Friday, January 22, 2010


I guess SCOTUS forgot about the reasons for some of the legislation around the teapot dome scandal. Now we are really back to the future.

Robert Weissman - President of Public Citizen - Huffington Post - 1/22/10

Today, in Citizens United v. FEC, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations have a First Amendment right to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence election outcomes.
Money from Exxon, Goldman Sachs, Pfizer and the rest of the Fortune 500 is already corroding the policy making process in Washington, state capitals, and city halls. Today, the Supreme Court tells these corporate giants that they have a constitutional right to trample our democracy.

In eviscerating, longstanding rules that prohibit corporations from using their own monies to influence elections, the court invites giant corporations to open up their treasuries to buy election outcomes. Corporations are sure to accept the invitation.

The predictable result will be corporate money flooding the election process; huge targeted campaigns by corporations and their front groups attacking principled candidates who challenge parochial corporate interests; and a chilling effect on candidates and election officials, who will be deterred from advocating and implementing policies that advance the public interest but injure deep-pocket corporations.

Because today's decision is made on First Amendment constitutional grounds, the impact will be felt not only at the federal level, but in the states and localities, including in state judicial elections. (The local impact may be exactly where the most damage is felt. Hello Walmart, hello immanent domain abuses, hello corporate towns.)

In one sense, today's decision was a long time coming. Over the past 30 years, the Supreme Court has created and steadily expanded the First Amendment protections afforded to for-profit corporations. (Important point here. Your average 501c3 isn't rolling in billions of third quarter profits like Goldman Sachs or Exxon.)

But in another sense, the decision is a startling break from Supreme Court tradition. Even as it has mistakenly equated money with speech in the political context, the court has long upheld regulations on corporate spending in the electoral context. The Citizens United decision is also an astonishing overreach by the court. No one thought the issue of corporations' purported right to spend money to influence election outcomes was at stake in this case until the Supreme Court so decreed. The case had been argued in lower courts, and was originally argued before the Supreme Court, on narrow grounds related to the application of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. (I think we really need to digest this fact. No one expected this kind of universal blanket decision from this case. It's like taking a local sodomy case and jumping it up to allow gay marriage rights. It's called right wing judicial activism like the left never ever considered.)

The court has invented the idea that corporations have First Amendment rights to influence election outcomes out of whole cloth. There is surely no precedent to support this outcome, since the court only created the rights in recent decades. Nor can the outcome be justified in light of the underlying purpose and spirit of the First Amendment. Corporations are state-created entities, not real people. They do not have expressive interests like humans; and, unlike humans, they are uniquely motivated by a singular focus on their economic bottom line. Corporate spending on elections defeats rather than advances the democratic thrust of the First Amendment.

We, the People, cannot allow this decision to go unchallenged. We, the People, cannot allow corporations to take control of our democracy.....(More here


I haven't been this angry since our conservative court gave GW the presidency. Now our conservative court has given Exxon our democracy. I guess we can forget any real ecological, financial, or health reform. By 2014 we could truly be represented by the Senator from Koch Industries who happens to live in Texas.

What really bothers me though, is the thought that Goldman Sachs as a corporate individual apparently has the same constitutional rights I do as a human--without any of the responsibilities. Mr Sachs has no children to worry about which really effects a person's bottom line. Mr Sachs has no health problems to worry about which really effects a person's bottom line. Mr Sachs doesn't have to worry much about his house being foreclosed on, or where his next meal is coming from, or whether his car is going down the tubes. Even if Mr Sachs did have to worry about any of these humdrum issues, Mr Sachs has plenty of mine and your assets to help with such issues. Mr Sachs has already been defined by our government as 'too big to fail' where as us mere human individuals are too often defined as 'too little to care about'. SCOTUS has just decided to put us mere human individuals permanently in our very little place.

I looked up this morning what it takes to impeach a Supreme Court Justice. I think it would behoove our current government to investigate some of the members of this court. Maybe some of them have holdings in off shore accounts. Holdings which don't compute with their salaries or other perks. It's just a thought. Here's another thought--judicial malpractice.

