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.”