Supreme Court scandals

As the Supreme Court considers the healthcare law — and in so doing, possibly dominates a national election for the third time since since 2000 — Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) warns that a wave of corruption and scandal will result from the earlier high court decision in Citizens United.

As judicial precedent was abandoned in the Bush v. Gore and Citizens United cases, which transformed the Supreme Court into a protagonist in partisan and ideological wars, it is time to consider the dangers to the republic of a court whose majority — which could be on the brink of another election-changing party-line vote — increasingly acts as a partisan faction rather than a disinterested adjudicator of the law.

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I supported the final healthcare bill, though I never compared it to landmark achievements such as Medicare and Social Security. It made the world a little bit better, but not as much as it should have, after the money-dominated meat grinder that destroyed the more profound reforms that I (and a majority of voters) supported, such as Medicare-for-all and the public option.

I believe the entire healthcare negotiation, the Supreme Court arguments in the Citizens United and healthcare cases and the ex parte speeches to interested parties by Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia before they voted on Citizens United should all have been open to C-SPAN cameras and public review in real time.

McCain is right that money is the great corruption, and Brandeis was right that sunlight is the great disinfectant. Sadly for America, there is far too much money, and far too little sunlight, in a government that most voters believe, correctly, is corrupted by money that buys democracy in the dark.

I have no love for the mandate, a Republican idea that profits insurers. It was the price of extortion to finance the nobler parts of the law, but:

If the Supreme Court throws out the mandate and upholds the remainder of the law, it could politically benefit President Obama, who will obliterate Mitt Romney in a presidential debate about the mandate, will no longer have to defend the least popular provision of the law and will fairly claim credit for the popular elements thereof.

But if the court throws out the entire bill, there will be bonfires around the justices as voters learn what benefits are taken away by a court run amok.

Prior to 2000, no court had ever overruled the majority vote of the American people in a presidential election by a party-line vote of the justices, led by self-styled “conservatives” who claim to favor “federalism” but ordered a state, against its will, to stop counting votes.

Prior to 2010, no court had ever so corrupted American democracy by allowing unlimited, unregulated, undisclosed campaign spending by the factions that the Founding Fathers warned us against in the Federalist Papers.

On the great matter of American elections, the work of Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison and Hamilton is under attack by Chief Justice John Roberts, Thomas, Scalia and Justices Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy, who wear the life-tenured robes of judicial impartiality, but act with the aggression of partisans and ideologues.

McCain’s warning of a wave of corruption and scandals created by the Citizens United majority is rooted in every lesson of history, experience, common sense and observation as the evils of money corrupting freedom, with a political discourse that is dirty and deformed in the eyes of our people, unfolding before the nation and the court.

These coming scandals will someday be known as the Supreme Court scandals, after which an angry nation will demand the reversal of the Citizens United decision.

These Supreme Court scandals will bring breaking news of dirty deeds, indictments, perp walks, trials, convictions and incarcerations that will sicken the nation from sea to sea, until the unstoppable tsunami of public anger forces the real, powerful and transforming change that was long overdue in 2008 and remains long overdue today. 

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. in international financial law from the London School of Economics, and can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.