corporate cash, campaigns, and corruption: you ain't seen nothin' yet
The Supreme Court case Citizens United v. FEC (see Wikipedia, ScotusWiki, and the SCOTUS decision) overturning part of the McCain/Feingold campaign finance reform is, as noted in "Justices Block Key Part of Campaign Law" at NYT, a travesty:
A bitterly divided Supreme 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.
The ruling reversed a century-long trend to limit the political muscle of corporations, organized labor and their massive war chests [...] 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.
"US Government for Sale" at ThinkProgress is a great summary of the case, and includes this comment from Justice Stevens' dissent: "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." Obama's brief statement notes that "the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics:"
It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.
John Nichols writes in "Unions Can't Compete with Corporate Campaign Cash" from The Nation that the pretended equivalence between corporations and unions is farcical: "Some union leaders think that the Supreme Court ruling [...] will give them the same flexibility and freedom to influence the process as it does corporations:"
They imagine that, with spending limits removed, organized labor will be able to buy enough television time to reward their political friends and punish their political enemies.
It's a sweet fantasy. But the reality is that corporations will be buying so much more television time when it matters -- in the run-up to key elections -- that the voices of working Americans will drowned out with the same regularity that they are on Capitol Hill...
Besides that important observation, Nichols has also provided my first-ever Analogy of the Day:
The bottom line is that a union leader who supports the Citizens United ruling is like a steer who talks up a steak restaurant because they're both in the same business.
As noted at American Prospect, however, "The Real Problem with Citizens United" is that "[i]n striking down the federal ban, the Supreme Court overruled two of its decisions: Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, decided in 1990, and McConnell v. FEC, decided less than 7 years ago." "Corporations Take the Court" pinpoints the same problem, that "a Supreme Court that is increasingly solicitous to the interests of big business [...] went well beyond the facts of the case to overrule two important precedents:"
...the five most conservative members of the Roberts Court have now held that corporations have virtually the same rights as citizens when it comes to spending money on electioneering, prohibiting long-standing prohibitions on corporate campaign spending by state and federal legislatures. It also overruled one landmark precedent and parts of another to reach its decision.
Ron Chusid has a great question at Liberal Values:
Can we expect to see conservatives protest this decision by an activist court which went against years of legal precedent?
Conservative activism--the reactionary kind--is OK with them; it's only liberal activism (voting rights for women, civil rights for African-Americans, marriage equality for same-sex couples) that will get Republicans riled up enough to protest. My favorite snark comes from Driftglass in "Five Conservatives Vote to Obliterate Democracy." After quoting some of the predictable right-wing reactions to the ruling, Driftglass makes this observation:
Of course, if the teabaggers were actually interested in saving this country from the actual enemies of democracy instead of blaming imaginary hippies for the sour taste that sucking George Bush's dick for eight catastrophic years has left in their mouths, this Supreme Court decision should put them in the street-- pitchforks and torches in-hand -- by the millions.
Which is about as likely as Pavlov's dog getting up on its hind legs and beating the crap out of the guy with the little bell.
Ding ding ding!