Tuesday, June 26, 2012

U.S. Supreme Court Further Erodes American Democracy

Following the Citizens United ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court reverses a 1912 Montana State law which bans corporations from making political expenditures that support or oppose a candidate or a political party. Four of the nine U.S. Supreme Court judges dissented, making the reversal a 5 to 4 ruling.

The FDA supports the ban of corporations and labor organizations from making political expenditures that support or oppose a candidate or party. The rational is that elections (and democracy) are about people; corporations are not people; and corporations are not allowed to vote. Individuals who are part of corporations and labor organizations are allowed to make political expenditures and make political speech. To treat corporations and labor organizations as people infringes on the rule of the people.

Ironically, the U.S. Supreme Court professes to be protecting freedom of speech, and yet by allowing unlimited expenditures by corporations and labor organizations, the resulting corporate speech dilutes and overshadows political speech by most Americans. The greater potential for political corruption through allowing corporate political expenditure is a secondary argument.


Cite as: 567 U. S. ____ (2012)
Per Curiam
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
AMERICAN TRADITION PARTNERSHIP, INC., FKA
WESTERN TRADITION PARTNERSHIP, INC.,
ET AL. v. STEVE BULLOCK, ATTORNEY
GENERAL OF MONTANA, ET AL.
ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME
COURT OF MONTANA
No. 11–1179. Decided June 25, 2012
PER CURIAM.

A Montana state law provides that a “corporation may not make . . . an expenditure in connection with a candidate or a political committee that supports or opposes a candidate or a political party.” Mont. Code Ann. §13–35–227(1) (2011). The Montana Supreme Court rejected petitioners’ claim that this statute violates the First Amendment. 2011 MT 328, 363 Mont. 220, 271 P. 3d 1. In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, this Court struck down a similar federal law, holding that “political speech does not lose First Amendment protectionsimply because its source is a corporation.” 558 U. S. ___, ___ (2010) (slip op., at 26) (internal quotation marks omitted). The question presented in this case is whether the holding of Citizens United applies to the Montana state law. There can be no serious doubt that it does. See U. S. Const., Art. VI, cl. 2. Montana’s arguments in support of the judgment below either were already rejected in Citizens United, or fail to meaningfully distinguish that case.

The petition for certiorari is granted. The judgment of the Supreme Court of Montana is reversed.

It is so ordered.

Cite as: 567 U. S. ____ (2012)
BREYER, J., dissenting
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
AMERICAN TRADITION PARTNERSHIP, INC., FKA
WESTERN TRADITION PARTNERSHIP, INC.,
ET AL. v. STEVE BULLOCK, ATTORNEY
GENERAL OF MONTANA, ET AL.
ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME
COURT OF MONTANA
No. 11–1179. Decided June 25, 2012
JUSTICE BREYER, with whom JUSTICE GINSBURG, JUS-TICE SOTOMAYOR, and JUSTICE KAGAN join, dissenting.

In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Court concluded that “independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” 558 U. S. ___, ___ (2010) (slip op., at 42). I disagree with the Court’s hold-ing for the reasons expressed in Justice Stevens’ dissent in that case. As Justice Stevens explained, “technically independent expenditures can be corrupting in much the same way as direct contributions.” Id., at ___ (slip op., at67–68). Indeed, Justice Stevens recounted a “substantial body of evidence” suggesting that “[m]any corporate independent expenditures . . . had become essentially interchangeable with direct contributions in their capacity to generate quid pro quo arrangements.” Id., at ___ (slip op.,at 64–65).

Moreover, even if I were to accept Citizens United, this Court’s legal conclusion should not bar the Montana Supreme Court’s finding, made on the record before it, that independent expenditures by corporations did in fact lead to corruption or the appearance of corruption in Montana. Given the history and political landscape in Montana, that court concluded that the State had a compelling interest in limiting independent expenditures by corporations. 2011 MT 328, ¶¶ 36–37, 363 Mont. 220, 235–236, 271 P. 3d 1, 36–37. Thus, Montana’s experience, like considerable experience elsewhere since the Court’s decision in Citizens United, casts grave doubt on the Court’s supposition that independent expenditures do not corrupt or appear to do so.

