Supreme Court Decision Radically Overhauls Campaign Finance Laws in Favor of Corporations

by: Kyle Berlin
hat tip: t r u t h o u t
Thursday 21 January 2010

In a 5-4 Supreme Court decision that portends massive changes in campaign finance, corporations will no longer be banned from spending money on presidential or Congressional elections.

The conservative wing of the court, with Anthony Kennedy joining, overruled two long-held precedents in reaching the decision, which said that corporations have the same right to use their own money to fund campaign ads as individuals do.

Kennedy, in his opinion for the majority, wrote that “the Government may regulate corporate political speech through disclaimer and disclosure requirements, but it may not suppress that speech altogether.”

The ruling also overturned a segment of the McCain-Feingold Act, which bans the broadcast of ads that mention a candidate for federal office 60 days before a general election or 30 days before a primary or caucus.

Justice John Paul Stevens, speaking for the court’s liberal wing, including Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Stephen Breyer, read part of his dissent out loud in the courtroom.

In his dissent, he wrote, “although they make enormous contributions to our society, corporations are not actually members of it.”

Campaign finance experts say the decision will allow freer participation by organizations like labor unions, though direct contributions by corporations to candidates are still prohibited.

The ruling also overturned a segment of the McCain-Feingold Act, which bans the broadcast of ads that mention a candidate for federal office 60 days before a general election or 30 days before a primary or caucus.

In a harshly worded statement, President Barack Obama blasted the Supreme Court ruling and said he has instructed his administration to immediately work with Congress to address the issue.

“With its ruling today, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics,” Obama said. “It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.

“This ruling gives the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington–while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates. That’s why I am instructing my Administration to get to work immediately with Congress on this issue. We are going to talk with bipartisan Congressional leaders to develop a forceful response to this decision. The public interest requires nothing less.”

Other dissenters said that this decision would prompt a rush of corporate spending in elections, especially in expensive upcoming races like the midterm Congressional elections.

In a statement, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Florida), who has introduced legislation that aims to stave off what he calls the “corpocracy” that will result from the high court decision, said, “The Supreme Court in essence has ruled that corporations can buy elections. If that happens, democracy in America is over. We cannot put the law up for sale, and award government to the highest bidder.”

The case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, concerned the right of Citizen’s United, a conservative non-profit corporation, to broadcast “Hillary: The Movie”, a documentary which focused on various scandals that unfolded during President Bill Clinton’s tenure in office, as well as challenging Hillary Clinton’s record in the Senate. Citizens United released the movie during the 2008 presidential primary, but was not allowed to air it on cable or on a video on-demand service.

Because the movie was produced in part with corporate funds, a lower court ruled that the movie fell under the restrictions of the McCain-Feingold Act.

Creative Commons License: This work by Truthout is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

1 Comment

  1. Charles Robert

    January 22, 2010 at 12:25 am

    Corporations are not people. However, they are “persons”. Furthermore, and even more profound; all “persons” (specifically, artificial persons) are corporations! If men and women are unable to distinguish between themselves (men and women) and their “persons” within our Admiralty/Maritime court system, that man or woman is presumed by the court to be a “US person”, and, by extension, a “corporation” in subjection to the court.
    The unratified Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution is the evil with which our quagmire began.

    Don’t believe me… Do the research… It will blow your mind!

    Blacks Law Dictionary 2nd edition;
    CORPORATION. An artificial person or legal entity created by or under the authority of the laws of state or nation…
    PEOPLE. A state; as the people of the state of New York. A nation in its collective and political capacity.
    PERSON. A man considered according to the rank be holds in society, with all the rights to which the place be bolds entities him, and the duties which it imposes.

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