Friday, January 22, 2010

not even a very wise latina could save the day...,

WaPo | FOR MORE THAN a century, Congress has recognized the danger of letting corporations use their wealth to wield undue influence in political campaigns. The Supreme Court had upheld these efforts. But Thursday, making a mockery of some justices' pretensions to judicial restraint, the Supreme Court unnecessarily and wrongly ruled 5 to 4 that the constitutional guarantee of free speech means that corporations can spend unlimited sums to help elect favored candidates or defeat those they oppose. This, as the dissenting justices wrote, "threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the nation."

This result was unnecessary because the court's conservative majority -- including supposed exemplars of judicial modesty -- lunged to make a broad constitutional ruling when narrower grounds were available. It was wrong because nothing in the First Amendment dictates that corporations must be treated identically to people. And it was dangerous because corporate money, never lacking in the American political process, may now overwhelm both the contributions of individuals and the faith they may harbor in their democracy.

The majority found its pretext in the documentary "Hillary: The Movie," produced by a conservative group called Citizens United and released during the 2008 primaries. Citizens United wanted to make the movie -- "a feature-length negative advertisement," the court termed it -- available as a video-on-demand accessible through cable television. That brought into play a provision, part of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, that bars corporate and union political advertising close to the time of an election. That provision applied to Citizens United because the group is organized as a nonprofit corporation and because it takes a small amount of corporate donations. In our view, Citizens United should have been free to distribute the anti-Clinton documentary. The relevant McCain-Feingold provision could have been interpreted to permit such speech by a clearly ideological, as opposed to commercial, for-profit corporation.

Instead, the court's five-member majority went much further. It overruled a 1990 decision that upheld a state law prohibiting independent corporate expenditures in political campaigns. It overruled its own 2003 decision upholding the same provision of McCain-Feingold that it struck down Thursday -- so much for respect for precedent.

"We find no basis for the proposition that, in the context of political speech, the Government may impose restrictions on certain disfavored speakers," the court said in an opinion by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. Rules against direct corporate contributions to candidates still stand, but corporations are now free to engage in unlimited independent expenditures, something that Congress has banned since 1947. Fist tap Nana who called it first in yesterday's comments.