In last week's column in The Hill, I admitted that I felt conflicted about the Supreme Court's important decision in the Citizens United Supreme Court case, which overturned a portion of the McCain-Feingold law that banned corporate advocacy ads before federal elections. I referred to my long-held beliefs that the First Amendment protection on speech — whether by a real "person" or a "corporation," defined as a person under the law — but also to my concerns that the Citizens United decision would unleash excessive cash into politically partisan advocacy by both corporations and unions. I also supported transparency for all who fund such advocacy as one way to mitigate the adverse consequences of the decision.
Few Supreme Court cases get as much play as Caperton v. Massey and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The pundits, of course, all have an opinion. Then President Barack Obama referred to the decision in his first State of the Union address, arguing that Citizens “reversed a century of law” and “will open the floodgates for special interests.” This caused Justice Samuel Alito, who was in the audience, to roll his eyes, shake his head and mouth the words “Not true.” Predictably enough, his indignant moment was caught on tape and sent the blogosphere into conniptions.
President Obama received much criticism for his nationally televised blast at the Supreme Court — "Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections” — as six justices, who voluntarily attended his speech, sat in the front row, a few feet from the president up on his podium. To my eyes, all six seemed startled to varying degrees — or rather five did. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who had snoozed through parts of the speech, seemed not yet fully awake.
Now I get it. Now I understand why so many of the Supreme Court justices are bitterly opposed to television cameras. They are worried people will see them make fools of themselves.
Samuel Alito probably learned an important life lesson on Wednesday night. The man definitely needs to stay out of sight. Because he just can't control himself.
He made that obvious by mouthing off after President Barack Obama raised Cain about the corporate spending decision. While it wasn't Joe Wilson shouting, "You lie,” visibly mumbling "Not true" is almost as bush-league, which is probably apt since Alito was a Bush appointee.
In the media coverage of the recent United States Supreme Court case involving organizational spending on political campaigns — the Hillary movie case — there is a hint of a follow-up issue on campaign finance law.The organizational brain behind the Citizens United case, Indiana attorney James Bogg Jr., promises the next test case will challenge disclosure laws requiring identification of people who petition for state laws, in this case, Washington state’s opponents of same-sex marriage. It is argued that anonymity is required to protect petitioners from harassment by gay-rights advocates. Mr. Bogg is candid about his tactic to whittle away at election disclosure laws. Requiring disclosure, he argues, is punitive.
One more thought on the Supreme Court ruling that corporations have the First Amendment right to free expression and are therefore able to spend on campaigns as if they were individuals.
It's a human right. Right? Actually, that's the flaw in the decision: Humans have hearts. Corporations decidedly do not. As we've witnessed in the massive waves of layoffs to protect profits, in the despicable tactics of those in the big bank and finance companies, in the contemptible treatment of customers with health problems by the insurance companies, they are heartLESS.
The elected president and Congress should answer the unelected Supreme Court by passing what I call the American Elections for Americans Only Act of 2010.
According to the recent Gallup poll following the court decision, 76 percent of voters believe that elected officials should regulate American corporate political spending. I believe my proposal would garner support from more than 90 percent of our voters, who are tired of outsourcing our jobs, our finance and our strength in the world and are outraged at the prospect of outsourcing the buying of our democracy and our nation.
At least the Supremes’ latest hit is a blow for honesty. The 5-4 ruling that corporations (and unions) can directly spend their megabucks for the ads that can distort the elections means they can have their way without having to jump through all those phony hoops.
What a victory for the Republicans. On those rare occasions that the Democrats don't just hand them an election, like the freebie they gave away in Massachusetts, the GOP can buy it, now that there is easier access to the coffers of their patrons. They'll get whatever they need simply by reminding them how they always protect their interests.
Chief Justice John Roberts did not tell the truth in his confirmation hearings when he claimed he would respect stare decisis, the idea of legal precedent. The Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited corporate cash to buy unlimited political power through unlimited political spending is one of the greatest single attacks on democracy in the history of jurisprudence, and one of the single greatest demonstrations of contempt for legal precedent in the history of the United States Supreme Court.