Thursday, January 21, 2010

Supreme Court OKs unlimited corporate spending on elections

Supreme Court OKs unlimited corporate spending on elections
By David G. Savage
January 22, 2010
LA Times

Overturning a century-old restriction, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that corporations could spend as much as they wanted to sway voters in federal elections.

In a landmark 5-4 decision, the court's conservative bloc said that corporations had the same right to free speech as individuals, and for that reason the government could not stop corporations from spending to help their favored candidates.

The ruling, which will presumably apply as well to labor unions and other organizations, is likely to have an effect on this year's congressional elections. Many political analysts and election-law experts predict that millions of extra dollars will flood into this fall's contests, much of it benefiting Republican candidates.

Republicans praised the decision as a victory for wide-open political speech, but Democrats slammed it as a win for big money...

Obama calls Supreme Court decision a victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies, who can now spend all they want on TV ads

Biz, Unions Freed to Spend Big on Elections
January 21, 2010

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Coming soon to your TV, thanks to the Supreme Court -- an even bigger flood of political ads.

A bitterly divided court vastly increased the power of big business and unions to influence government decisions Thursday by freeing them to spend their millions directly to sway elections for president and Congress.

As a side consequence, the election-season blizzard of ads on Americans TV screens is bound to increase.

The ruling reversed a century-long trend to limit the political muscle of corporations, organized labor and their massive war chests. It also recast the political landscape just as crucial midterm election campaigns are getting under way.

In its sweeping 5-4 ruling, the court set the stage for a wave of likely repercussions -- from new pressures on lawmakers to heed special interest demands to increasingly boisterous campaigns featuring highly charged ads that drown out candidate voices.

While the full consequences of the decision were hard to measure, politicians made clear whom they believed benefited. Democrats, led by President Barack Obama, condemned the decision while Republicans cheered it.

Still, more labor and corporate money in the political system could dilute the role of both political parties.

And the decision seeded the ground for further challenges to an already weakened system of campaign finance regulations.

The justices weighed two fundamental political forces -- the power of the central government and the concentration of corporate wealth -- and tilted decidedly in favor of the latter. The opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy made a vigorous argument based on the Constitution for the right of the public to be exposed to a multitude of ideas and against the ability of government to limit political speech, even in the interest of fighting corruption.

''The censorship we now confront is vast in its reach,'' Kennedy wrote.

Strongly dissenting, Justice John Paul Stevens said, ''The court's ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions around the nation.''

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas joined Kennedy to form the majority in the main part of the case. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor joined Stevens' dissent, parts of which he read aloud in the courtroom.

The court overturned two earlier decisions and threw out parts of a 63-year-old law 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, which applies to independent spending that is not coordinated with candidates, threatens similar limits imposed by 24 states.

The justices also struck down part of the landmark McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill that barred union- and corporate-paid issue ads in the closing days of election campaigns.

It leaves in place a prohibition on direct contributions to candidates from corporations and unions and didn't touch the McCain-Feingold ban on unlimited corporate and union donations to political parties. Nor did it disturb companies' right to solicit voluntary contributions to political action committees that can donate directly to candidates.

Corporations and unions would still have to identify the sources of money for their political activity -- a provision of current law that the court upheld in an 8-1 vote...

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