Today the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission which overturned a hundred years of campaign finance laws, including part of the McCain FeingoldAct.  Corporations and Unions can now spend money directly on the support of candidates.  According to Michael Waldman of the Washington Post:

This far-reaching ruling augurs a significant power struggle. For the first time since 1937, an increasingly conservative federal judiciary faces a progressive and activist Congress and president. Until now, it was unclear how the justices would accommodate the new political alignment. The Citizens United decision suggests an assertive court, eager to overturn precedent, looming as a challenge to President Obama’s agenda.

The Atlantic explains the decision:

Justice Kennedy, in the majority opinion, reasoned that the government can’t discriminate against speakers based on their corporate identities, and that “all speakers, including individuals and the media, use money amassed from the economic marketplace to fund their speech, and the First Amendment protects the resulting speech.”

This basically eliminates a middleman: before today, corporations and unions had to set up PACs (political action committees), filed separately with the IRS, that would receive donations. And they did. Corporations and unions spend millions of dollars on elections. Now, however, the accounting firewall is gone, and Wal-Mart or the Service Employees International Union, for instance, can spend their corporate/union money directly on candidates.



The Richmond Times Dispatch had several quotes from prominent Viirginia Republicans and Democrats:

“I’m dismayed that the Supreme Court has further opened the floodgates for corporate capture of our democracy, taking our government away from Main Street and surrendering it to the insurance companies, oil companies, and big banks that foot the bills for 30-second spots.” — Rep. Tom Perriello, D-5th

“Laws like McCain-Feingold have actually taken away transparency from a process that needs it. It has resulted in outside organizations, 501c4s and 527s, that are frankly far more opaque than transparent, that simply confuse people trying to make their decision. I believe that anything that moves the process toward greater transparency and real-time reporting of political donations and contributions would be the responsible action, and one that would restore the confidence of voters.” — Rep. Eric I. Cantor, R-7th

“The Supreme Court’s ruling today will allow the money of corporate interests to flood the political process, will undermine free and fair elections and further erode voters’ confidence in our system of democracy. It is a major victory for oil companies, banks, health insurance companies and other special interests that already use their power over Washington to drown out the voices of regular Americans.” — Timothy M. Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee

“This U.S. Supreme Court decision is a positive development in the restoration of freedom of expression in America. We need freedom and disclosure in politics rather than restrictions and subterfuge.” — Former Sen. George Allen, a Republican

Does it seem like from here on out that labor unions and big corporations will control all our elections? Why even bother to vote?   This decision appears to be a kick in the teeth of all Americans.  Now it seems that the labor unions and the corporations carry more weight than the individual. 

I expect graft and corruption to be the outcome of this decision.  Prepare for a spending fest.  Transparency?  Ha!  More like in your face and what are you going to do about it.  This decision redefines judicial activism.  Overturning 100 years of precedence  spells out that there were 5 men on a mission.  Now we know what George Bush really meant when he uttered those fateful words, “Mission Accomplished.”

43 Thoughts to “5-4 Citizens United Decision Clearly Judicial Activism”

  1. Slowpoke Rodriguez

    Well, Sotomayor practically embodies the concept of “Judicial Activism,” so I guess that’s the name of the game now.

  2. Slowpoke Rodriguez

    Graft, Corruption, Spending Fest? Thy name is Obama Administration.

  3. Slowpoke Rodriguez

    As far as addressing the point, it’s bad on both sides, but I doubt we can stop politicians being bought and paid for on either side. What we should make law is information….disclose everything, then let the voters decide. But the outcome of this decision is actually more graft and corruption than we have right now. The system is broke, big-time, on both sides. This just evens it out a bit. Of course, the Republicans don’t have quite the “get-out-the-non-existant, dead, homeless, non-registered voters” infrastructure that the Democrats have, but now the money will be more even.

  4. Second-Alamo

    Hey, now the fat cat bankers can buy their way out of pressure from the gov., and the pressure to make unsecured loans also. The world does indeed revolve around money. I don’t think this is exactly what Obama meant when he used the phrase ‘spread the wealth’. Be careful what you wish for!

  5. It sounds like everyone is sort of sickened by this latest ruling. Is this also going to give unions more power in order to keep up with business money going in to elections? I don’t want either entity having that much power over who we elect.

    This just makes me sick.

    Slowpoke, I would agree with you at this time. There have been times when that was not the case. Both parties have sleaze bags. I just rewatched All the President’s Men the other week. Nothing says corruption like Watergate.

  6. Slow, I don’t think her track record necessarily indicates activism. Well, lets face it, any change is activism. But I think her words lead people to that conclusion rather than her actual rulings. For that matter, Scalia is an activist in my opinion.