Were the matter up to me, I would vote to grant the petition for certiorari in order to reconsider Citizens United or, at least, its application in this case. But given the Court’s per curiam disposition, I do not see a significant possibility of reconsideration. Consequently, I vote instead to deny the petition.

Commentary: 

From Reuters, by James Vicini:

".... In that case the court split 5-4 along conservative-liberal ideological lines to rule that corporations had a constitutional free-speech right to spend freely to support or oppose political candidates in federal elections, a ruling sharply criticized by President Barack Obama.

That decision triggered a massive increase in campaign spending that affected the elections for Congress in 2010 and has reshaped the political races ahead of the November 6 U.S. presidential and congressional votes.

The Montana Supreme Court upheld the state law, ruling the 2010 decision did not control the outcome because Montana's law was different and justified by the state's interest in preventing corporate corruption and influence in politics.

The state court cited Montana's history when the voter-approved law was adopted in 1912, with mining and other corporate spending resulting in political corruption.

Attorneys for the three corporations appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that Montana was bound by the 2010 ruling and that it applied to state as well as federal elections.

James Bopp, lead attorney for the corporations, said when he filed the appeal, "If Montana can ban core political speech because of Montana's unique characteristics, free speech will be seriously harmed. Speakers will be silenced because of corruption by others over a century ago...."

From the Independent Record (Montana) by Charles S. Johnson:

".... Some Montana officials denounced the ruling, calling it a “blow to democracy” and vowing to fight it in the future.

“Our fight is far from over,” said U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who has introduced a bill to amend the Constitution to say corporations aren’t people. “My constitutional amendment would right this wrong once and for all, and today's announcement makes me more determined than ever to get it done."

“I am very disappointed in what the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision means for state and local elections in Montana– and for our entire nation,” added state Attorney General Steve Bullock, who unsuccessfully defended Montana’s law. Bullock, a Democrat, is running for governor.

Yet the only Republican member of Montana’s congressional delegation, Rep. Denny Rehberg, essentially praised the ruling as an upholding of free speech rights.

“Free speech, including political speech, is guaranteed by the First Amendment no matter what state you live in,” he said. “For Montanans, this means free speech is protected equally if you are a member of a labor union, a private business or a political party....

It called the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of the Montana Supreme Court “a resounding rejection of Gov.(Brian) Schweitzer and Attorney General Bullock’s indefensible attacks on Montanans’ God-given right of free political speech.”

It asked both Schweitzer and Bullock to resign immediately.

Schweitzer scoffed at the request, and asked what would be next: Cuban leader Fidel Castro or the leader of North Korea calling for Montana’s governor to resign?

The Montana governor blasted the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

“It will go a long ways to creating a system where corporate money and large moneyed interests will own all of our government, from the White House to the courthouse,” Schweitzer said. “What they’re saying is dirty, secret, corporate, foreign money can now pour in to Montana elections in the same way it does in Washington,D.C.”

Schweitzer said the ruling will help the push for a constitutional amendment declaring that corporations aren’t people and aren’t entitled to free speech.

Baucus said the decision is “a dangerous blow to democracy.”

“One hundred years ago, Montanans stood up and said elections belong to us, not to the Copper Kings,” he said. “And today we say the same thing. Our elections are not for sale to corporations.”

A Montana group says it has qualified an initiative for the November ballot, Initiative 166, which is a policy statement declaring corporations aren’t human beings with constitutional rights and that money isn’t speech.

It is a non-binding measure telling Montana’s congressional delegation to support a federal constitutional amendment to nullify the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in the Citizens United case that removed restrictions on political speech for corporations and unions."

Citizens United vs. FEC

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