- Source: Wikipedia.
- SCOTUS INC. Front row: Associate Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, John Paul Stevens, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Antonin G. Scalia, and Clarence Thomas. Back row: Associate Justices Samuel A. Alito, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor.
Yesterday, a divided 5-4 Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that it is unconstitutional to limit the amount of money corporations can contribute to political campaigns, invalidating the federal statute that had long prohibited that spending in federal elections.
The majority, consisting entirely of justices appointed by Republican presidents, held that the First Amendment rights of corporations cannot be distinguished from those of natural born citizens. In dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens observed: “Under the majority's view, I suppose it may be a First Amendment problem that corporations are not permitted to vote, given that voting is, among other things, a form of speech."
The ruling effectively guts McCain-Feingold and other campaign finance legislation as it applies to corporations. Presumably, any existing or contemplated effort by states to restrict corporate political spending in state elections is also now doomed by this precedent.
The implications of this ruling boggle the mind. In the long term, corporations will be able to give unlimited money to candidates who favor their positions. What chance will any state or federal legislative effort to reform, or tax, or regulate business now have? How much would it be worth to Big Pharma and the insurance industry to unseat enough members of Congress to kill health care reform permanently?
One lawmaker has already launched a preemptive strike: Freshman Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) introduced a series of bills last week, such as the Business Should Mind Its Own Business Act and the Corporate Propaganda Sunshine Act. However, it is questionable whether any legislation short of a Constitutional Amendment, now matter how funny its name, can effectively address the consequences of yesterday’s ruling.
But, we haven't finished reading the opinion yet. Let’s read it, shall we? More later.