Thursday, January 21, 2010

Supreme Court expands corporate role in campaign ads

AP reported on 21 January 2010: By a 5-4 vote, the court on Thursday [Jan. 21] overturned a 20-year-old ruling that said corporations can be prohibited from using money from their general treasuries to pay for their own campaign ads.

This 5-4 vote was another one wherein Justice Kennedy was the swing vote. The AP noted: "The censorship we now confront is vast in its reach," Justice Anthony Kennedy said in his majority opinion, joined by his four more conservative colleagues. [See previous IPBiz post: The power in being the swing vote .]

Curiously, the argument for the "conservative" winning position in the "Citizens United" case had been delivered by Floyd Abrams. Trevor Potter, associated with John McCain arguing for limits, was on the losing side.

See a previous IPBiz post
"Citizens United": like patent reform, you need a scorecard

As in patent reform, it is a bit difficult to figure out "who is who" here.

FoxNews quoted dissenting Justice Stevens:

"In the context of election to public office, the distinction between corporate and human speakers is significant. Although they make enormous contributions to our society, corporations are not actually members of it."

and Fox separately returned to the beginning of this case:

Siding with filmmakers of "Hillary: The Movie," who were challenged by the Federal Election Commission on their sources of cash to pay for the film, the court overturned a 20-year-old ruling that banned corporate and labor money. The decision threatens similar limits imposed by 24 states.

See Supreme Court Removes Limits on Corporate, Labor Donations to Campaigns

A lot of press has this as a Republican/Democrat thing, with Republicans quite happy. A note to Republicans: be careful what you wish for. As the patent reform debate illustrated, there's a lot of corporate money to be spent by the IT industry, and a whole bunch goes to Democrats, not Republicans. Ask the Senator from Vermont.

In passing, if anyone ought to get a big message from the Senate election in Massachusetts, it ought to be Ben Nelson in Nebraska. And, of "here today, gone tomorrow" thinking, the take of Julian E. Zelizer of Princeton as to Ben Nelson being a power is sooooo yesterday. Hasta la vista, baby!

**Update. President Obama ripped the Supreme Court decision in the "state of the
union" on 27 Jan 2010. See
Obama Criticizes Supreme Court



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