SCOTUS made a landmark decision that will result in a flood of corporate cash being injected into political campaigns.
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.
Corporations can’t give directly to federal candidates or national campaign committees; they can, however, pour as much money as they want into advocacy campaigns.
In his dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens lamented the decision and called the majority “profoundly misguided.” He said, “The court’s ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions around the nation.” Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor joined Stevens’ dissent, parts of which he read aloud in the courtroom.
The case concerns “Citizens United”, a conservative group that wanted to air a 9o minute documentary opposing Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president.
…questions arose when Citizens United sought to advertise Hillary The Movie on television in January 2008 — the same month as major Democratic primaries — without running any disclaimers or disclosures of donors.
The FEC barred the ads from running without the disclaimers. Citizens United claimed that the advertisements were commercial speech more akin to a documentary, rather than opposition to candidate Clinton.
Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold (pictured), co-author of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law calls this decision “a terrible mistake.”
“Just six years ago, the court said that the prohibition on corporations and unions dipping into their treasuries to influence campaigns was ‘firmly embedded in our law,’” Feingold added. “Yet this court has just upended that prohibition, and a century’s worth of campaign finance law designed to stem corruption in government.”
“The American people will pay dearly for this decision when, more than ever, their voices are drowned out by corporate spending in our federal elections,” the Wisconsin Democrat said. “In the coming weeks, I will work with my colleagues to pass legislation restoring as many of the critical restraints on corporate control of our elections as possible.”