Thursday, February 11, 2010

Differing views on the Supreme Court's Campaign Finance ruling

Differing, but HUGELY interesting - both sides.  One side arguing that corporate political spending is bad, and the other side arguing that that's not the point.  What's interesting is that the case at the heart of this involved a group attempting to put out an anti-Hillary Clinton movie during an election cycle, and their case was supported by the ACLU.

The decision became even more of a lightning rod when President Obama - ever the classy guy - derided the Supreme Court in front of the entire country while they were guests of his at the State of the Union Address.  And that's AFTER he went back on a promise to use public financing in the 2008 presidential election, which probably did more to destroy the idea of public campaign financing than any politician in history...

Below are a couple of interesting arguments against and in favor of the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.  It opened the door for unions and corporations to be more influential is funding political attacks closer to actual election dates.

Arguing against it, Ralph Nader and  Robert Weissman argue that due to the decision, "Big Business domination of Washington and state capitals will now intensify."

Last month, by a vote of 5 to 4, the U.S. Supreme Court gave carte blanche to the world's largest corporations to spend unlimited sums of money to support or oppose candidates for elected office. Big Business domination of Washington and state capitals will now intensify.
The case of Citizens United portends dire consequences for the nation's constitutional premise of "we the people," not we the corporations. Our constitution, at its origins and through all of its amendments, makes no mention of corporate entities, only human beings and their government.
For 120 years, it was not Congress but the Supreme Court that expanded the definition of "persons" to include for-profit corporations for the purposes of applying constitutional protections. For 30 years, the court has granted First Amendment speech protections to corporations as "artificial persons."
But not until last month has the court declared that the First Amendment gives corporations the right to spend unlimited money to influence elections. The court majority, self-styled believers in precedent and judicial restraint, overturned two major Supreme Court decisions and reversed decades of campaign-finance laws aimed at preventing corporations from having undo influence over local, state and national elections.

Their argument centers about on the negative impacts of corporate cash being spent, yet they don't really get at the actual LEGAL question of whether corporate spending is acceptable free speech.

Taking the other side, the WSJ's Daniel Henninger heavily quotes Justice Scalia's majority opinion, which points out that the idea of corporate boogeymen is not a rational legal argument.

"The Framers thus took it as a given," in Justice Stevens's opinion, "that corporations could be comprehensively regulated (my emphasis) in the service of the public welfare.

In short, private corporations have not much, if anything, to do with the public good.

In his crack-back concurrence, Justice Scalia ridicules "the corporation-hating quotations the dissent has dredged up." He notes that most corporations back then had "state-granted monopoly privileges" (sort of like Fannie and Freddie today—columnist's footnote) and that modern corporations without these state privileges "would probably have been favored by most of our enterprising Founders—excluding, perhaps, Thomas Jefferson and others favoring perpetuation of an agrarian society."
 Copyright 2010 AlphaNinja

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