range of causes, ranging from the ACLU to the NRA to the Sierra Club.

This breaks into three mechanisms that are supposed to prove that delimiting corporate spending in elections is good for the average American, all of which are equally ridiculous:

[list=1][*]“Tens of millions of Americans own stock in corporations”

Horrible argument. Owning stock does not affect the companies political leanings, it only increases their funds by which they can exact their corporate leanings. The only way your stock ownership can make an effect is if you are a multi-millionaire with significant stock invested in the company, making you one of the top shareholders.

[*]“You can have an impact by donating to one of the many nonprofit corporations”

You can already have that right now before this change. So thats not even in favor of the argument. But moreover, the mechanism for having influence here is spending money. Its funny that pay-to-play at no point strikes this author as problematic.

[*]“If you’re a millionaire, you can probably exercise substantial influence.”

And thats the whole problem here.[/list]

Thats his whole analysis on greater access via corporate personhood: that millionaires can affect politics. Thanks, proving my point about equal access to Democracy.


#20

Yes, I disagree with corporate personhood. And yes I disagree with this ruling. Just because it’s legal precedent for corporate personhood to exist does not illegitimate my response to this ruling. It’s still just as terrible. While corporations (both for-profit and non-profit) cannot contribute DIRECTLY to a campaign, they can do all the campaigning for a candidate.
I don’t know you Jason, but you seem to characterize yourself (and thus all responses to you) in a bit of a siege mentality (ha, thanks GSL). None of us were attacking you to begin with. What were WERE attacking was the idea that corporations have the same legitimate free speech rights as individuals without the sort of responsibilities of individuals. Inherent within a freedom is an obligation. Corporations have limited liability. Also, look back to what Justice Stevens said if you want substance. The majority’s mode of logic (as well as yours), legitimizes voting by corporations. Which is why the logic is not sound.

I also hardly think that it is solely “progressives” that are infuriated by this decision. It seems to be across party lines (at least in a populist sense). I think we’re ALL losing something here.
and as far as actual substance to the decision, the court took a relatively small-scoped case, and used it to roll back three previous decisions (turn of the century?, 1990 and 2003). That is activism. Not to say that activism is always wrong. But when it represents the interests of probably less than 5% of the population, that is activism against the people, not for them.
I can feel the straw man coming.

P.s., no one was cutting off free speech for “people” that have money. It was for corporations. I’m sorry, I don’t believe that corporations should be allowed to give money.