Adam Cohen of the New York Times is a fairly astute writer on legal issues, and he has a new article up on the interesting case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The case involves the ability of corporations to further pollute elections in the United States with unregulated big money. From Cohen’s NYT article:
The founders were wary of corporate influence on politics — and their rhetoric sometimes got pretty heated. In an 1816 letter, Thomas Jefferson declared his hope to “crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”
This skepticism was enshrined in law in the early 20th century when the nation adopted strict rules banning corporations from contributing to political campaigns. Today that ban is in danger from the Supreme Court, which hears arguments next month in a little-noticed case that could open the floodgates to corporate money in politics.
The court has gone to extraordinary lengths to hear the case. And there are worrying signs that there may well be five votes to rule that the ban on corporate contributions violates the First Amendment.
If the ban is struck down, corporations may soon be writing large checks to the same elected officials whom they are asking to give them bailouts or to remove health-and-safety regulations from their factories or to insert customized loopholes into the tax code.
The entire article is not that long and well worth a read for the history and set up for the case at bar. Cohen is right that the ban is in jeopardy; and the Roberts court does seem to have a hard on for this issue, having taken extraordinary steps to wade into this case, which is not that well set up for a Supreme Court determination on such a critical and far reaching issue.
The Court did indeed take a case in which the ban on corporate political contributions was not a central issue and instructed the parties to brief on the ban’s constitutionality. The Court then accelerated oral argument on its calendar to a September date before the new SCOTUS term even starts. This sure looks to be the handiwork of Chief Justice John Roberts; anybody who says Roberts is not an "activist judge", and has no agenda, is nuttier than a fruitcake. Read more