Activist Court OK With Foreign Intervention In U.S. Elections

Article by David Corn covering John Paul Stevens accusation of  “Activist Court” and reasons for dissent: <read>

By ruling today that corporations and unions can independently spend as much money as they want to back or trash congressional and presidential candidates, the conservative Supreme Court justices are throwing out over a century of jurisprudence that backed the regulation of corporate involvement in elections. Yet will the right denounce the five-to-four decision as an act of judicial overreach? That’s not likely. But Justice John Paul Stevens, in a stinging dissent written for the minority, argues that the right wing of the court has engaged in a brazen act of activism–and has done so to award corporations more legal rights than they have previously been afforded.

Justice Stevens makes some good arguments, the most surprising given the conservatives concerns when the Court makes decisions on foreign precedents:

Although they make enormous contributions to our society, corporations are not actually members of it. They cannot vote or run for office. Because they may be managed and controlled by nonresidents, their interests may conflict in fundamental respects with the interests of eligible voters.

Statement from people for the American Way<read>

NPR Coverage <read>

The ruling could unleash a new flood of corporate cash into the political realm just as the nation enters the pivotal 2010 midterm congressional primaries and election season.

By a 5-4 vote, the court ruled that corporations may spend freely to support or oppose candidates for president and Congress, overturning a 20-year-old decision that barred such contributions.

“We find no basis for the proposition that, in the context of political speech, the government may impose restrictions on certain disfavored speakers,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority. “The court has recognized that First Amendment protection extends to corporations.”

The new ruling blurs the lines between corporate and individual contributions in political campaigns. It also strikes down part of the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance law that banned unions and corporations from paying for political ads in the waning days of campaigns…

For example, the decision removes limits on independent expenditures by corporations that are not coordinated with candidates’ campaigns.

“As long as they do it independently, they can spend whatever they want,” notes NPR’s Nina Totenberg. “It will undoubtedly help Republican candidates since corporations have generally supported Republican candidates more.”


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