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Sen. Whitehouse Blames ‘Preposterous’ Citizens United Decision On Lack Of Justices Who Ever Ran For Election

By Ian Millhiser  

"Sen. Whitehouse Blames ‘Preposterous’ Citizens United Decision On Lack Of Justices Who Ever Ran For Election"

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Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is the last former elected official to serve on the Supreme Court

WASHINGTON, DC — The conservative justices justified their decision in Citizens United that corporations and wealthy individuals can spend unlimited money to influence elections because they believe that “independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” They are part of a very small minority who believes this. Only 15 percent of the country believes that unlimited spending does not lead to corruption, less than the 19 percent who believe in “spells or witchcraft.”

In an exclusive interview with ThinkProgress yesterday, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) argued that the five conservatives responsible for Citizens United would never have made such an error in judgment if they had actually had first-hand knowledge of how elections work:

Unfortunately you had the five right-wing judges, none of whom have ever run for any office ever and have zero political experience between the five of them, offering opinions about what money can do in elections . . . . So clearly the finding of fact in Citizens United that unlimited corporate spending cannot either increase the risk of corruption or increase the appearance to the public that there’s corruption is ludicrous. . . . .

The President asked me who I thought, you know, what were the characteristics of somebody that should be appointed to the Court, and I said I think it should be somebody who has some actual political experience out there so that they are not operating in this political arena with absolutely no knowledge. Even if they wanted to come to the result that Citizens United came to, I think those judges would have had a hard time getting there if they’d had actual practical political experience because they would have known what a preposterous finding they were making.

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The current Supreme Court includes eight former U.S. Court of Appeals judges and one former law school dean. Four of the five current justices responsible for Citizens United served as political appointees in Republican administrations. The justices who decided Brown v. Board of Education, by contrast, included one former governor, three former U.S. senators, and one former state lawmaker.

The Supreme Court will have the opportunity to correct its error in Citizens United, however, in a pending case challenging Montana’s longstanding ban on corporate influence over elections. Sen. Whitehouse joined Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in a brief urging the justices to “revisit Citizens United‘s finding that vast independent expenditures do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption” if they agree to hear the Montana case.

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