February 11, 2010

Supreme Court’s campaign financing decision is bad for democracy

From the Progressive Media Project
In a watershed 5-4 decision, the court has rolled back the nation's campaign finance laws, allowing corporations unlimited power to influence federal campaigns. The decision threatens the integrity of our democratic system.
In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the high court eliminated the restrictions on independent corporate spending in federal law.
The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, also known as McCain-Feingold, prohibited corporations from engaging in "electioneering communication" within 30 days of a primary election, and within 60 days of a general election.
The court's majority framed the issue in terms of free speech, essentially giving corporations the same rights as human beings. "Because speech is an essential mechanism of democracy - it is the means to hold officials accountable to the people - political speech must prevail against laws that would suppress it by design or inadvertence," wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy for the majority.
In his scathing dissenting opinion, Justice John Paul Stevens accused the majority of judicial activism.
He decried the promotion of corporate personhood in this case, and noted that Congress has placed special limitations on campaign spending by corporations since the Tillman Act in 1907.
"The conceit that corporations must be treated identically to natural persons in the political sphere is not only inaccurate but also inadequate to justify the court's disposition of this case," Stevens wrote, in an opinion joined by the other three liberal court members. "In the context of election to public office, the distinction between corporate and human speakers is significant."
"Our lawmakers," he added, "have a compelling constitutional basis, if not also a democratic duty, to take measures designed to guard against the potentially deleterious effects of corporate spending in local and national races."
It is the worst decision to come out of the court in years, perhaps even since the Dred Scott v. Sanford decision. In that 1857 case, the Supreme Court ruled that people of African ancestry and their descendants - whether slaves or free - were not citizens and therefore not protected by the U.S. Constitution. That decision was ultimately overturned by the 14th Amendment.
And perhaps it will take a constitutional amendment to remedy the damage created by this decision, which allows corporations to drown out the voices and dilute the power of individual citizens.
A corporation, or corporations, could decide to pour millions of dollars into a particular local race, and punish a candidate for his or her political views. Politicians literally will be owned by corporations, with company logos all but stamped on their foreheads.
People of good will, of all political persuasions, must come together to oppose this corporate buyout of our government.

1 comment:

Barack Obama said...

This is a great topic - continue the debate at http://debate-zone.com/zones/6-Politics/debates/15-Should-corporations-be-considered-persons