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Clark Kent

Supreme Court Sells Country To Upper Class

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http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/21/AR2010012101724.html

 

Supreme Court rolls back campaign spending limits

By MARK SHERMAN

The Associated Press

Thursday, January 21, 2010; 11:00 AM

 

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that corporations may spend as freely as they like to support or oppose candidates for president and Congress, easing decades-old limits on business efforts to influence federal campaigns.

 

By a 5-4 vote, the court overturned a 20-year-old ruling that said companies can be prohibited from using money from their general treasuries to produce and run their own campaign ads. The decision, which almost certainly will also allow labor unions to participate more freely in campaigns, threatens similar limits imposed by 24 states.

 

It leaves in place a prohibition on direct contributions to candidates from corporations and unions.

 

Critics of the stricter limits have argued that they amount to an unconstitutional restraint of free speech, and the court majority agreed.

 

"The censorship we now confront is vast in its reach," Justice Anthony Kennedy said in his majority opinion, joined by his four more conservative colleagues.

 

Strongly disagreeing, Justice John Paul Stevens said in his dissent, "The court's ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions around the nation."

 

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor joined Stevens' dissent, parts of which he read aloud in the courtroom.

 

The justices also struck down part of the landmark McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill that barred union- and corporate-paid issue ads in the closing days of election campaigns.

 

Advocates of strong campaign finance regulations have predicted that a court ruling against the limits would lead to a flood of corporate and union money in federal campaigns as early as this year's midterm congressional elections.

 

"It's the Super Bowl of bad decisions," said Common Cause president Bob Edgar, a former congressman from Pennsylvania.

 

The decision removes limits on independent expenditures that are not coordinated with candidates' campaigns.

 

The case does not affect political action committees, which mushroomed after post-Watergate laws set the first limits on contributions by individuals to candidates. Corporations, unions and others may create PACs to contribute directly to candidates, but they must be funded with voluntary contributions from employees, members and other individuals, not by corporate or union treasuries.

 

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas joined Kennedy to form the majority in the main part of the case.

 

Roberts, in a separate opinion, said that upholding the limits would have restrained "the vibrant public discourse that is at the foundation of our democracy."

 

Stevens complained that those justices overreached by throwing out earlier Supreme Court decisions that had not been at issue when this case first came to the court.

 

"Essentially, five justices were unhappy with the limited nature of the case before us, so they changed the case to give themselves an opportunity to change the law," Stevens said.

 

The case began when a conservative group, Citizens United, made a 90-minute movie that was very critical of Hillary Rodham Clinton as she sought the Democratic presidential nomination. Citizens United wanted to air ads for the anti-Clinton movie and distribute it through video-on-demand services on local cable systems during the 2008 Democratic primary campaign.

 

But federal courts said the movie looked and sounded like a long campaign ad, and therefore should be regulated like one.

 

The movie was advertised on the Internet, sold on DVD and shown in a few theaters. Campaign regulations do not apply to DVDs, theaters or the Internet.

 

The court first heard arguments in March, then asked for another round of arguments about whether corporations and unions should be treated differently from individuals when it comes to campaign spending.

 

The justices convened in a special argument session in September, Sotomayor's first. The conservative justices gave every indication then that they were prepared to take the steps they did on Thursday.

 

The justices, with only Thomas in dissent, did uphold McCain-Feingold requirements that anyone spending money on political ads must disclose the names of contributors.

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The sad part is, the lawyer in me agrees with this decision, even if the citizen in me thinks dollar-votes are the most inequitable form of democracy known to man.

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im not sure why money should enable one person to have more free speech than another

 

Cuz it costs money to spread that speech.

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Well, corporations could already do quite a lot to indirectly influence elections, such as contributing unlimited amounts to 527s, before this decision so I'm not really sure how much impact it would have, even if SCOTUS had allowed corporations to give unlimited money directly to candidates. At least then it would be more transparent.

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Well, corporations could already do quite a lot to indirectly influence elections, such as contributing unlimited amounts to 527s, before this decision so I'm not really sure how much impact it would have, even if SCOTUS had allowed corporations to give unlimited money directly to candidates. At least then it would be more transparent.

As I understand it, 527's and PAC's could collect unlimited sums and use them for almost any purpose. But corporate general treasuries could not contribute to candidates, 527's, or PAC's. So Goldman Sachs (though a PAC) could raise money for a cause, but the company could not take its $18 kazllion annual profits and give them to political causes. Under the ruling today, there is no longer a firewall around corporate treasuries. Companies can now directly contribute to campaigns, PAC's, and 527's.

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Ladies and Gentlemen, the New Hampshire Primary. Brought to you by Pepsi, Doritos, and Hertz Rent-a-car.

 

Sadly, I kind of agree with Clark. It's legally probably the right decision, but there has to be some formula for campaign finance that doesn't involve destroying any chance for a marketplace of ideas rather than an auction.

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I'm not convinced it is the right legal decision. It gives the rights of an individual to a corporation. If corporations are to be considered "people," then they should vote in elections, etc.

 

I remember debating the concept of whether corporations should be treated like individuals in LD a few years ago. I can't remember the exact context.

 

Corporations cannot be tried for crimes (their leaders can), corporations cannot be sent to jail. Corporations don't have aright to bear arms (their members do). Corporations don't have juries of their peers.

 

The line between corporations and individuals has been drawn throughout the law. To claim that corporations, as entities, have a "freedom of speech" is ridiculous. People have rights -- not corporations.

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. People have rights -- not corporations.

 

Good point.

