Alliance for Democracy

U.S. Supreme Court Unleashes Unlimited Corporate Funds for Political Campaigns on All Levels‏

Posted in bribery, Campaign contributions, Campaign finance reform, Dan Meek, Hillary the Movie, pack the court, political bribery by Alliance for Democracy Portland OR on January 21, 2010

This morning the US Supreme Court issued their long awaited decision in the case of Citizens United vs FEC.  The case involved the “documentary” film Hillary-The Movie produced by Citizens United.  The FEC (Federal Elections Committee) restricted the distribution of the film prior to the 2008 election and Citizens United challenged the decision which went to the Supreme Court. 

The Supreme Court at the time of the first hearing ordered the lawyers on both sides to consider larger issues including campaign finance limitations which have been federal law since early in the twentieth century.

Today the Supreme Court issued it’s ruling, effectively throwing out much of those limitations on corporate expenditures on elections.  The dogs have been released. Corporate personhood, the conferring of human rights onto corporations, has moved one step closer to a full reality.

Below is the statement from Dan Meek, speaking for Fair Elections Oregon, which run Measures 46/47 to ban corporate contributions to candidate elections in Oregon in 2006.

I will send more on this including a statement from the national Alliance for Democracy later today.  National AfD will be announcing the new campaign called Campaign to Legalize Democracy.

David e. Delk, Alliance for Democracy – Portland Chapter, 503.232.5495


U.S. Supreme Court Unleashes Unlimited Corporate Funds for Political Campaigns on All Levels

The Democrats Can Stop This, But Probably Won’t

Contact: Daniel Meek
dan@fairelections.net
503-293-9021

January 20, 2010


The ability of the people to limit political campaign spending is now under assault by a predominantly Republican-appointed Supreme Court.  The Democrats could stop this but appear to have no interest in doing so.

Corporations have been banned from making any contributions to candidates for federal office since 1907 and banned from making any “independent expenditures” since 1947.  Unions have also been banned since 1947 been from making contributions or independent expenditures for or against federal candidates.

But now the U.S. Supreme Court and its Republican-appointed majority has declared unconstitutional (under the First Amendment) the ban on using corporate money for “independent expenditures” to support or oppose candidates. The Court adopted a special rush schedule to decide the Citizens United, Inc. case, so that the federal ban on corporate “independent expenditures” is destroyed prior to the 2010 Congressional elections (along with the laws in 22 states banning “independent expenditures” by corporations and unions).

This decision will allow corporations to spend unlimited amounts to mislead voters, with massive media campaigns, about the beliefs and policies of the candidates they support (or oppose).  It also sets the stage for the Court to then declare that, since (1) independent expenditures must be unlimited and (2) candidates themselves should be in control of their messages to voters, there is no compelling reason to limit contributions to candidates by anyone, including corporations, unions, and wealthy individuals.  This would completely destroy campaign finance reform in the United States for all candidate races, including federal, state, and local.

On the Oregon level, the U.S. Supreme Court decision has no immediate effect.  The Secretary of State and the Attorney General, both Democrats, continue to refuse to enforce any of Measure 47 of 2006, enacted by Oregon voters three years ago as the most comprehensive and strict campaign finance reform law in America.

Instead, they continue to allow unlimited political contributions and unlimited expenditures by all corporations, unions, and individuals.  The Measure 47 Chief Petitioners are suing the Secretary of State and Attorney General to require that they enforce the law. The case is now in the Oregon Court of Appeals, where briefing was complete 7 months ago and oral argument is scheduled for February 25, 2010.

The Democrats in Congress and the White House could have stopped this, and still can stop it, by enlarging the Court itself.  The current 5-4 majority against campaign finance reform will likely persist for many years, as the youngest justices are generally the most hostile to limits on campaign contributions and expenditures.

The number of justices on the Court is determined by statute and has been changed 8 times in the past. A simple majority in the House and Senate, along with the President’s signature, could add two justices, allowing President Obama to quickly establish a majority that would uphold the campaign finance laws that are critical to maintaining any semblance of democracy.  His sole appointee so far, Justice Sotomayor, voted with the minority to uphold the ban on corporate “independent expenditures.”

Can enlarging the Court work? The mere public announcement by Franklin Roosevelt (FDR) in 1937 of a bill to increase the number of justices (the “court-packing plan”) resulted in the famous “switch in time that saved nine,” when Justice Owen Roberts then suddenly reversed his anti-New Deal stance so that Congress would be discouraged from adding more justices. Taking the initiative to change the court worked for FDR, almost immediately. Then, FDR in the next 6 years replaced 8 of the 9 justices, who retired or died.

Will the Democrats in Congress, with their large majorities, enlarge the court?  Probably not, because releasing unlimited corporate money would benefit them as well, protecting them against any populist challenges in their primaries or the emergence of progressive minor party candidates. The same Court decision would also unleash unlimited union spending to benefit Democrats further.

But aren’t 60 votes needed to pass anything in the U.S. Senate, since current Senate rules require 60 votes to stop a filibuster?  Absolutely not.  The Republicans did not need 60 votes in order to confirm the opponents of campaign finance reform to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Clarence Thomas was confirmed with only 52 votes; Samuel Alito by only 58.  And it takes only a majority vote to change the rules requiring 60 votes to close debate on a bill.  Legal articles on how a simple majority can change the filibuster rule are available at the website noted below.

We need a national campaign to “enlarge the Court” now.  Check out

www.packthecourt.com

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