23 January, 2010

Supreme Stupidity

Isn't this special?  The Supreme Court has decided that the poor corporations don't have enough influence over our political system:
Rick Hasen has a very good piece in Slate today on today's Supreme Court ruling, and the significance of the 5-4 decision.
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. [...]
What is so striking today is how avoidable this political tsunami was. The court has long adhered to a doctrine of "constitutional avoidance," by which it avoids deciding tough constitutional questions when there is a plausible way to make a narrower ruling based on a plain old statute.... What we have in Citizens United is anti-avoidance. Kennedy's majority had to go out and grab this one.
Of particular interest, Hasen notes that Kennedy's ruling "wrongly assumes that corporations or unions can throw money at public officials without corrupting them. Could a candidate for judicial office, for example, be swayed to rule in favor of a contributor who donated $3 million to an independent campaign to get the candidate elected to the state supreme court?"

Dahlia Lithwick added, "Even former Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist once warned that treating corporate spending as the First Amendment equivalent of individual free speech is 'to confuse metaphor with reality.' Today that metaphor won a very real victory at the Supreme Court. And as a consequence some very real corporations are feeling very, very good."
This has got to be one of the dumbest rulings ever.  Treating corporations as people is an inane idea to begin with.  Treating them as people who can advocate for a particular candidate is even more inane.  Hell, even many corporations agree:
Yesterday, “all five of the [Supreme] Court’s conservatives joined together … to invalidate a sixty-three year-old ban on corporate money in federal elections,” a move that Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) said “opens the floodgates for the purchases and sale of the law” by big corporations.

Today, in response to the Supreme Court’s catastrophic decision, “dozens of current and former corporate executives” from corporations including Delta, Ben & Jerry’s, and Crate & Barrel sent a letter to Congress asking it to immediately pass the Fair Elections Now Act, which would publicly finance all congressional campaigns out of a special fund created by a fee levied on TV broadcasters:
Roughly 40 executives from companies including Playboy Enterprises, ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s, the Seagram’s liquor company, toymaker Hasbro, Delta Airlines and Men’s Wearhouse sent a letter to congressional leaders Friday urging them to approve public financing for House and Senate campaigns. They say they are tired of getting fundraising calls from lawmakers — and fear it will only get worse after Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling. [...]
“Members of Congress already spend too much time raising money from large contributors,” the business executives’ letter says. “And often, many of us individually are on the receiving end of solicitation phone calls from members of Congress. With additional money flowing into the system due to the court’s decision, the fundraising pressure on members of Congress will only increase.”
Even before the Supreme Court’s recent ruling, corporate special interest money was making a huge impact on the legislative process. From 1998 to 2009, the financial, insurance, and real estate lobbies spent nearly $3.8 billion in Washington, successfully deregulating Wall Street, passing huge tax cuts for the wealthy, barring Medicare from negotiating for lower drug prices, killing mortgage cramdown legislation, and weakening financial and health reforms.
Now's probably a very good time to sign this petition for the Fair Elections Now Act. Not that I believe it likely a Congress that can't even pass a fucking health care bill can manage to pass this, but at least we can remind them that corporations aren't people who go to the polls.

Cons, of course, are delighted by this idiotic turn of events.  But before they get too excited, they might want to consider looking for the fly in the ointment (h/t):
This Could Become A Big Problem for Republicans.  The Republicans have picked themselves off the floor in recent months by running as champions of the middle class.  Having big corporate America come in on behalf of a candidate will almost certainly guarentee that a candidate becomes tarred as taking the side of big corporations against the average guy, something this cycle that could be deadly.  The GOP better think twice about their newly populist brand before celebrating this decision too much.
We'll see if that makes any difference.  American voters haven't proven themselves too intelligent lately - after all, they elected Wall Street's buddy Brown, despite their worries about the economy.  

You know what I hope comes of this?  I hope Stephen Colbert runs for the Senate this fall with corporate sponsorship.  He's good enough at playing a Con shitheel that he'd probably get elected, and I can think of few things that would be better for the Senate than having Stephen Colbert in there proving the whole thing's become a very big, very unfunny joke.

And if that happens, I'll be throwing a party celebrating the ruling.

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