Jamie Raskin, a constitutional law professor, recently wrote a very interesting article on the Citizens United decision. The irony of the Citizens United case is that the plaintiffs only wanted a ruling stating that the electioneering provisions of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law didn’t apply to them. “But the conservatives sent the parties back to brief and argue the paradigm-shifting constitutional question they were so keen to decide. As dissenting Justice John Paul Stevens observed, the justices in the majority ‘changed the case to give themselves an opportunity to change the law.'”
Raskin states that the influx of money spent by super PACs and dark money 501(c)4 groups in the 2010 election changed the focus of that year’s election from the continuing effects of the subprime mortgage crisis, the BP oil spill, and the Massey Energy coal mine disaster to the urgent importance of deregulating corporations (and, of course, repealing Obamacare). He discusses how, after 200 years of precedent, the Supreme Court changed its views of corporations from an “artificial entity” and “mere creation of the law” to one of personhood.
image courtesy of reuters
Raskin describes how corporations are now actually more protected than individuals and small businesses. Defenders say that “corporations should be free to keep their political spending secret because they may face intimidation and even — God forbid — boycotts from consumers who dislike their politics.” Small businesses are at a disadvantage since they don’t have the kind of money to spend that large corporations do in order to have their voices heard.
In another ruling against democratic principles, the Supreme Court overturned a provision of Arizona’s law on public campaign financing, a law that was passed by referendum by its citizens. “The Court ruled that privately financed candidates backed by wealthy interests not only have a right to spend to the heavens to win office but also a right, in states with public financing laws, to lock in their massive financial advantage over publicly financed candidates, whose campaign speech may not be even modestly amplified by public funding when they get outspent. The First Amendment becomes not the guardian of democratic discussion but the guarantee of unequal protection for well-born and wealth-backed politicians. Today corporations can saturate the airwaves and billionaires can spend to their hearts’ content, but government cannot create even a modest megaphone to help poorer candidates be heard.”
Here are excerpts from the article: