January 21, 2010

Supreme Court throws aside campaign finance laws

In the sort of breathtaking edict that really ought to be decided on something other than a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court today tossed out longstanding restrictions on corporate campaign spending. The majority basically said companies can spend whatever they like.
The floodgates are going to be open wide.
Having watched this issue for decades, I'm not surprised, but I'm still stunned.
Justice John Paul Stevens' dissent has it just about right, I'm afraid. He said, ''The court's ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions around the nation.''
This is also a very strange overreaching by the majority, who took a legitimate case in which federal restrictions were wrong, and leaped way past the facts to make a sweeping ruling that undermines everything about campaign finance laws. Talk about judicial activism!
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com


Anonymous said...

So it looks like the rich can run the country again ! And buy all their election like in the past.

Sergeant Schultz said...

Unfortunately, the pendulum on these issues had swung too far to the side of imposing restrictions.

Here in the land of steady habits not only is a registered lobbyist prohibited from making donations to candidates for state office, his/her spouse and adult children living in the home of a lobbyist are similarly restricted. Sounds like a free speech violation to me.

Of course this CT law came as a result of a dozen municipal and state level convictions of public officials, none of which involved a lobbyist. Makes sense.

This decision by SCOTUS will have implications for states like Connecticut as well, since we are one of 24 states that restrict donations.

Again the pendulum swings too far, this time in the direction of creating a corporate wild, wild west where the pharmaceutical companies, insurance interests, banks, financial institutions, religious groups and labor organizations will have far too much influence over elective politics.

Too bad we can never find a fair and reasonable standard – it is always one extreme or the other.

Anonymous said...

...and the big unions can use their members hard earned dues to poison the kool aid

Anonymous said...

So without saying something that doesn't impress anyone but yourself "The rich can now rule the country again." Sargent smart ass

Anonymous said...

And the insurance companies and friends can drink their champagne paid by the people who make them rich

Sergeant Schultz said...

12:40 PM

God forbid anyone should offer up commentary on this blog that exceeds your third grade reading level.

If you had sufficient mental acuity you would have observed that my concluding statement was: “Too bad we can never find a fair and reasonable standard – it is always one extreme or the other.”

I think this decision went too far. I don’t agree with overly restrictive rules but I don’t want to see wide open campaign funding either.

By the way, you meant to say “…impresses anyone other than you” (not yourself) and Sergeant is not spelled Sargeant… but thanks for your reply anonymous dumb-ass.

Anonymous said...

So dummy Shultz were you a teacher like Mocababy ? Ha an inteligent hack. And do you also love yourself like him?

Tim Gamache said...

Sgt.Shultz: I concur completely with your concluding comment.It appears the pendulum does in fact swing pretty wildly to one side or the other.The justices are supposed to be the best legal minds in the nation and keepers of the Constitution.Well,so much for the "best and the brightest."If the average citizen can recognize the extreme danger in this decision,how is it the Justices of the highest court in the land can not?

cseguin said...

I agree that the decision is broader than expected, but there are a couple of open issues (which I have seen mentioned in articles on the subject):

1) Are labor unions on the same footing as corporations? If so, does today's decision remove those same restraints from labor unions? I would guess it does, but it's an open question.

2) If a foreign corporation has significant operations in the US, does that corporation qualify under the ruling? That could be a very interesting case, especially because of the First Amendment issues raised with regards to this particular decision.

Very interesting decision, and not surprising that Justice Kennedy ended up with the opinion.

Steve - if you're concerned about the implications of the opinion, I would think you'd be happy with the 5-4 result. Could make it easier to limit the opinion in the future (especially if Stevens or his successor were to end up in the majority).

Odin said...

Unfortunately, Tim, it's not their job to keep us out of danger - their job is to interpret the Constitution. It's up to the executive and legislative branches to keep us out of danger (God help us!).

Anonymous said...

The Supreme Court rules on Constitutionality, not on rationale.

I thought we all learned that in Civics class.

Sergeant Schultz said...


The article I read said that labor organizations can donate in the same way as corporations (unlimited) but they can only use voluntary contributions from their members, not the funds from their operating budgets (dues).

I have no idea about the foreign corporation issue but it seems that within the beltway you gain constitutional rights the instant you set foot on American soil so they may be allowed to contribute as well.

But I do think there are national security or trade rules that may restrict certain countries from participating. That is a guess, I admit to not having much knowledge of rules regarding foreign contributions.

AnonymousWestconnStudent said...


Baring in mind that I haven't read the decision yet:

1. Asking if labor unions are on the same footing as corporations assumes there is a footing for corporations in the first place. Conservatives have operated under the assumption for years that corporations are people and entitled to rights as people. Yet there is no legal statute or ruling defining that.

A union and a corporation are essentially the same thing, a collective organizing of people. One provides a business, the other provides a workforce. Yet corporations were protected under the law far before unions were. The right to collective bargaining was finally recognized by the federal government because, frankly there is structurally speaking no difference between unions and corporations.

There are restraints removed from unions but there are also restraints removed from corporations as well. And in the status quo, thirty years of union bashing have undermined their ability to be a "countervailing power" to corporations.

