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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 1/22/10


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Message Paul Lehto

In Live blogging starting today at 10am EST, in what called "a rare if not unprecedented Thursday session" of the US Supreme Court, the court issued a 5-4 decision in Citizens United totaling 176 pages in length for all opinions (the longest of this term and in a while...) says this in live chat from the Supreme Court: "The Court's decision overturns the previously settled distinction between corporate and individual expenditures in American elections."
The five justice majority opinion, written by Kennedy, effectively declares that corporate treasury money has a constitutional right to be used in an unlimited fashion in campaign politics because it is protected by the First Amendment. This reverses approximately a century of congressional and state regulation of campaign finance. See

The US Supreme Court case called Austin v. Michigan (494 U.S. 652 (1990)) is overruled.

The US Supreme Court case McConnell v FEC (2003) upholding limits on independent corporate expenditures is also overruled.

Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority on page 45, claims that unlimited corporate cash purchases only "ingratiation and access [which are] are not corruption". Yet everyone knows money is the decisive factor in winning elections - in all cases where the vote counts are not rigged.

Nonstop propaganda alters the will of the electorate and defeats the conditions for "free elections" which are elections free from corrupting influence, fraud, force or any other condition that prevents the true voice and will of the people from being heard. Certainly, nonstop propaganda is something that will affect and distort the true voice and will of any people.

Stevens, in partial dissent, wrote a 90 page dissent, joined by Sotomayor and Ginsburg and Breyer. Exactly what "Partial" means has to be sorted out still since this is breaking... The partial dissent by Thomas complains about the one part of the majority opinion upholding disclosure requirements. Without disclosure, the candidate contributions would be not only unlimited but effectively secret.

TECHNICALLY: The Citizens United case is reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded. However, the affirmed part is only as to requiring disclosure by Citizens United, the reversal is much bigger and strikes down any right on the part of the government to regulate corporations like Citizens United in any campaign activity.

Thus, non-voters, non-citizens and non-human beings in the form of corporations, with foreign money, or mob money, or you name it, can take to the airwaves and contribute directly to candidates in an unlimited fashion. And, they are only about one vote away, perhaps two, from making these unlimited contributions SECRET so we the people don't even know WHO is talking at us so long and loud, or who's funding it...

This is a revolution against democracy, because We the People are being handcuffed and rendered helpless (by the courts) to have any kind of order in campaign finance. Rights are supposed to protect We the People from our government. Now the Supreme Court has weaponized the Constitution for use against We the People in elections of representatives to hold OUR power.

The First Amendment applies to government powers but elections of CANDIDATES are totally unique and special because they do not make law. Corporations, where they have legitimate business interests, live to fight another day. They are not harmed even by total exclusion from financing candidate campaigns. Yet the Court has opened the floodgates so that every representative can be considered bought and paid for - NO MATTER WHAT THEIR POSITION OR VOTE IS. In the probably rare event such position is progressive, it's bought and paid for by progressive rich folks...

Make no mistake: The court thinks discrimination on the source of funds is unconstitutional, but using corporate treasury funds instead of PAC donations from individual officers means Someone else's money is being used -- either consumers who didn't consent to part of the purchase price funding politics, or shareholders who are almost never consulted about political activities or lobbying: they too are compelled into forced speech against their will.

The ONLY thing preventing corporate charities from spending money on political campaigns is 501(c)(3) federal law and regulations. These are federal laws of the same status as campaign finance regulations. One really has to wonder whether this will destabilize confidence in charities as well, who may decide to spend charitable contributions on politics and then challenge any restrictions on that as unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court went way out of its way to overrule a century of regulation of corporations (and unions, as well). After oral argument in this relatively minor case, they asked for a special round of briefing on the subject of overturning Austin v. Michigan and another case. So much for the doctrine of "constitutional avoidance" which holds that cases ought to be resolved on non-constitutional grounds if possible. Legal bloggers have pointed to several ways the case could have been resolved non-constitutionally, and in nay event overturning Austin et al was not an issue raised by the original pleadings before the court.

It's all about attempting to entrench corporate rule: But now it's all in the OPEN like never before. This openness is outrageous, but it's also helpful: the Mask of corporate rule is now off.

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Paul Lehto practiced law in Washington State for 12 years in business law and consumer fraud, including most recently several years in election law, and is now a clean elections advocate. His forthcoming book is tentatively titled DEFENDING (more...)
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