Some angry folks are discussing a constitutional amendment to define the rights of corporate individuals vis a vis the first amendment. This could actually get bi partisan support since SCOTUS also extended this benevolence to unions. Then again it may not because it wouldn't take long for a corporate democracy to legislate unions off the face of our map, especially on the state level. I mean the greatest leverage an individual can have over other individuals is their pay check. How many Americans are really able to vote their conscience or speak their mind if it might cost them their pay check? I guess only those who have already lost their paycheck.

This is bad news folks. If this isn't stopped we will have no real democracy. If tea baggers and right wingers think this is in their best interests, just wait. Exxon only cares about how much money tea baggers are willing to pay for a gallon of gas or home heating oil. Just like the rest of us.


  1. It is disturbing, no doubt.

    I'm not so sure that controlling election outcomes in the US really matters that much to big business. It seems that it doesn't matter too much who gets elected, the outcome will always be favourable to corporations.

  2. Here's my worst case scenario. Typical politician takes unspecified amount of corporate money to lie like a rug to get elected, claiming to be a populist. Once elected said politician earns his corporate pay--especially on the local level.

    When was the last time any politician was removed for renegging on campaign promises? We can forget an activist press, because we no longer have much of one and most of those are owned by five big corporations.

    We are in trouble and headed for a lot more.

  3. I too am angry about this, but with the court stacked the way it is, I would have been surprised if the decision had turned out differently. In addition, the decision ensures our political system continues to rot.

  4. Someone just sent me this quote from Granny D:

    "You know, there are two kinds of politics in the world: the politics of love and the politics of fear. Love is about cooperation, sharing and inclusion. It is about the elevation of each individual to a life neither suppressed nor exploited, but instead nourished to rise to its full potential -- a life for its own sake and so that we may all benefit by the gift of that life. Fear, and the politics of fear, is about narrow ideologies that separate us, militarize us, imprison us, exploit us, control us, overcharge us, demean us, bury us alive in debt and anxiety and then bury us dead in cancers and wars. The politics of love and the politics of fear are now pitted against each other in a naked struggle that will define not only the 21st Century but centuries to come. We are the Sons and Daughters of Liberty in that struggle, indeed we are. Let us not shirk from the mission that fate has bestowed upon us, for it has done so as a blessing."

    This explains it all! This is the problem. I am with you in feeling outraged. But it's more tinged with a sense of losing hope, of seeing our Republic at its decline and fall. It will be very difficult, if not impossible, to claw back from this!

    We are society where the greed and entitlement of some will bleed the populace until the point where the greedy and entitled too become victims of their own short-sighted aims.

    I feel I can do little more than pray. But pray I will!

  5. I too was outraged by this decision in which there was no warning of such discussion going on. It is terrible news.

    Corporations, according to this new law, are now defined as "the People" and this is a LIE. This is unconstitutional. This must be defeated, destroyed, taken away from them.

    I am wondering who in the Supreme Court voted for this and why it was kept so QUIET that they were voting on this?


    This is awful news. Corporatism is the same type of system used in Germany under Hitler.

    It is just awful.

  6. TheraP what a brilliant statement. I haven't actually lost hope yet. At least the light is on and the problems are exposed. It's now time to make a choice or two. That's a good thing.

    One of our choices could be to start and support a third party, and I personally would like to see certain Supreme Court Justices impeached.

  7. I think the problem will be much more acute and the state and local levels than nationally. It is so easy (and cheap) to affect local/county elections with a bit of money. States, too, although not as cheap as it used to be. The governor's race in California has turned out to be a MAJOR dollar slugfest -- maybe as much as $100 million by the time it is over.

    Jim McCrea

  8. I've never felt so let down by my government.

  9. Let's stop hyperventilating, even though I have the same sadness over this ruling as everyone else here.

    Wasn't corporate control of Congress already par for the course? This is only a formality.

    Ratcheting up the shelling of people with TV ads will have diminishing results as TV loses viewers.

    What's needed is to realize that TV was always a tool of propaganda. What's needed to is go out to our neighbors and especially those ignored by what TV presents as America and organize them. What's needed is a mass movement of people who are ignored by the interests of corporations and the media outlets owned by corporations. Take heart, the solution is right in front of us, it just takes time to develop.

  10. "Ratcheting up the shelling of people with TV ads will have diminishing results as TV loses viewers."

    Good point. And I've been thinking of the fact that the freedom of information the internet provides is something of an equalizer.