Montana Could Force SCOTUS To Re-Hash Citizens United
The Supreme Court could give Citizens United a second look this month as it decides whether to take up a lawsuit against the state of Montana, which wants its century-old state law restricting corporate influence in elections to stay in place.Montana is the only state so far to assert its existing corporate-money ban should still stand after the court ruled in 2010 that corporations could spend unlimited amounts on election ads via independent groups. The Montana Supreme Court upheld the 1912 Corrupt Practices Act, but the Supreme Court ordered that the law not be enforced while it reviewed a challenge by the conservative group American Tradition Partnership. The court is widely expected to strike the law down in keeping with its previous decision.Still, advocates view the case as their best chance yet to force the justices to re-examine elements of their landmark 2010 opinion that they say have already proven flawed in light of the subsequent deluge of campaign spending. Twenty-two states and Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) have signed on with Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock (D) in support of their claim.The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision rested in part on its claim that “independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” Bullock and his supporters are asking them to look at Montana’s own history and then decide whether that assumption is still valid.
As election 2012 progresses, there’s continuing hubbub about the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which paved the way for super PACs. Proponents of campaign-finance laws see the ruling as opening the floodgates for unlimited, often undisclosed, money to overwhelm our political system. Opponents view it as a victory of free speech over government regulation. Where does the truth lie? While super PACs may be “speaking” up a storm, it’s now difficult to hear anyone else. That can’t be good in a representative democracy, which has long prided itself on protecting free speech. [...]This created the “Buckley bifurcated framework,” which managed to unify critics on both sides of the campaign-finance divide. Each found something to deride. Regulation proponents decried equating money with speech while striking down expenditure limits. They rightly predicted this would lead to endless fundraising. Regulation opponents condemned the contribution limits, which, in their view, allowed government to trample speech rights. But a decision made in the name of protecting speech rights actually did the opposite. Now it’s the people with the most money who can speak longest and loudest.
Corporations are people, but I guess unions aren't
So seven of the Supreme Court Justices, including all of the ones who voted for corporate free speech in Citizens United, have decided that unions aren't the same as corporations and don't have the same political rights.
McCain: Foreign cash sneaking in via super PACs
McCain, the GOP's 2008 presidential nominee, suggested casino magnate Sheldon Adelson's $10 million contribution to a pro-Romney super PAC was a conduit for Adelson to use profits from properties in Macau to shape American elections. McCain also criticized the Supreme Court ruling that allows individuals and corporations to make such unlimited donations to nominally independent political action committees."That is a great deal of money. And, again, we need a level playing field and we need to go back to the realization that Teddy Roosevelt had: that we have to have a limit on the flow of money and that corporations are not people," McCain said in an interview with PBS'"NewsHour".
Activists collect nearly 6,000 signatures in Massachusetts calling for amendment to overturn to Supreme Court's Citizens United decision
Volunteers associated with the progressive group MoveOn.org sent Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown's Senate office signatures from 5,749 Massachusetts citizens on Friday calling on him to support a Constitutional amendment overturning a Supreme Court decision that allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money in an election.
'Gaylord 99%' to Benishek: Overturn 'Citizens United' ruling
About a dozen members of the Gaylord 99% group gathered on the Otsego County Building lawn Wednesday and marched to U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek’s Gaylord office to deliver a petition in protest of corporate contributions in elections.The group was calling on Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, to support a constitutional amendment to reverse the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in the case of Citizens United v. the Federal Elections Commission. According to the New York Times, the court ruled the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections.“We want to educate folks about Citizens United, that corporations are now able to spend unlimited money on elections and to tell Benishek we’re not OK with that,” said Gabe Radeka, the Mancelona woman who organized Wednesday’s march.The group collected more than 400 signatures on a petition asking Benishek to support a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court ruling and delivered the petition to his office staff Wednesday. His staff heard the group’s concerns and took questions to forward to the congressman
Source: John Harwood, NY Times
The Citizens United decision that Democrats condemn was a clear signal that the Supreme Court takes a dim view of campaign finance restrictions. But it is not the only factor in the surge of money into politics, and its effects have been less profound than often portrayed.It loosened the conditions under which corporations and unions can back candidates, publicly or privately. Yet organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which since the ruling can use undisclosed donations to advocate victory or defeat of specific candidates, could previously use such donations to influence elections under the veil of “issue advocacy.”The Citizens United decision was cited in a separate 2010 Supreme Court ruling, SpeechNow.org v. FEC, which made clear that individuals can pool unlimited donations in political committees that operate independently of candidates. But wealthy people like Sheldon Adelson, who recently gave $10 million to a super PAC backing Mr. Romney, have enjoyed the right to spend unlimited sums on their own campaign advocacy since the Supreme Court’s 1976 ruling in Buckley v. Valeo.