    I feel like this decision can do more to change our country than any decision made in the past 25 years–maybe longer.

    Congress waters down because of sheer numbers. Presidents come and go,but the Supremes are forever.

  7. As if we peons weren’t already stomped upon by big business…now it’s officially okay for them to own government.

    I hope those justices burn in hell.

  8. Elena

    THIS is a must read!!!!!

    CEO’s of big companies getting tired of politicians soliciting THEM for money.

  9. Elena

    Come on M-H, didn’t you know, “activist” judges are only liberal, NEVER conservative 🙄

  10. Firedancer

    I am so upset about this I can’t see straight. The hypocrisy and cynicism is beyond belief. Big money really does rule, apparently, illustrated in the health care fiasco and now this. Insurance companies will continue to rake in profits and business interests will have even greater freedom in selecting candidates. The despicable tone of negative campaigning already is a huge turnoff and does nothing to increase our well being. I feel like this country is becoming a caricature of the ugly American. The shock of Obama’s election has brought out the ugliest traits of conservatism.

    I just checked into bvbl to see what that dude has to say about the Supreme Court decision, but he’s busy accusing Ricardo Juarez of being an illegal immigrant.

  11. Witness Too

    Did anyone see the movie Avatar? It was very interesting that the military aggressors were not representing any particular country. They were a corporation with their own army. They didn’t need to get public support for acts of war because their only responsibility was to their share holders. I think that is the sad fate of the American democracy if we let mega-corporations grow and grow until they can buy the entire federal government.

    The Supreme Court has essentially enabled Haliburton and others like it to grow by exponential degrees. Do we want our government become just one big privately owned corporation with no responsibility to the people? I mean really, who cares if it benefits your political party in the short term. Think of the long term. Everything you love about America could change if it is corporate money and not votes that control the path our government takes.

  12. It makes me sick also. Corporate America already owns the world. This is the final slap in the face.

    Notice no one mentions all the overseas jobs when they discuss the unemployment rate. How many of those jobs overseas were taken from Americans?

  13. Firedancer, I heard he has trotted out that old tired, Zapatista Army he always digs out when things are especially slow? He has just about worn that bad boy out recycling it.

    I guess it still incites the shallow end of the gene pool.

  14. RingDangDoo

    @Witness Too

    >>>Did anyone see the movie Avatar? It was very interesting that the military aggressors were not representing any particular country. They were a corporation with their own army. They didn’t need to get public support for acts of war because their only responsibility was to their share holders.

    Well, there ya go! A fantasy movie reinforces [your] reality.

    So did you believe that Joanie really loved Chachi, or do you realize it was a fantasy situation based on a script?

  15. Is this Big Love for animated cat women?

  16. kelly3406

    In case no one has noticed, this decision is constitutionally correct. That pesky Constitution does not allow the government to target any person or organization for limits on free speech.

    No critic of this decision (that I am aware of) can describe the constitutional basis for corporate restriction on free speech, because there is no basis for it. Even Justice John Paul Jones could only point out that the decision overturned precedent, but did provide any constitutional reason for keeping the ban.

    I applaud this decision. There was already plenty of money from corporations/labor unions that was making its way into the campaign process. But it was impossible to know where the money was coming from due to the “money laundering” effect of organizations like and ACORN. I think this will actually reduce graft/corruption because it will shed light on which organization is donating to which candidate.

    The really interesting part of this is the implication for other court precedents that lack any constitutional basis. Anyone taking bets on the long-term survival of Roe vs Wade?

  17. Firedancer

    Kelly, why do you only mention money laundering effects of “organizations like and ACORN”? Can you give any examples from the corporate side that will also be tempered?

    Regarding Roe v Wade… Why should the government be able to force people to have unwanted children? Aren’t conservatives all about limiting the reach of government? I know religious self righteous zealots care more about the unborn then the already living, but I can’t understand why conservatives who support limited government would also be against the right to terminate a pregnancy.

    Re Avatar…It wasn’t a fantasy movie, it was a metaphor for the history of this country. I also thought they lifted the script of “Dances with Wolves”.

  18. Firedancer, I have often wondered about the hypocrisy of the big conservative nose into people’s personal lives all while hollering about the shame of big government and government’s nose in their business.

    As for Roe, it has been in jeopardy for the past 37 years to the day. The sad thing is, women with means will always be able to get abortions. It is the poor women and teen agers who will have the difficulty. So let’s do the math and read the history….more children coming up out of poor families….cycle of poverty….

    Those same conservatives are already hollering about having to pay to assist poor families. Makes perfect sense if you are into hypocrisy.

  19. Firedancer

    I like your words, MH…”Makes perfect sense if you are into hypocrisy.” At least admit it.

  20. kelly3406

    There ARE major corporate donors to and ACORN. I am sure that there are similar organizations that have a conservative agenda, but none (that I am aware of) have produced such a large impact. If you are aware of any, please feel free to identify them.

    I do support limited government with limited power. There is absolutely nothing in the Constitution that gives the Federal government the power to force states to allow abortions. If you want the “right to an abortion” to be guaranteed, then you either have to 1) pass a constitutional amendment which makes it a right; or 2) work state-by-state to ensure that the “right” is protected legislatively. A Supreme Court decision (e.g. Roe vs Wade) is no substitute for a constitutional amendment.

    I object to the efforts of the Supreme Court and Congress to conjure up federal rights (i.e. abortion) or enact mandates (i.e. school busing; healthcare insurance mandate) that have no Constitutional basis.

    If the Roberts Court continues to roll back unconstitutional legislation (D.C. gun ban, McCain-Feingold, etc), then I will continue to applaud it.

  21. Firedancer

    Ok, Kelly, I hear ya. I much prefer thoughtful responses such as yours above to soundbite arguments…which happens on both sides.

  22. States Rights pretty much went kaput with the Civil War. What on earth gives the federal government the right to impose NCLB on the states and the people of the states?

    I suppose that is why we have a Supreme Court. People don’t agree. Nearly all recent decisions are 5-4 splits.

    Moving past abortion, specifically, how can anyone argue with Griswold v. Connecticut. In 1965 the state of Connecticut prevented women from purchasing contraception. 1965, not 1865!!!! To put it in perspective, that is 9 years before Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT)became a congressman. Overturning this incredibly archaic law probably would not have been possible legislatively because of the strong arm of THE church.

    Overturning Roe would probably overturn Griswold since much of Roe was built on Griswold. I want to see grown women not be allowed to purchase contraception.

    Overturning Roe would certainly be judicial activism, but that is why I am not counting on it not happening. Judicial activism is generally code for ‘I don’t like the decision.’ I sure wouldn’t like that one.

  23. I hope I didn’t just sound-byte……

  24. We also would not have Brown vs Board of Education if we clung to the feds not having the right to force any education issues on the states. I am not a Constitutional scholar by any stretch of the imagination. But I am unfamiliar with any part of the Constitution that invites the federal government into state school decisions.

  25. kelly3406

    I would argue that ‘judicial activism’ occurs if the court decision is based on what the justices think the outcome ‘ought’ to be versus what outcome is allowed by the Constitution.

    Brown vs Board of Education was based on an interpretation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, so it should not necessarily be viewed as judicial activism. Even though the federal government should not be involved in state schools, it has the responsibility to strike down laws that violate the Constitution. In this case, there was a strong constitutional basis for the decision that has allowed it to stand as a landmark decision.

    Roe vs Wade certainly was not based on any reasonable constitutional considerations, so it should be viewed as an example of judicial activism. If the Supreme Court were to overturn it, then it would simply be a correction of the original judicial activism.

  26. Roe has roots in the 9th and 14th amendments. It also relies on Griswold. You did not address Griswold. It is difficult to ignore Griswold when talking about Roe. Do you think a state has the right to tell a woman she cannot buy contraception?

    This is where that rascally ‘privacy’ kicks in. The word doesn’t appear in the constitution but is is sure implied throughout.

    As for Brown, if we are talking about the Equal Protection Clause, I really must ask why a grand sweep wasn’t done as far as lunch counters, buses, restrooms, housing, marriage wasn’t done? The Federal government has no claims on education. Yet they ruled on an educational matter and not other areas where there was blatant, open discrimination. There are many people, mainly most of the south, who would have disagreed that Brown vs Bd of Ed wasn’t judicial activism. That might be why the south was peppered with ‘Impeach Earl Warren’ billboards.

  27. kelly3406

    I agree that a state should not interfere with a woman’s choice to buy contraception. However, the U.S. Constitution (in my opinion) does not grant the Federal government the power to intervene in the matter. It is really an issue for the ballot box or constitutional amendment.

    The problem with implied rights is that it is impossible to know what rights are guaranteed. Two justices may reach different conclusions, because by definition there is nothing that really defines the implied right. This means that it is basically left to a junta (of Supreme Court justices) to define the most basic of human rights without any recourse from the President or Congress. In my view, these implied rights are the essence of judicial activism.

  28. How on earth can people vote on whether to allow women to buy contraception or not? I also don’t think we need hundreds of Constitutional amendments over different things.

    I am not uncomfortable with implied rights. Those of us who see the Constitution as a living document generally aren’t, even though there might be decisions handed down that we don’t like. It was simply impossible to cover all bases some 223 years ago when the Constitution was first ratified. Those added amendments that have come later could not cover all bases either. The Constitution is difficult to change, as it should be. 27 amendments in 223 years is rather remarkable.

    Roe cannot be undone without toppling Griswold I do not think. These are areas I would advise the courts to be very careful of.

    I am just not one of the strict constructions types. I do laugh at those strict constructionists who howl off into the sunset over Plyler vs. Doe. Nothing could be more direct. Pretty difficult to change the 14th amendment.

  29. Witness Too

    Ring, if you prefer reality, here’s a dose I hope you can handle: the Iraq war was pushed for by private war profiteering companies that had a stock holder and a board member calling the shots inside the White House. His name was Dick Cheney, and the war profiteering company is called Halliburton. You should study up on reality and then you’ll have a better grasp on how art can be a form of political criticism.

  30. A PW County Resident

    Wolfie, using your argument that the Constitution is a “living document” with implied rights, why would there even be a need to amend it? So it shouldn’t be hard. So you either believe that the document is important to be difficult to change or you believe it doesn’t need an amendment–that is the easiest way to “amend”it, just have the judge do it.

    It didn’t need to be covering all bases 223 years ago because even strict construtionist believe that it is “living” but it is because the rights are broad enough to be applied to current times. That is the beauty of the Constitution.

    But to invent a right that is not enumerated is not “living”, it is amending it without using the legal means to do so. The Roe v. Wade and the Griswold would have been not as controversial if there was a “right of privacy” actually enumerated and not implied. And many do not believe that it is implied throughout as you do.

    There is a difference between “does a state have a right” and “should the state do it”. If medical evidence said that certain contraceptives cause death to certain people, does the state “have the right” to regulate it? If so, then they do have the right.

    I know that Griswold was not the result of state action that was justifiable but “justifiable” applies to “should the state do it” not “does it have a right”.

    Have to agree with Kelly in all of the arguments. Judicial activism isn’t just making a decision that is contrary to one’s thinking, it is inventing a decision because a judge believes it should be that way even if there is no constitutional coverage for it.

  31. A PW County Resident

    Remember also that Roe did not give an unfettered right of a woman over the right of an unborn child. The construction assumed that a woman with the advice of a doctor decided that for her, it was necessary to terminate the pregnancy. Roe never intended it to be used as birth control and it even set up timing for when an unborn’s rights become equal to a woman’s.

    By the way, although I am opposed to abortion personally, it doesn’t mean that I think I can judge another’s actions. God retained that for himself and it isn’t my right to impose my values on another. It is my right however to counter misinformation about the procedure when organizations portray it as just another means of contraception.

  32. Witness Too

    And for all these right wing extremists who claim to be worried about terrorism, why did you support the invasion of Iraq? Why so you still make (bad) excuses for that invasion? Dick Cheney/Halliburton’s profiteering in Iraq, along with other war profiteering companies’ profit bonanzas are the reason the Bush years made us so much less safe. They took their eyes off the priority, which should be national security, and went instead for oil and war profiteering. This is also the reason for the national debt you claim to be concerned about. We are so much less safe because so much less was done to fight terrorism due to the Iraq disaster designed to enrich a few corporations.

    I call Iraq a even though it was a great success for certain mega-corporations. Now these types of companies can control the US military (again) by purchasing the White House. People who don’t understand how this works are enabling future Bush/Cheney style foreign policy disasters.

  33. I do not know of one pro choice organization that feels abortion should be used for contraception.

    You know Rez and Kelly, we are never going to agree. I am not an attorney or a strict construtionist. I can’t argue process because it isn’t my field. I do find that people start honing in on enumerated rights depending on whether or not they approve of the decision or not.

    Brown was as much of a stretch as Roe or Griswold. All are grounded in the 14th amendment. If Brown were really all about equal protection, many other forms of discrimination would have been taken care of right there on the spot. There would probably have been no need for a Civil Rights Act.

    For that matter, there obviously are a few glitches in the 2nd or it would not be revisited so often.

    Meanwhile, we shall see. Should Roe be overturned, it will not be a pretty political landscape. The country will be even more governed by abortion to be or not to be’s. There is already too much of that.

  34. In our Republic we also protect the will of the minority from the will of the majority.

    I predict same sex marriage issues will be resolved in the courts rather than through legislature or referrendum. It will come right out of the 14th like so many of these other cases where the minority or the under represented has been beaten down. it could never be decided in a state legislature, I do not think. The opposition would always overpower.