 

Ill tell my corporate law professor tomorrow his entire life has been a waste and that hes entirely full of shit.

 

(Thats twice if dissed you in half an hour. Feel kinda bad for that. The last one was a little offsides, but thats cuz im sick of hearing about Pat Robertson. This one is deserved though.)

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As always, I can expect you guys to keep my head cool by pointing out the obvious of what's already happening and then some pertinent info. ;)

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Good point.

 

Ill tell my corporate law professor tomorrow his entire life has been a waste and that hes entirely full of shit.

You should do that. The idea that a corporation is entitled to all the rights of our society while it is susceptible to few of the punishments does seem counter-intuitive.

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You should do that. The idea that a corporation is entitled to all the rights of our society while it is susceptible to few of the punishments does seem counter-intuitive.

 

I think the fact that corporate law is separate field of law means that it doesnt have ALL the rights...just some. And apparently this is one of them.

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I think the fact that corporate law is separate field of law means that it doesnt have ALL the rights...just some. And apparently this is one of them.

I'm not sure what you mean by "separate field," particularly when you're arguing that the First Amendment should apply equally to people and companies with no distinction between the two.

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If I remember my constitutional law correctly, the argument for corporations having (limited) rights such as this is that corporations are really just people. More precisely, they are the shareholders, who contract other people (ie, the mangement/workforce) to do whatever they want. When it comes to corporations, we expect them to have one interest- maximizing profits. Legally, me giving $10 to McCain is the same as me giving $10 to Exxon to give to McCain.

 

EDIT: Similarly, the constitution is blind to my motives. It does not care whether I give $10 in the hopes he bans abortion or if I give $10 in the hopes he subsidizes the company I own, helping my profits.

 

EDIT2: We may want to change that.

Edited by Clark Kent

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I'm not sure what you mean by "separate field," particularly when you're arguing that the First Amendment should apply equally to people and companies with no distinction between the two.

 

Im not saying that people and corporations should be equal under the first amendment, im just saying that corporations do have SOME rights, hence why we have corporate law and corporate lawyers to discern their rights.

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Im not saying that people and corporations should be equal under the first amendment, im just saying that corporations do have SOME rights, hence why we have corporate law and corporate lawyers to discern their rights.

 

Right, that doesn't mean that some of those rights should include the 'freedom to wipe out everyone who makes less than 40 million a year's free speech'

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Right, that doesn't mean that some of those rights should include the 'freedom to wipe out everyone who makes less than 40 million a year's free speech'

 

Im pretty sure theyre still limited to the 2500 maximum donation that individuals are.

 

 

If you honestly think that the last few years of McCain Feingold have been a utopia of politics without big money, your having a laugh. 527s have been bombarding us for the last 6 years, this just means the money will come from different places.

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Im pretty sure theyre still limited to the 2500 maximum donation that individuals are.

 

 

If you honestly think that the last few years of McCain Feingold have been a utopia of politics without big money, your having a laugh. 527s have been bombarding us for the last 6 years, this just means the money will come from different places.

 

You obviously don't deny that it is a net increase in corporate money though, right?

 

Also, McCain-Feingold may not have done a whole lot, but now we can't push for anything more substantial. If you thought there was too much corporate influence in politics before, now there is literally nothing you can do about it in the legislative realm on any level; federal, state, or local. That, to me, is disheartening.

 

What I think is most frightening about this ruling is that it demonstrates a tendency to see corporations as people, and they have broken with precedent to make that clear. We will likely see further challenges.

Edited by Danny Tanner

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Ok, I may have jumped the gun on legislative action. Moveon seems to think otherwise. I encourage all to sign the petition.

 

Subject: Help stop the flood of corporate money into our democracy

 

Hi,

 

Yesterday, the Supreme Court announced a disastrous rollback of campaign finance laws. Their 5-4 decision gives corporations free rein to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections.

 

It's a horrible decision. But we can undo some of the damage if Congress passes public financing of elections, which would give progressives and populists who don't have industry backing the ability to compete.

 

I just signed a petition urging Congress to pass public financing of elections quickly--can you join me at the link below?

 

http://pol.moveon.org/fairelectionsnow/?r_by=18673-9330568-4waK.sx&rc=paste

 

Thanks!

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Im pretty sure theyre still limited to the 2500 maximum donation that individuals are.

 

 

If you honestly think that the last few years of McCain Feingold have been a utopia of politics without big money, your having a laugh. 527s have been bombarding us for the last 6 years, this just means the money will come from different places.

Everything I am reading is telling me that there is no limit on how much they can contribute.

 

"Companies, which had been barred since 1947 from using general-treasury dollars in support of or in opposition to a candidate, now can spend millions of dollars on their own campaign ads, potentially punishing or rewarding lawmakers for their votes on legislation. Labor unions, though they weren't directly at issue in the case, have been subject to the same restrictions and may also now expand their political spending."

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35011959/ns/business-businessweekcom/

 

No, I am not living in a Utopia. I understand that 527s have been doing this for awhile now. I guess I just dont buy the argument that "its already been sort of happening, no reason to not make it easier"

Also, this isn't just about McCain-Feingold, it is reversing something that has been in place since 1947. There is some regulation with PAC's/527 this decision will make the money come much easier and in much greater sums.

Edited by Lynn C. Thompson

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I am just curious... so for a corporation like J&J, which is a family of companies, could each company donate the maximum amount? The companies operate completely separately from one another.

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I am just curious... so for a corporation like J&J, which is a family of companies, could each company donate the maximum amount? The companies operate completely separately from one another.

 

yeah, if it was coming from separate treasuries

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