Gary Hart: Citizens United Legalizes the Watergate Scandal
Who would have thought, forty years after the greatest political scandal and presidential abuse of power in U.S. history, that the Supreme Court of the United States would rule that the practices that fueled and financed that scandal were now legal?Yet that is essentially the effect of the Citizens United decision. Go ahead and take bets on how much time will pass before the tsunami of cash unleashed by Citizens United ends up in the pockets of a Watergate-like cast of break-in burglars, wiretap experts, surveillance magicians, and cyberpunks. Given the power and money at stake in the nation's presidential and congressional elections, it is inevitable that candidates or their operatives will tap into the hundreds of millions of dollars flowing through their campaigns and try to game the system -- in perfectly legal or highly illegal ways.And, of course, the ultimate victims of the corruption of the democratic process are not defeated candidates and parties but America's citizens. Perhaps Supreme Court justices should have to experience a corrupted election process firsthand to understand what it means to live with a hollowed-out democracy. As one who experienced Watergate in its multi-tentacled form, it isn't pleasant to discover that you've been placed under surveillance, had your taxes audited, and been subjected to other dirty tricks. All this happened to me, among a number of others, simply because we worked for an honest presidential candidate who dared to challenge the authority and power of a president who had long-since forgotten the integrity the democratic process requires.
In a brief unsigned decision, the Supreme Court on Monday declined to have another look at its blockbuster 2010 campaign finance decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. In the 5-to-4 ruling on Monday, the court summarily reversed a decision of the Montana Supreme Court that had upheld a state law limiting independent political spending by corporations. That decision, the United States Supreme Court said, was flatly at odds with Citizens United, which said the First Amendment allows corporations and unions to spend as much as they like to support or oppose political candidates.“The question presented in this case is whether the holding of Citizens United applies to the Montana state law,” the opinion said. “There can be no serious doubt that it does.” Montana’s arguments, the opinion continued, “either were already rejected in Citizens United, or fail to meaningfully distinguish that case.”
Corporate Money in State Races Likely After Supreme Court Decision
The Supreme Court's decision upholding Citizens United in Montana today proved one thing: that corporate money is here to stay.In a short, anonymous ( per curiam) decision, the court effectively ruled 5-4 to invalidate a Montana state law that prohibits corporate spending in connection with candidates and elections, contradicting the Montana Supreme Court's rejection of a challenge to it.In doing so, the court upheld its own landmark campaign-finance decision in all 50 states."The question presented in this case is whether the holding of Citizens United applies to the Montana state law. There can be no serious doubt that it does," the majority justices wrote.In setting that standard, the Supreme Court paved the way for corporations to spend money on elections in other states where, despite the Citizens United ruling, laws still ban the practice. In 2010, 24 states banned election spending by corporations and/or unions, the National Conference of State Legislatures noted.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka speaks during a luncheon at the National Press Club Friday, May 20, 2011 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is pulling no punches when it comes to the US Supreme Court’s recent pattern of decisions regarding the way in which corporations can engage in politics versus the way in which unions can engage.“[This] Supreme Court says you cannot do anything to hamper the First Amendment rights of corporations,” argues Trumka. “But when it comes to workers, they haven’t seen a detriment to the First Amendment that they haven’t liked yet.”Trumka has been increasingly critical of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. FEC ruling in recent months, arguing: “Citizen United has ushered in a new era of elections and it’s not a pretty picture.”But now he has even more reason to be concerned. And, hopefully, to swing the labor movement toward even more aggressive support of fundamental reforms in how election campaigns are financed—up to and including a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.
After the Supreme Court struck down a century-old Montana law limiting corporate campaign spending, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) and Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger (R) called on Congress to overturn the court’s controversial Citizens United decision.
Schneiderman: Supreme Court applying Citizens United to state and local elections 'disastrous' for democracy
Schneiderman disagreed with the decision. He said applying the Citizens United decision to local and state elections will be "disastrous."“We are disappointed by today’s decision to strike down Montana’s law regulating corporate spending in campaigns for state and local offices, particularly because the Court invalidated the law without receiving full briefing or hearing oral argument. The decision gives short shrift to States’ vital interests in protecting their democratic processes and institutions from the threats posed by unlimited corporate spending in campaigns," Schneiderman said. "It also ignores the national experience since the Court decided Citizens United v. FEC two years ago, which has allowed corporations and billionaires to flood millions of dollars to candidates through Super PACs whose independence is a legal fiction. The application of Citizens United to state and local elections will be disastrous for the integrity of our democracy.”
