US Supreme Court: No Limit on Corporate Spending on Elections

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Left Turn Left Turn's picture
US Supreme Court: No Limit on Corporate Spending on Elections

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Left Turn Left Turn's picture

[url=http://www.democracynow.org/2010/1/22/headlines#2]Supreme Court: No Limit on Corporate Spending on Elections[/url]

Quote:
The Supreme Court has ruled corporations have the right to spend as much money as they like to influence the outcome of US elections. In a five-to-four decision, the court overturned century-old restrictions on corporations, unions and other interest groups from using their vast treasuries to advocate for a specific candidate. The majority opinion affirms corporations have First Amendment rights and that the government can't limit their political speech. The decision has sparked widespread outrage amongst progressives and calls to have it reversed. This is Robert Weissman of the watchdog group Public Citizen.

Robert Weissman: "What we really need is to get the decision undone. If the court won't reverse its own decision, the only  course available to us is a constitutional amendment. We have to say the First Amendment exists to protect the rights of real people, of   you and me, not artificial creations known as corporations, not for Exxon, not for Pfizer, not for Goldman Sachs."

In a statement, President Obama called the ruling "a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans."

Tommy_Paine

 

Of course, there are those besides the bare majority on the Supreme Court who think this is a blow for freedom in that it protects first amendment rights.

 

I would interject that this decision deffends freedom in much the same way the Dred Scott decision protected freedom.

 

 

Left Turn Left Turn's picture

Tommy_Paine wrote:
I would interject that this decision deffends freedom in much the same way the Dred Scott decision protected freedom.

In fact, yesterdays Democracy Now! broadcast quoted an unnamed congressman as saying that this is the worst decision by the Supreme Court since the Dred Scott decision (which, for those who don't know, said that slavery was justified under the US Constitution).

Sven Sven's picture

Despite the thread title, I think this ruling removes the specific speech restrictions on both corporations and unions.

George Victor

Yes, that will really level the $ playing field.  :D

Stargazer

Corporations reflect the top management and shareholders. Unions are for the people. There is no level playing field, although I know GV is being sarcastic.

al-Qa'bong

I think Sven was being sarcastic. 

US Unions have been pretty well eviscerated since the sunny days of Ronald Reagan's presidency.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

I gather there are protests forming around this SC decision, and a lot of lobbying to get it legislatively changed. I saw at least one FB group start up over this. It's very early days yet (and Obama apparently opposes this as well) so perhaps a mass protest movement might be able to get this revoked somehow.

jas

I believe this comes down to the common definition of a corporation as a legal person. It is this definition that we will continue to find problematic. There's no need (someone correct me if I'm wrong) to have corporations defined in this manner for them to carry on their affairs. There needs to be a constitutional distinction between real people and incorporated entities.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

A FB group that just started and now has over 9,000 members: "We the People" NOT "We the Corporations"

excerpt:

 

Corporations are not people. We stand opposed to allowing corporations the same political campaign rights as living, breathing humans. We DEMAND congress take IMMEDIATE action to amend the constitution if necessary to end this practice.

Rand McNally

The US, (and most other countries to a lesser extent) now have a system of open corruption. If I slip a few grand to a official to overlook something that is bribery, if I slip a few million to a politician and he changes the laws, that is good to go. And now you get cycles where government bails out corporations, who then give millions to the politicians who bailed them out, who then give the corps more control and money. These corps, after receiving millions on tax-payer money then spent portions of that money on lobbying against protection for consumers.  It is a shame that the tea parties and the like in the States, formed around a right-wing agenda and not a neutral "stop the corruption" agenda. It is the same with health-care, both parties have been caught reading straight from the scripts provided for them by big heath care inc.  The problem in American (and most other places) politics is money. 

sandstone

emptywheel had a good post on this a few days ago.

http://emptywheel.firedoglake.com/2010/01/21/supreme-court-unleashes-cor...

Stargazer

jas wrote:

I believe this comes down to the common definition of a corporation as a legal person. It is this definition that we will continue to find problematic. There's no need (someone correct me if I'm wrong) to have corporations defined in this manner for them to carry on their affairs. There needs to be a constitutional distinction between real people and incorporated entities.

 

I agree Jas. When they have the same rights afforded to them as an individual and absolutely none of the responsibility, there is something wrong!

sandstone

some of you might find this site informative for its perspective on what is a legal person, verses a natural person and etc....apparently this has much to do with an understanding of law... it appears the site is under construction but there are some videos which can be found through a search engine...

http://www.naturalperson.com/

Stargazer

I don't think that is actually what we are looking for.

 

Can anyone point to the first case (legal) that gave corporations the same standing as individuals?

Rand McNally

In the US,Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad is often cited. 

 

Google is good, it can make dumb people like me look smart. 

Stargazer

I would have tried CANLII but thanks RandM!

sandstone

http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0...

A corporation has separate legal personality in the sense that it is a legal person separate and distinct from its shareholders, directors and officers.

the earlier site i left goes into this in depth, but the site is under construction it seems...

here is a page from it that defines a 'natural' verses 'artificial' person from the site i listed .. it is very relevant to corporations as a legal person idea and worth knowing...

http://www.natural-person.ca/govtricks.html

also this

http://www.businessethics.ca/blog/2009/09/why-corporations-must-be-legal...

al-Qa'bong

Quote:

Thursday's 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission shreds the fabric of our already weakened democracy by allowing corporations to more completely dominate our corrupted electoral process. It is outrageous that corporations already attempt to influence or bribe our political candidates through their political action committees (PACs), which solicit employees and shareholders for donations.
With this decision, corporations can now directly pour vast amounts of corporate money, through independent expenditures, into the electoral swamp already flooded with corporate campaign PAC contribution dollars. Without approval from their shareholders, corporations can reward or intimidate people running for office at the local, state, and national levels.

 
Time to Rein in Out-of-Control Corporate Influences on Our Democracy
 
by Ralph Nader
 
Quote:

This corporatist, anti-voter decision is so extreme that it should galvanize a grassroots effort to enact a Constitutional Amendment to once and for all end corporate personhood and curtail the corrosive impact of big money on politics. It is indeed time for a Constitutional amendment to prevent corporate campaign contributions from commercializing our elections and drowning out the civic and political voices and values of citizens and voters. It is way overdue to overthrow "King Corporation" and restore the sovereignty of "We the People"!

Corporate Personhood Should Be Banned, Once and For All

by Ralph Nader

al-Qa'bong

Quote:
Inverted totalitarianism is not conceptualized as an ideology or objectified in public policy. It is furthered by "power-holders and citizens who often seem unaware of the deeper consequences of their actions or inactions," Wolin writes. But it is as dangerous as classical forms of totalitarianism. In a system of inverted totalitarianism, as this court ruling illustrates, it is not necessary to rewrite the Constitution, as fascist and communist regimes do. It is enough to exploit legitimate power by means of judicial and legislative interpretation.

 

This exploitation ensures that huge corporate campaign contributions are protected speech under the First Amendment. It ensures that heavily financed and organized lobbying by large corporations is interpreted as an application of the people's right to petition the government. The court again ratified the concept that corporations are persons, except in those cases where the "persons" agree to a "settlement." Those within corporations who commit crimes can avoid going to prison by paying large sums of money to the government while, according to this twisted judicial reasoning, not "admitting any wrongdoing." There is a word for this. It is called corruption.

Democracy in America Is a Useful Fiction

by Chris Hedges

Doug

Polluter Harmony Such a sweet story of a lobbyist and his politician.

Thomas Gallowglass

While I may understand the legal reasoning behind this decision, I fear some of the potential outcomes.

A problem as I see it is distinguishing between groups of people represented by a corporation, a group of people represented by a union, a group of people represented by a news organization, and a group of people who just happen to be pooling their resources to support a candidate or cause. Crafting a law or constitutional amendment that is narrow enough to exclude (as example) Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream but not MSNBC or SEIU would be difficult.

Cheers!

Lard Tunderin Jeezus Lard Tunderin Jeezus's picture

Why would you care to make such distinctions?

Thomas Gallowglass

Why would I care to make such distinctions? I'm not sure I'm following your question, but let me try.

An individual cannot by themselves really impact American politics financially, unless they are one of the extremely wealthy. Therefore the individual either gets to shackel themselves to one of the established parties, or join up with others of similar interests to pool their money. Crafting a law that would allow individuals to join together outside of the established parties, but that would exclude coorporations, sounds very difficult to this old man...

I'm also concerned about how it appears that a news organization, or a union, have been treated differently under the system as far as what they could do during an American Election. Some unions, and some news organizations, are not what I would consider appropriately responsive to individual interests...unless the individual under scrutiny is the head of the organization.

As an aside, I should not be considered an expert in American Politics, but merely an interested observer...so my assumptions could be wrong.