The Supreme Court, in a split decision, has ruled to remove established restrictions that limited corporate financing of political candidates based on a corporation’s right to free speech. Corporations will now be allowed unlimited financing to campaign for or against their preferred candidates.
The court’s ruling entrenches the treatment of corporations as individuals in a court of law. Unlike people, corporations have deep, deep pockets and live eternally. Thomas Jefferson wrote: “I hope we shall… 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.”
Justice Roberts promised in his appointment hearings to rule as a judicial moderate by respecting established law and court precedent. This ruling, however, is a radical piece of judicial activism. This ruling blew away decades of past precedents limiting campaign financing by corporations, even repealing portions of McCain-Feingold and affecting state laws as well. The ruling is expected to apply to all levels of campaign financing including local, state, and federal elections.
Here’s a reaction to the ruling from Senator Patrick Leahy, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee:
“Without any basis in the plain text or history of the Constitution, five Justices overturned precedent to grant corporations the same power as any individual citizen to influence elections. For these five Justices to reach their broad ruling, they overturned precedent, as well as the statute. As the dissenting Justices noted, ‘the final principle of judicial process that the majority violates is the most transparent: stare decisis…. But if this principle is to do any meaningful work in supporting the rule of law, it must at least demand a significant justification, beyond the preferences of five justices, for overturning settled doctrine.’
There is clear reason for ordinary citizens to be concerned that this divisive ruling will, in reality, allow powerful corporations to drown out the voices of everyday Americans in future campaigns. This ruling is no doubt yet another victory for Wall Street, at the expense of Main Street America. Our founding document begins, ‘We the People,’ and throughout its articles and amendments, the Constitution enshrines the power of our government in the people, not in corporations and powerful special interests.”
In a strongly worded Op-Ed, Adam Cohen of the NY Times wrote:
“If the conservative justices strike down the ban, they would be doing many things they disavow. They would be substituting their own views for the will of the people, expressed through Congress. They would be reading rights into the Constitution that are not expressly there, since the Constitution never mentions corporations or their right to speak. And they would be overturning the court’s own precedents.”