    Loving vs Virginia would have never been decided by the Virginia Legislature. It is absurd to think it would be. Strange. It came along some 13-14 years AFTER Brown. Equal protection is only doled out case by case it seems.

    While I worry about Roe and Griswold, it would be pure hypocrisy to zap Roe without taking out about 100 other court cases. So much for starry decisus. Take one, take them all. I am not so sure anyone wants to deal with that one.

  35. A PW County Resident

    “I do not know of one pro choice organization that feels abortion should be used for contraception.”

    You seriously believe that?

  36. A PW County Resident

    I suppose they are all about the health of the mother or because of rape?

  37. Rez, I absolutely believe that. Can you name me one, along with documentation, that encourages abortion to be used as birth control?

    They are about women making morally appropriate choices for themselves without government interference. Rape, incest and health of the mother are what they call ‘the hard cases.’

    Most accept the confines of Roe.

    By pro-choice organizations, I mean NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and groups like that.

  38. For the record, of the 3 of us here, I am the most stridently pro- choice. 1 other person is not and the other is. They may voice their own feelings on the matter. I find it insulting for government to think they can make ethical and moral choices for me and mine.

    Most people who are not pro choice also are the very people who feel that governement needs to be out of people’s life. I find that to be very conflicting.

  39. A PW County Resident

    We may disagree on the intent of the following page from Planned Parenthood but it sure seems to equate abortion with adoption and parenting. Since abortion is the only one of the three that will result in the end of pregnancy and thus a means of birth control—-

    You are certainly free to call it making a morally appropriate choice but when it ends a pregnancy I call it birth control.

  40. PWC taxpayer

    The Supreme Court’s ruling might also be viewed as leveling the resources available. Both sides – the unions and the corporations are awash in money in elections. Controls – what controls? The difference is that the unions can control who works and can therfore influence – if not require – that members perform unlimited and unreported “in kind” (labor hours) support to an election. I beleive that corporations are prohibited form doing this.

  41. Rez, you can call it what you want. Technically anything that prevents birth is birth control. Being a nun is birth control. However, most of us prefer to not be quite so literal.

    Actually some birth control could be seen as ending pregnancy, depending on how one defines pregancy. Do we mean fertilized egg or do we mean implantation of the fertiziled egg?

    Regardless, I don’t disapprove of birth control for anyone. As for abortion, it isn’t up for me to make that decision for someone else. People have abortions for a variety of reasons and they do not owe me an explanation.

    Do people ever make the wrong choice? Sure they do. I have also seen women pine away most of their life for a baby they gave up at birth for adoption. My husband had 2 aunts who didn’t speak to each other for 60 years because one because pregnant. One of them should have minded her own business.

    Women with unwanted pregnancies will always have abortions. Women with some means will have far safer medical care than poor women.

    As for my personal feelings, they don’t matter. They should not be a part of national law.

  42. A PW County Resident

    I guess it depends what your definition of “is” is. Ending pregnancy is the ending of a meaningless fertilized egg if that is you definition. Its even pregnancy when we have a fertilized egg.

    I sure wish I could have the same cavalier attitude. People have abortions for one reason–to terminate a pregnancy and it is the control of whether the birth process takes place. Now whether it is justified is an another matter but then terminating any life is the same thing, is it not?

    I don’t disapprove of pregnancy prevention at all. Nor do I impose my values on others. And the government has no right either. I figure my creator may have a say about it at some point so it is not my issue. But as I said, when an organization wants to depict the termination of life as equal to taking a pill or using some other pregnancy prevention, I reserve the right to speak out about it. It should be the last resort of last resorts. But is it depicted that way?

    I am not sure you have stayed on topic. And that is okay if you think it answered me. I don’t think you have.

  43. I don’t feel I am cavalier at all nor do I feel you are in a position to evaluate whether I am nor not. I have not said how I personally feel about abortion, nor should it mattter. I am simply concerned about policy.

    I will agree with you regarding one’s creator, (and everyone else’s creator). But that is between you and Him. I believe women, and their families if they chose to include them in the decision-making process, have to evaluate what they should do, not only about unintended pregnancy , but also situations where there is fetal anomoly or maternal health issues. Some people have tougher decisions to make than others. Very few are uncaring about the situation.

    You and I walked away from that link with very different attitudes. You speak of imposting one’s values. A clinic or organization that provides abortion really should not be imposing any values when women are weighing a decision about pregnancy. They should be sticking to facts and medical information. One’s minister, priest, rabbi or counsellor is a beter choice for imposed values.

    If life were truly sacred to people, we would not have wars or executions.

    What is it that I have not answered?

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