Washington Post: Roberts Court rulings on campaign finance reveal shifting makeup, forceful role

Written by admin on November 1st, 2010

The Washington Post reports on how the shift in the makeup of the Supreme Court has influenced the current elections.

Washington Post

The debate over the decisions echoes that of the ideologically divided justices themselves.

Justice John Paul Stevens, now retired, made Citizens United the last great dissent of many he wrote in 35 years on the court.

While American democracy is imperfect,” Stevens wrote in his 90-page opinion, “few outside the majority of this court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, but colleague Antonin Scalia took up his pen to specifically answer Stevens.

To exclude or impede corporate speech is to muzzle the principal agents of the modern free economy,” he wrote. “We should celebrate rather than condemn the addition of this speech to the public debate.”

With the advent of the Internet, prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable,” Kennedy continued, saying such “transparency” allows voters to evaluate the speech and the messenger.

But real life has revealed problems with that approach. Critics of the ruling said Kennedy and the majority did not address rulings by the FEC and IRS, which govern the myriad political groups and nonprofit organizations active in elections, that they need not always disclose their donors.

Fred Wertheimer, the longtime campaign finance watchdog who is now president of Democracy 21, estimates that groups will spend as much as $200 million during the midterm elections without disclosing the source of the money.

And after the ruling, with unanimous opposition from Republicans, including McCain, the Senate did not toughen disclosure requirements .

To McCain and Feingold, the court’s actions on campaign finance reflect both naivete and judicial activism.

 

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