1/26/2010

The Supreme Court Ruling on Corporate Funding of Campaigns

In a decision that could have a dramatic effect how elections are conducted in the United States, the Supreme Court has ruled 5-4 in favor of a group of conservative filmmakers of the "Hillary: The Movie." The Court declared unconstitutional (because of the First Amendment) campaign finance regulations which restrict the ability of corporations and unions to use funds from their general treasury for "electioneering" purposes. The result of the decision will increase spending for corporations, unions, and nonprofits in elections.
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This was a very difficult case, because it dealt with free speech as it applies to corporate spending in elections. The nuances of the case were finely debated by Trevor Potter (President and General Counsel of The Campaign Legal Center) and Floyd Abrams (famous First Amendment attorney, who argued the case before the court) on Bill Moyers Journal back in September. Watch it here:


The Far Left are calling this a travesty of justice. In his "Special Comment," MSNBC's Keith Olbermann envisioned "a future United States in which this Supreme Court ruling permitting unbridled corporate campaign spending purchase all the power greed can afford." E.J. Dionne wrote,
__"Defenders of this vast expansion of corporate influence piously claim it's about "free speech." But since when is a corporation, a creation of laws passed by governments, entitled to the same rights as an individual citizen? This ruling will give large business entities far more power than any individual, unless you happen to be Michael Bloomberg or Bill Gates.
__The only proper response to this distortion of our political system by ideologically driven justices is a popular revolt. It would be a revolt of a sort deeply rooted in the American political tradition."
But Jonathan Turely, George Washington University law professor and a frequent guest on Countdown with Keith Olbermann, didn't agree with Olbermann's assessment of the case. See his interaction with Olbermann here:



According to Turley on his blog, The good news in this case is "that two provisions were upheld by the Court (with only Clarence Thomas dissenting): The Court upheld the disclosure requirement that requires corporations to file a report with the FEC on contributors of $1,000 or more (when the corporation spends more than $10,000 a year to produce such ads). It also upheld the disclaimer requirement that requires that the producers say who is responsible for the ad if it not authorized by a candidate or a political committee."

So, since House Republican leader John Boehner said, "I think the Supreme Court decisions today are a big win for the First Amendment and a step in the right direction," perhaps he will submit to a rule that would make him wear his corporate sponsors on his suit, much like NASCAR racers do on theirs.

3 comments:

Michael Kruse said...

I love the corporate sponsorship logos idea.

Byron Harvey said...

I think that Turley is onto something when he suggests that there are a whole lot of other problematic issues with the way we do elections besides this particular issue. Though I support the Court's decision, that by no means suggests that I think our election system is anything but significantly flawed; it is. The power of incumbency is way too strong. The two parties have rigged the system so that third parties have little chance. And so on. Turley's definitely onto something.

One comeback, though, to the Nascar/Boehner thing: where is the line? How do you know that a corporation has a politician "bought and sold"? Here's my point: if I ran for something, there'd be somebody who'd like what I stood for, and would donate money to me. Would that automatically render me beholden to that entity? So why does it seem that we leap to the assumption that politicians are automatically in the hip pockets of their supporters? I'm not naive; I'm sure that it happens, on both sides of the aisle. But I tend to seriously doubt that every politician is available to the highest bidder (and understand, I say this as someone who is massively distrustful of politicians!).

Matthew said...

"I love the corporate sponsorship logos idea."

I second that. There should be a list that accompanies their ballot and includes every group that contributes more than, say, $250,000 to their campaign.