Radical judicial activism threatens U. S. elections

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The Schumer - Van Hollen bill


ARTICLE from The Plain Dealer, 1-27-10, by Tim Rutten

[Radical judicial activism threatens U. S. elections]

``A partisan Supreme Court -- Tim Rutten, Plain Dealer guest columnist

Last week's Supreme Court decision granting corporations the right to spend unrestricted amounts of money supporting or opposing candidates in federal elections is so strained in its reasoning and so removed from the realities of American life that it would be grotesquely comedic, were its implications not so dire ...

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy [wrote] "If the First Amendment has any force," he wrote, "it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens or associations of citizens for simply engaging in political speech."

You would think that the federal prisons were overflowing with corporate martyrs to freedom of expression. This is reasoning ludicrous on its face and radical in its dismissal of judicial decisions stretching back to Theodore Roosevelt's presidency.

The notion that corporate rights and individual rights -- particularly those recognized by the First Amendment -- are congruent is absurd. Do corporations have a right to freedom of religion, or just to those liberties that advance commercial interests?

As Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in dissent: "If taken seriously, our colleagues' assumption that the identity of a speaker has no relevance to the government's ability to regulate political speech would lead to some remarkable conclusions ... It would appear to afford the same protection to multinational corporations controlled by foreigners as to individual Americans."

That's hardly the end of this decision's implications. Over time, it's bound to provide the rationale for overturning state and local electoral regulations based on federal law, ...

[It] will further undermine the influence of the parties at a time when U.S. politics seem increasingly chaotic. That's true because, though corporate contributions to the parties continue to be regulated, expenditures made outside the parties on behalf of candidates now [after this decision] are unlimited.

The predictable effect on the parties is particularly odd from this court, given that one of the most distressing things about this decision -- considered in a sequence stretching back to Bush vs. Gore -- is that it demonstrates that this is a partisan court, willing to hand down sweeping decisions that ignore decades of jurisprudence based on five Republican votes ...

Our current ability to predict Supreme Court decisions by weighing the issues against the two parties' programs is worse than melancholy. It marks a new low in our nation's descent into corrosive partisanship.''

Timothy Rutten is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times.

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Commentator 1 wrote: January 31, 2010

``Supreme Court decision: Heady advancement for corporations that lack hearts

In a 5-4 decision recently, the hard-line conservative wing of the Supreme Court made a fantastic advancement in civil rights. Unfortunately, those rights are not for human beings but rather for corporations -- giving them the right to free speech.

In a sweeping move of judicial activism, the conservative court disregarded an unbroken line of precedent more than a century long in establishing corporate personhood. Not having mouths (or hearts), they cannot speak; instead, they can now spend unlimited funds to influence political causes that heavily favor those who already shill for big business.

Justice John Paul Stevens put it best in his dissent: "At bottom, the Court's opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self-government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt.

It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics."''



Commentator 2 wrote: January 31, 2010

``Supreme Court decision: Ruling's ramifications

Now that the Supreme Court has decided that corporations are individuals, I have a few questions:

Now that many firms are international, how will it be determined if a multinational corporation is a U.S. citizen? Current law states that noncitizens cannot donate to campaigns.

How will this ruling impact tax rates on businesses? Individuals have one set of tax tables and businesses another.

Our Constitution guarantees equal protection under the law. With this ruling, businesses should not enjoy advantages over people.''



Commentator 3 wrote: January 31, 2010

``Supreme Court decision: Money matters most

President Doughboy as in $ $ $-BOY

Mark Hanna, Cleveland's industrialist, big-business advocate and Republican kingmaker, once commented, "There are two things that are important in politics. The first is money, and I can't remember the second." ...

Until recently, "too big to fail" corporations were restricted from infusing large sums of money into broadcast media to influence the election or defeat of candidates in federal races.

McCain-Feingold further strengthened that 1907 decision, but it's all gone now. By a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court recklessly eroded the people's franchise with democracy by giving big business unlimited potential to influence election outcomes. This, of course, would be of great delight to the late Mr. Hanna.

Predictably, Republican loyalists spoke favorably of the decision, their sophistry comparing and contrasting the event in the most elegant of terms extracted from the Bill of Rights. Congressman John Boehner remarked, "I think the Supreme Court decisions today are a big win for the First Amendment and a step in the right direction." For whom, Mr. Boehner?''

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COLUMN from The Washington Post, 3-8-10, By E.J. Dionne Jr.

[The Schumer - Van Hollen bill]

``In a city where the phrase "bipartisan initiative" is becoming an oxymoron, the urgency of containing the damage the Supreme Court could do to our electoral system creates an opportunity for a rare convergence of interest and principle.

At issue is the court's astonishingly naive decision in January [2010] that allows unlimited corporate spending to influence elections. Its 5 to 4 ruling in the Citizens United case was a shocking instance of judicial overreach ...

Liberals and Democrats are already mobilizing to fight against Citizens United because they fear the impact of unconstrained corporate activity on elections and legislation. But conservatives and Republicans should also be alarmed that this decision could encourage politicians to extort campaign spending from businesses ...

That's why both parties should join to pass a bill that Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) hope to introduce this week placing some rules around the new electoral casino that the Roberts court has opened ...

The measure does not try to overturn the court's ruling. Instead, it puts boundaries around this precedent-shattering decision and might make executives think twice before unleashing their companies' treasuries. It would also limit the capacity of politicians to work out cozy deals with business, and thereby help prevent extortion and other forms of corruption.

Its provisions would require full and timely disclosure of corporate political expenditures, and make it as difficult as possible for companies to hide efforts to influence elections by funneling their money through front groups. Corporations would have to disclose political expenditures to their shareholders ...

Politicians now have to tell viewers or listeners as part of their advertisements that they approve the messages in question, and the Schumer-Van Hollen measure would put the same responsibility on corporate officials. If a third-party group were used, the leading financial backer would have to appear in the ads, and the five largest contributors to the message would also have to be identified. If a corporation is trying to affect an election, the voters should know about it ...

It is clear that rank-and-file Republicans know how radical and foolish this Supreme Court decision was. A Washington Post-ABC News poll last month found that 76 percent of Republicans opposed the ruling, along with 81 percent of independents and 85 percent of Democrats ...''

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