The U.S. Supreme Court’s trajectory on campaign cash

April 5, 2011 | By | 1 Reply More

In the April 11, 2011 edition of The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin connects the dots and announces what the United States Supreme Court has in store for us. The latest evidence is the attitude displayed by a majority of the justices during an argument concerning the constitutionality of an Arizona clean-money level-the-playing field election law. All of this conservative activism is allegedly being done to make sure that the government won’t “stifle debate,” even though the Court’s approach is drowning out non-monied natural people and inviting large monied corporations to rig elections.

The implications of the Court’s approach are now becoming more clear. In the Citizens United case, the majority decreed, in an opinion written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, that corporations and other organizations could bypass the old limits by giving unlimited amounts not to candidates but to nominally independent groups that support them. (Corporations, of course, traditionally give more to Republicans.) But the logic of the decision—and the views expressed by the majority at the argument last week—suggests that in the future the Court will allow corporations to skip the third parties and give money directly to the candidates. It also implies that any limit on the size of contributions, by individuals or corporations, may now be held to be unconstitutional. The Court did suggest that requirements calling for the public disclosure of contributions might pass constitutional muster, but Congress shows no inclination to enact any such rules. President Obama’s DISCLOSE Act, which would have bolstered disclosure requirements, died in Congress last year. (Clarence Thomas, the silent Justice during oral arguments, believes that even disclosure violates First Amendment rights.)

For a succinct and accurate rendition of Citizens United, check out this video by Annie Leonard.


Category: Campaign Finance Reform, Court Decisions, Politics, Social justice

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Erich Vieth says:


    "Madison, WI (April 6, 2011) – On April 5, voters in South Central Wisconsin approved two historic referenda by overwhelming margins. These referenda asked whether voters support amending the U.S. Constitution to make clear that corporations are not people and money is not speech. The City of Madison referendum passed with 84% of the vote, and the similar Dane County referendum passed with 78%. "

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