Supreme Court: Corporate Influence Over Elections

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The Supreme Court, a conservative court on the belief that money is protected speech as far as elections are concerned, overturned a century of precedent and laws moving in the other direction. Republicans continue to sabotage America, even after being deposed from majority power to rule, via their Supreme Court activist judges. As usual, Republicans say one thing and do the opposite. For appearances they rail against activist judges, all the while appointing their own activist judges to the federal benches.

In law, there is the centuries old guide called 'stare decisis', a latin phrase which simply represents a legal principle and obligation of judges to maintain what has been decided and do not alter that which has been previously established by preceding judges and courts, without compelling Constitutional fulfillment grounds for doing so. This ruling by the Robert's Court violates in several ways the principle of stare decisis.

As early as 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt recognized the need for campaign finance reform and called for legislation to ban corporate contributions for political purposes. In response, Congress enacted several statutes between 1907 and 1966 which, taken together, sought to:

* Limit the disproportionate influence of wealthy individuals and special interest groups on the outcome of federal elections;

* Regulate spending in campaigns for federal office; and

* Deter abuses by mandating public disclosure of campaign finances.

Today's S.C. ruling overturns all these precedents and public interest objectives.

In 1971, Congress consolidated its earlier reform efforts in the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), instituting more stringent disclosure requirements for federal candidates, political parties and political action committees (PACs). Still, without a central administrative authority, the campaign finance laws were difficult to enforce.

Following reports of serious financial abuses in the 1972 Presidential campaign, Congress amended the FECA in 1974 to set limits on contributions by individuals, political parties and PACs. The 1974 amendments also established an independent agency, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to enforce the law, facilitate disclosure and administer the public funding program. Congress made further amendments to the FECA in 1976 following a constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court case Buckley v. Valeo; major amendments were also made in 1979 to streamline the disclosure process and expand the role of political parties.

The next set of major amendments came in the form of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA). Among other things, the BCRA banned national parties from raising or spending nonfederal funds (often called "soft money"), restricted so-called issue ads, increased the contribution limits and indexed certain limits for inflation.

Public funding of federal elections originally proposed by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907 began to take shape in 1971 when Congress set up the income tax checkoff to provide for the financing of Presidential general election campaigns and national party conventions. Amendments to the Internal Revenue Code in 1974 established the matching fund program for Presidential primary campaigns.

The FEC opened its doors in 1975 and administered the first publicly funded Presidential election in 1976.

The 5 Justices responsible for this monumental reversal, essentially resorted to defining corporate and organized interests as equal to that of an individual where funding of broadcast political speech is concerned. Their method was simple. Money is speech, and political speech is protected by the First Amendment.

That is a defensible position if the individual happens to be Warren Buffet or Bill Gates. But, for the rest of the 330 million individual Americans, their resources are hardly equal to corporations and organized minority groups like unions. This decision hands a megaphone to wealthy special interests and mutes the political speech of individual working Americans in a very fundamental way, giving the advantage to the wealthy special interest groups to shape the issues and message heard at election time.

And here is the kicker. This ruling overthrows the requirement of identity disclosure. That's right. The wealthy special interests using 100's of millions of dollars to control the political speech in the public sector do NOT have to identify who they are, and therefore, their agenda can remain completely hidden. It is an appalling ruling, which portends the undermining of democracy in America and the promotion of oligarchy and plutocracy, government controlled by an elite and wealthy privileged few.

As Republicans own this decision, it will curry them no favor in the public's eyes today, I hope, as Americans already rail against the preferential treatment Wall St. has received over Main Street. It seems Republicans just can't stop themselves from alienating the majority of Americans, in, or out of power.

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Judicial Decisions, insightful commentary. Thanks.

I especially like your sentence: "The higher courts face tough issues this term since making honest fraud legal, there agenda now turns toward making honest kickbacks and honest bribes equally as legal."

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This page contains a single entry by David R. Remer published on January 21, 2010 10:08 AM.

Mass. Election. Independents and Anti-Incumbents! was the previous entry in this blog.

SOTU. We Don't Quit. I Don't Quit ! is the next entry in this blog.

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