Obama: Decision represents “a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”
Sweeping aside a century-old understanding and overruling two important precedents, a bitterly divided Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections….
The 5-to-4 decision was a doctrinal earthquake but also a political and practical one. Specialists in campaign finance law said they expected the decision, which also applies to labor unions and other organizations, to reshape the way elections are conducted….
Justice John Paul Stevens read a long dissent from the bench. He said the majority had committed a grave error in treating corporate speech the same as that of human beings. His decision was joined by the other three members of the court’s liberal wing.
And so a corrupted process becomes more corrupt. The High Court’s ruling can be viewed here.
Of course, existing dirty energy industries have tens of billions of dollars in profits to spend on electing their candidates. New clean energy industries and future generations, not so much. Indeed, the very point of the ruling by the conservative majority is that corporations are really no different than homo “sapiens” sapiens — except of course they have a lot more money.
The Sierra Club has released a Statement by Political Director, Cathy Duvall, on the grim implication for energy and climate policy:
“We are extremely troubled and dismayed by today’s decision. It appears that the High Court confirmed our worst fears with its sweeping ruling that cast aside the laws that protected us from unlimited corporate campaign spending.
“Congress is already awash in a sea of special interest money; this decision will launch a tsunami of corporate cash whose purpose is to overrun the public’s interests. Big Oil, Dirty Coal, and other special interests have a stranglehold on the Congress and today’s ruling will further endanger the ability of citizens to influence the political process. This ruling could put today’s “pay-to-play” political culture on steroids.
“We already have very clear indications of the dangers that lie ahead. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has been involved in today’s case, reported just yesterday that it spent a record-breaking $71 million on lobbying last quarter. Even before today’s decision, it has already been laundering hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate cash, most notably for the health insurance industry and polluters, and has pledged to spend tens of millions of dollars in this year’s elections. Now it and the special interests that fund it will be allowed to spend limitless amounts not only in the legislative process, but to support or oppose individual candidates.
“Now only Congress can stem the tidal wave of special interest cash and influence peddling that is about to overwhelm the electoral process. The Sierra Club has long supported campaign finance reform and we now urge Congress to find a solution to help candidates combat the expected increase in spending on independent expenditures. In particular, we support passage of the Fair Elections Now Act.”
Here’s the President, in the Washington Post story:
President Obama sharply criticized the decision, saying it gives “a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics” and represents “a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”
In a statement released by the White House, Obama said the ruling “gives the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington — while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates.” He said he was instructing his administration “to get to work immediately with Congress on this issue” and coordinate with Democratic and Republican leaders on a “forceful response.”
The Post notes:
It also is a telling reminder of how quickly a court can change. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor supported the constitutionality of the act in 2003. But Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and O’Connor’s replacement, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., have supported each challenge to the law since they have joined the court. They supported Kennedy’s opinion, along with Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.
As always, elections matter, or in this case, other Supreme Court decisions like Bush v. Gore.