Huge Victory for Special Interests as The Supreme Court Overturns Campaign Spending Rules
January 22, 2010
(ChattahBox) – In a decision that will further ensure our politicians and therefore our political system is further beholden to corporate America, The Supreme Court has opened Pandora’s door to a new era of big election spending. The court threw out by a 5-4 decision, parts of a 63-year-old law and overturned two previous decisions that said companies and unions can be prohibited from using money from their general treasuries to produce and run their own campaign ads urging the election or defeat of particular candidates by name. The decision, essentially ridiculously rules that corporations have the same First Amendment rights as individuals and, for that reason, the government cannot stop them from spending freely to help their favored candidates win elections. The ruling only applies to independent spending that is not coordinated with candidates. This restriction dates to 1907, when President Theodore Roosevelt persuaded Congress to forbid corporations, railroads and national banks from putting money into federal races.
The justices also struck down part of the landmark McCain-Feingold Act that since 2002 had barred issue-oriented ads paid for by corporations or unions 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election. Which means corporate and union-sponsored political ads can run right up to the moment of an election, and to allow them to call explicitly for the election or defeat of a candidate.
Two prohibitions were left standing by an 8-1 vote with Justice Clarence Thomas having the only dissenting votes. Corporations and unions cannot give money directly to the campaigns of federal candidates, which is really not much of a hindrance anyway given that the other laws were overturned. And the court affirmed current federal rules which require the sponsors of political ads to disclose who paid for them.
While there is no denying members of both political parties are heavily under the influence of special interests, it is telling that Democrats, led by President Barack Obama, condemned the decision while Republicans cheered it. President Obama called the decision a victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and other powerful interests. While Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate Republican leader who filed the first lawsuit challenging the McCain-Feingold law, praised the court for ”restoring the First Amendment rights” of corporations and unions.
Campaign finance watchdogs predict increasingly boisterous campaigns featuring highly charged ads that drown out candidate voices. With members of Congress having further preassure to cast their votes on controversial legislation with an eye to whether their position on it risks inviting a barrage of special-interest ads against them before the election, or on the flip side, could draw outside spending favorable to them.
Source: NY Times