Critics: ‘Destructive’ Supreme Court decision ’empowers corruption’
Republicans say ‘freedom won,’ liberal jokes real winner is Satan
Update: Obama vows ‘forceful response’
The US Supreme Court on Thursday lifted a 20-year ruling which had set limits on campaign financing by US businesses, and critics, including nonpartisan watchdogs and Congressional Democrats, are up in arms about the decision, which most had feared for a long time. Meanwhile, aside from Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Republicans appear to be gleeful about their second apparent victory of the week.
The nine justices ruled that American corporations could dip freely into their general funds to finance campaign ads either in support or against a particular political candidate.
The move overturns a ruling made two decades ago which had forced companies to only use specially earmarked funds from a political action committee.
The Supreme Court also ruled that any campaign ads not financed by the candidate or their party must be clearly marked with the name of the sponsor.
Vowing “a forceful response” to a ruling which will help “drown out the voices of everyday Americans,” President Barack Obama released the following statement:
With its ruling today, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. 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.
In a decision widely anticipated for its effect on campaign finance laws — if not the First Amendment itself — the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, 5-4, that corporations and independent groups may spend unlimited funds for or against candidates for president and Congress. The ruling, in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, takes effect immediately, and could play a huge role in the 2010 midterm elections.
Both sides in the bigger debate over money and politics agree that today’s decision is significant. The winning side says it’s a victory for free speech and the First Amendment. The losing side said that the reforms placed on campaigns in the aftermath of Watergate and other scandals are in serious jeopardy.
Today’s decision overturns a 20-year ruling — Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce — that prohibited corporations or labor unions from paying for campaign ads. The decision removes spending limits for independent expenditure groups. It threatens to remove spending limits already established in 24 states. And it struck down part of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law that bars issue ads paid for by corporations or unions in the closing days of a campaign.
Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer declared in a scathing press release, “Today’s Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case is a disaster for the American people and a dark day for the Supreme Court.”
The decision will unleash unprecedented amounts of corporate “influence-seeking” money on our elections and create unprecedented opportunities for corporate “influence-buying” corruption.
Today’s decision is the most radical and destructive campaign finance decision in Supreme Court history. In order to reach the decision, five justices abandoned longstanding judicial principles, judicial precedents and judicial restraint.
With the Citizens United opinion, Chief Justice Roberts has abandoned the illusory public commitments he made to “judicial modesty” and “respect for precedent” to cast the deciding vote for a radical decision that profoundly undermines our democracy.
In a stark choice between the right of American citizens to a government free from “influence-buying” corruption and the economic and political interests of American corporations, five Supreme Court Justices today came down in favor of American corporations.
With a stroke of the pen, five Justices wiped out a century of American history devoted to preventing corporate corruption of our democracy.
Today, five Justices issued a decision that will empower “influence-buying” corruption.
Senator Russ Feingold (D-WIS), who with McCain has led the charge against “soft money” contributions, released the following statement:
It is important to note that the decision does not affect McCain-Feingold’s soft money ban, which will continue to prevent corporate contributions to the political parties from corrupting the political process. But this decision was a terrible mistake. Presented with a relatively narrow legal issue, the Supreme Court chose to roll back laws that have limited the role of corporate money in federal elections since Teddy Roosevelt was president. Ignoring important principles of judicial restraint and respect for precedent, the Court has given corporate money a breathtaking new role in federal campaigns. Just six years ago, the Court said that the prohibition on corporations and unions dipping into their treasuries to influence campaigns was ‘firmly embedded in our law.’ Yet this Court has just upended that prohibition, and a century’s worth of campaign finance law designed to stem corruption in government. The American people will pay dearly for this decision when, more than ever, their voices are drowned out by corporate spending in our federal elections. In the coming weeks, I will work with my colleagues to pass legislation restoring as many of the critical restraints on corporate control of our elections as possible.
Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) called it the “worst Supreme Court decision since the Dred Scott case.”
The Hill quotes New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer’s dissatisfaction, as well.
“The bottom line is this: The Supreme Court has just pre-determined the winners of next November’s elections,” Schumer said. “It won’t be Republicans, it won’t be Democrats, it will be corporate America.”
“But this opinion, if gone unchallenged, will permanently taint future elections,” he added. “Allowing corporations to spend at will on elections could have undue influence on elected officials…”
Another article in The Hill notes that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) cheered the decision.
McConnell, a longtime foe of federal law establishing rules on campaign spending, welcomed the court’s decision this morning allowing corporations and organized labor to more freely make independent expenditures in elections.
“For too long, some in this country have been deprived of full participation in the political process. With today’s monumental decision, the Supreme Court took an important step in the direction of restoring the First Amendment rights of these groups by ruling that the Constitution protects their right to express themselves about political candidates and issues up until Election Day,” McConnell said in a statement.
In a press release, U.S. Congressman Mike Pence, Chairman of the House Republican Conference, hailed the decision as a victory for “freedom.”
Freedom won today in the Supreme Court. Today’s ruling in the Citizens United case takes us one step closer to the Founding Fathers’ vision of free speech, a vision that is cherished by all Americans and one Congress has a responsibility to protect. If the freedom of speech means anything, it means protecting the right of private citizens to voice opposition or support for their elected representatives. The fact that the Court overturned a 20-year precedent speaks volumes about the importance of this issue.
In 2003, the Supreme Court unwisely supported the oppressive restrictions on free speech that were part of the 2002 campaign finance law. At the time, I was honored to stand with Senator Mitch McConnell and various state and national organizations in challenging this historic error in court. Since that time, the Court has taken important steps toward restoring to the American people their First Amendment rights. This decision is a victory on behalf of those who cherish the fundamental freedoms protected by the First Amendment.
According to a Tweet by The Hill‘s Mike O’Brien, McCain issued a “terse” statement expressing disappointment with the court’s decision. However, another O’Brien Tweet adds, “McCain also expresses relief (as did Feingold) that soft money limits were left in place by SCOTUS ruling.”
Film critic Roger Ebert, a staunch liberal Democrat, issued an irreverent Tweet: “Supreme Court relaxes limits on Satan’s campaign donations.”
(with AFP report)