Our Constitution opens with the words “We the people.” Are corporations people?This year, people in more than 60 Massachusetts cities and towns have weighed in on this question, and answered loudly, “Of course not!”Falmouth, Somerset and Westport recently joined others in passing resolutions calling on Congress to send a constitutional amendment to the states for ratification. The amendment would overturn the disastrous Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC and ensure that the Constitution means what it has always meant: the Bill of Rights applies to people, not corporations.Similar resolutions have passed everywhere from Worcester to Williamstown, and earlier this year Boston joined a growing list of other major cities across the country that now includes New York, Los Angeles and Seattle in calling for an amendment. Eleven attorneys general, including Martha Coakley, have written to Congress urging action. Entire states have joined in passing amendment resolutions, starting with Rhode Island, Vermont, New Mexico and Hawaii. A resolution pending on Beacon Hill would add Massachusetts to that list.In Citizens United, a 5-4 court threw out decades of legal precedent and ruled that we the people are not allowed to decide for ourselves whether corporations and unions can spend unlimited sums of money to influence our elections. As a result, we now see the shady dominance of corporate and billionaire SuperPacs and the increasing irrelevance of most Americans to Washington and the political operators. And this is only the beginning. Bear in mind that the largest 100 corporations alone had revenues in the 2008 election cycle of more than $13 trillion.
Two years after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision opened the door for corporate spending on elections, relatively little money has flowed from company treasuries into ‘super PACs,’ which can accept unlimited contributions but must disclose their donors.Instead, there is growing evidence that large corporations are trying to influence campaigns by donating to tax-exempt organizations that can spend millions of dollars without being subject to the disclosure requirements that apply to candidates, parties, and PACs.
Individual donors to U.S. presidential candidates can contribute up to $2,500 for the state-by-state party nominating contests and another $2,500 for the general election. But independent groups called Super PACs have no limits on what they can raise from individuals, corporations or labor unions.Here is a look at wealthy individuals who have contributed at least $1 million to the major political action committees, or PACs, as disclosed to the Federal Election Commission...
Barack Obama may not like asking for money, but the hundreds of people willing to pay upwards of $40,000 a pop to attend star-studded fundraisers in his honor show there are plenty willing to reach deep into their pockets on his behalf.Since May, the president has gone to 69 fundraisers, each with ticket prices topping tens of thousands of dollars. His opponent, Republican Mitt Romney, has held 105 of the donor events, in a frenzied race for money that has already pushed this year’s presidential campaign coffers past $1.3 billion.While the sum may seem staggering, the 2012 edition of the presidential race shouldn’t cost significantly more than in 2008 since the president didn’t have to finance a primary campaign to win the Democratic nomination.
Grassroots organizers and activists from across Texas will take to the South Steps of the Texas State Capitol to mark the third anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, and rally in support of two concurrent Texas resolutions before the 83rd Legislature calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to establish that political expenditures are not protected speech under the First Amendment, and only natural persons are protected by constitutional rights.WHO: Texans United to Amend is a network of independent groups throughout Texas dedicated to passing local resolutions at the city, county and state level calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to combat the unlimited flow of money into our elections. Scheduled speakers include Laurie Vanhoose, Common Cause Texas; Tom “Smitty” Smith, Public Citizen Texas; Anthony Bill, Texas Rootstrikers; Todd Jagger, Wolf-PAC Texas; Nelson Linder, Austin NAACP; Matt Glazer, Progress Texas; Ken Zarifis, Education Austin; Rick Levy, Texas AFL-CIO; and Conor Kenny, Chief of Staff for Rep. Lon Burnam (D-Fort Worth); along with activists from Houston Area Against Corporate Personhood, Occupy Dallas, Occupy Austin, Occupy AISD, Workers Defense Project, Greenpeace USA, as well as workers, business owners and teachers. Performances by Earth Culture Dancer Daniel Llanes and the “Stand On Up For Freedom” puppets, attorney Lou McCreary as “Ben Franklin”, singer-songwriter Dana McBride, and spoken word poets Joe Brundidge and Thom Worldpoet are scheduled. Art postcards depicting corporations will be on display. Nonprofit and activist organizations will be on hand to provide information and resources to help attendees get connected and build collective power to effect real change on this issue.
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