Friday, January 22, 2010

Supreme Court Conservative Judicial Activism Threatens U.S. Democracy

The Supreme Court has rejected any corporate campaign spending limit, an outrageous act of conservative judicial activism that threatens to undermine American democracy:

Overruling two important precedents about the First Amendment rights of corporations, a bitterly divided Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections.

While conservatives have often spoken of "liberal judicial activism," this ruling sweeps aside precedent:

The ruling, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, No. 08-205, overruled two precedents: Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, a 1990 decision that upheld restrictions on corporate spending to support or oppose political candidates, and McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, a 2003 decision that upheld the part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 that restricted campaign spending by corporations and unions.

In an editorial, The Court's Blow to Democracy, The New York Times comments that corporations will now have unprecedented influence on both elections and the elected:

...corporations have been unleashed from the longstanding ban against their spending directly on political campaigns and will be free to spend as much money as they want to elect and defeat candidates. If a member of Congress tries to stand up to a wealthy special interest, its lobbyists can credibly threaten: We’ll spend whatever it takes to defeat you.

The "logic" is the twisted legal view of corporations as "persons":

Most wrongheaded of all is its insistence that corporations are just like people and entitled to the same First Amendment rights. It is an odd claim since companies are creations of the state that exist to make money. They are given special privileges, including different tax rates, to do just that. It was a fundamental misreading of the Constitution to say that these artificial legal constructs have the same right to spend money on politics as ordinary Americans have to speak out in support of a candidate.

With corporations now able to pour billions into their candidates and positions, what do the contributions of individuals–real "persons"–mean? Following this legal enshrining of political corruption, we will recognize politicians as representatives of corporations, as in "the senator from Exxon." Now the real judicial activists have been unmasked. They are from the conservative side of the spectrum and their ruling strikes a terrifying blow against democracy.

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