Washington, D.C. – The Supreme Court on Thursday has eased restrictions on electoral campaign spending limits for corporations, unions, and non-profit organizations which date as far back as 63 years. The conservative leaning 5-4 decision is expected to have a huge impact on the November 2010 midterm election.
The justices who ruled in favor removing restrictions were Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. as well as Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito Jr., Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas.
Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor opposed removing the restrictions.
In addition, according to the Associated Press, the Court also struck down a section of the bi-partisan McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill which prohibited “union- and corporate-paid issue ads in the closing days of election campaigns.”
Supporting the majority decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy remarked, as reported by CNN, the Associated Press, and other news outlets, “Our nation’s speech dynamic is changing, and informative voices should not have to circumvent onerous restrictions to exercise their First Amendment rights.”
In response to the ruling, however, Justice John Paul Stevens stated, “The court’s ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions around the nation.”
Political Action Committees (PACs) remain unaffected by the ruling. The Associated Press reported that they still are not allowed to be funded by corporate and union accounts. Funding for these groups may only come from individuals donors.
Responses from each party on the ruling were along the same lines as the Supreme Court decision split.
The Hill reported that Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey stated, “Giving corporate interests an outsized role in our process will only mean citizens get heard less. We must look at legislative ways to make sure the ledger is not tipped so far for corporate interests that citizen’s voices are drowned out.” Menendez is also the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman.
Meanwhile, Republican Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said, “For too long, some in this country have been deprived of full participation in the political process. With today’s monumental decision, the Supreme Court took an important step in the direction of restoring the First Amendment rights of these groups by ruling that the Constitution protects their right to express themselves about political candidates and issues up until Election Day.”
The following statement was released by the White House in regard to the Supreme Court’s ruling:
With its ruling today, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans. This ruling gives the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington–while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates. That’s why I am instructing my Administration to get to work immediately with Congress on this issue. We are going to talk with bipartisan Congressional leaders to develop a forceful response to this decision. The public interest requires nothing less.
Copyright © 2009 by Raymond Gellner