A 5-4 decision doesn't do anything by satisfy Kennedy's ego as a replacement to what O'Connor was. It doesn't make it any easier to reverse the precedent. That may come if the court grossly over exaggerated its jurisdiction under the writ of certioriari and engaged in judicial activism (as they did with the DC gun law and Ricci v. New Haven)

Sergeant Schultz said...

President Obama immediately issued a statement opposing the decision. As the Washington Post reports:

“With its ruling today, 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. … We are going to talk with bipartisan congressional leaders to develop a forceful response to this decision.”

So there it is: the President and members of the Congressional leadership are preparing a “forceful response” to First Amendment rights.

Don't worry.. Be happy!

Steve Collins said...

WestConn student --
You might want to check out Darmouth College v. Woodward,t eh famous case where the Supreme Court clearly granted corporations the rights of individuals. It's also the case where Daniel Webster famously said that Dartmouth is a small college "yet there are those who love it."

Tim Gamache said...

I know this is going to sound simplistic,but it seems to me this decision allows "big money" to buy elections,control the flow of information and influence our elected officials.Someone care to explain to me how this serves our nation?Let the "fun" begin.

AnonymousWestconnStudent said...

This is why I love wikipedia...

Dartmouth College V. Woodward extended protections of property rights as they existed for individuals on the basis of the Constitution's contracts.

And while I stand corrected that it is an extension of an individual's right to a private entity it certainly doesn't go nearly as far as the Supreme Court did today. Again Dartmouth v. Woodward that in defining contract it was exclusively to property rights and not "the political relations between government and its citizens." Today's decision rapidly changes that.

Property rights are also a different matter than the rights articulated through the Bill of Rights and incorporated against the states via the 14th Amendment. Those rights are not, until today, enshrined upon corporations. And in the context of my previous comment that was what I was referring to.

Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad in 1886 is credited with extension of 14th amendment rights to corporations. However, it has been shown that that extension was not made in the actual decision but in a footnote made by a Court reporter, J.C. Bancroft Davis, who was before his work on the Supreme Court the president of the Newbugh/New York Railroad.

So yes you are correct, Steve there is precedent for protection of corporate rights as people in cases of contract. Today's case was not that and the dissenting opinion makes it clear that regulation of corporations in the interest of the public welfare is as old as the nation itself. And there is still the question as to what this decision does to free speech, even in a community like Bristol, knowing now that any corporation with power and money can steamroll anyone they want.

Anonymous said...

So Sergeant intelligent Republican "Hack" Your biases are showing again. You aren't so smart that we can't see through your phony biases.

Anonymous said...

Oh my Gamache has now declared himself an average citizen, and further places himself, in his own mind, above that the intellect of the Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of treating corporations and unions as individuals.

All the bleeding heart liberal obama lovers are upset as it gives the other side, ( profit driven war mungering conservatives) the ammunition to fight back the likes of ACORN and move on .org. and other liberasl shames the feed the democrates.

Sorry Tim, your liberal buddies have been put on a level playing field.

A real question is how this will effect the current case before the CT Supreme Court regarding public financing of state candidates.

Anonymous said...

Boy, elections sure do have consequences!!

All of Bill Clinton's screwing around set the stage for George W's 2 terms, W puts 2 solid conservative justices on the court, Alito & Roberts.

But W's spending & questionable foriegn policy sets the stage for this clueless empty suit!

I hope nobody else on the court retires in Obamas only term!!

I agree with this courts decision, money equals speech, if you don't have enough money go get some more!

Sergeant Schultz said...


I agree, this is not good news for our country as SCOTUS appears to have overreached in its decision.

Big money (corporate or union) deciding our election outcomes is not healthy. It doesn’t matter if you are liberal or conservative; this is not a good direction for America.

I heard a commentator on the radio say that this decision actually includes a section striking down a state-by-state ability to limit campaign contributions so it would seem that the CT would be affected because it will ultimately be ruled unconstitutional.

That stretch by SCOTUS would be considered by some to also be unconstitutional since it strikes down the right of states to regulate campaign funding.

Tim Gamache said...

6:46 Nice try.While I do feel I have the right to voice an opinion,I most certainly do not feel I am a superior legal mind than our Supreme Court Justices.I DO however feel there is the possibility I possess more COMMON SENSE.I can't help but wonder if you're still going to feel this was a good decision while you deal with the inevitable BARRAGE of ads we are all going to have to put up with during this upcoming election cycle.Last but not least,are you seriously trying to say giving"big money" unrestricted ability to control the flow of information is leveling the playing field?The view from your mostly unscrutinized place most be nice.WOW!(in case you missed it ANONYMOUS,that was a hint you should sign your name and stop being a wussy)

NOT mine said...

Apparently there are number of kool-aid drinking socialists posting in here that despise the American Constitution and Freedom of Speech.

Such a pity .....
Well .... Get used to it ...

The American Revolution has Begun ...

We WILL get our Country back ....

Long Live America ....

Obama and his followers WILL be punished !!!!

Anonymous said...

Nope there are too many Champagne jerks like you that can't see that the ruling favors corporations NOT the Unions. They have waymore money than the Unions. Take a math lesson will ya ?