21 January 2010

Advantage: Money

Because money doen't have enough influence in Washington, apparently. The opinion in Citizens United v. FEC is here.

WSJ: Campaign-Finance Ruling Opens Door to More Political Groups

Corporations, labor unions and other political entities are gearing up to play a larger role in elections in 2010 and beyond after a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down elements of campaign-finance law.

CS Monitor: Supreme Court: Campaign-finance limits violate free speech

Ahead, a flood of corporate/union election spending?

The decision opens the gates for what campaign reform advocates warn will be a flood of corporate spending in future elections. The ruling is expected to permit similar political expenditures from the general treasuries of labor unions, as well.

“This is the most radical and destructive campaign-finance decision in the history of the Supreme Court,” said Fred Worthheimer, president of Democracy 21.

“Today’s decision is the Super Bowl of really bad decisions. It returns us to the days of the robber barons,” said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause.

In a 90-page dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens denounced the majority opinion as a dangerous rejection of common sense. “While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics,” he wrote.

“The court’s ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the nation,” he said.

Supreme Court opens the money gates

By allowing more corporate and union money in federal campaigns, the high court risks corrupting lawmaking. Watchdogs must stay alert.

It’s not as if corporations and unions have so far had their wallets glued shut. They can fund issue ads that are important to their interests. And they’re allowed to form political action committees that directly support candidates, as long as the donations are collected voluntarily from employees and union members.

Groups that track campaign fundraising will need to raise their voices when they find wrongdoing or worrisome signs – even as they have more money to watch. Those groups include nonprofits; the news media; and the official watchdog, the Federal Election Commission.

Yet the traditional media are downsizing and the FEC, which has an equal number of Republican and Democratic commissioners, has a poor track record. The FEC could be strengthened if its members were recommended to the president not by the Senate, which has a vested interest in a watchdog with no bark, but by an independent commission.

Transparency is now more important than ever, and so is beefing up the competition to corporate and union donations – small donors and public campaign financing. The Internet has given small donors a much bigger voice, but that can be amplified even further by Congress.

Now is the time for lawmakers to pay serious attention to proposed legislation that would allow House and Senate candidates to choose to run for office without relying on large contributions, big money bundlers, or donations from lobbyists. If candidates commit to raising a certain amount of small donations, they can qualify for competitive public funds for their campaigns.

Thus, candidates would divert far less energy to fundraising – which can take as much as 40 to 50 percent of the time of members of the House, who face election every two years. And, candidates would be less beholden to monied special interests.

The Supreme Court has significantly altered the landscape of campaign finance. The next election will reveal how the new arrangement works in practice.

Watchdogs must keep their eyes open.

Slate: Money Grubbers - The Supreme Court kills campaign finance reform.

It is time for everyone to drop all the talk about the Roberts court's "judicial minimalism," with Chief Justice Roberts as an "umpire" who just calls balls and strikes. Make no mistake, this is an activist court that is well on its way to recrafting constitutional law in its image. The best example of that is this morning's transformative opinion in Citizens United v. FEC. Today the court struck down decades-old limits on corporate and union spending in elections (including judicial elections) and opened up our political system to a money free-for-all.

SCOTUS blog has a good roundup:
Citizens United round-up: morning edition
Analysis: A few open, or not so open, questions
Analysis: A new law to offset Citizens United?The President calls for action

Some discussion here: How Corporate Money Will Reshape Politics

From the start of this blog, I have supported public financing of campaigns, but that looks farther away than ever. 22Apr08: Campaign Finance Reform

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