View Full Version : Landmark Supreme Court ruling allows corporate political cash

January 22nd, 2010, 09:01 PM
By James Vicini James Vicini – Thu Jan 21, 2:42 pm ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Corporations can spend freely to support or oppose candidates for president and Congress, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday, a landmark decision denounced by President Barack Obama for giving special interests more power.
"The Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics," Obama said after the 5-4 ruling that divided the nation's high court along conservative and liberal lines.
"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," Obama said.
Obama said he instructed administration officials "to get to work immediately with Congress on this issue" and "talk with bipartisan congressional leaders to develop a forceful response to this decision."
The ruling, a defeat for Obama and supporters of campaign finance limits, is expected to unleash a flood of money to be spent in this year's congressional election and the 2012 presidential contest.
Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the long-standing campaign finance limits violated constitutional free-speech rights of corporations.
"The government may regulate corporate political speech through disclaimer and disclosure requirements, but it may not suppress that speech altogether," he wrote.
The four liberal dissenters said allowing corporate money to flood the political marketplace will corrupt democracy.
In his sharply worded dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote, "The court's ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the nation."
The justices overturned Supreme Court precedents from 2003 and 1990 that upheld federal and state limits on independent expenditures by corporate treasuries to support or oppose candidates.
In the 2008 election cycle, nearly $6 billion was spent on all federal campaigns, including more than $1 billion from corporate political action committees, trade associations, executives and lobbyists.
The ruling will almost certainly allow labor unions to spend more freely in political campaigns also and it posed a threat to similar limits that had been imposed in about half of the country's 50 states.
The top court struck down the part of the federal law that restricted broadcast advertisements for or against political candidates right before elections that are paid for by corporations, labor unions and advocacy groups.
The 2002 campaign finance law at issue was named after Senator John McCain, the unsuccessful Republican presidential nominee in 2008, and Democratic Senator Russell Feingold.
Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele praised the ruling and said, "Free speech strengths our democracy."
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, long an opponent of the law, said, "For too long, some in this country have been deprived of full participation in the political process."
But the law's supporters said the ruling will allow corporations to spend unlimited sums to influence elections.
"The bottom line is, the Supreme Court has just predetermined the winners of next November's election. It won't be the Republican or the Democrats and it won't be the American people; it will be corporate America," Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York, said.
The decision was a victory for a conservative advocacy group's challenge to the campaign finance law as part of its efforts to broadcast and promote a 2008 movie critical of then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. She later became Obama's secretary of state.
The Obama administration defended the law's restrictions on election-related spending by corporations, unions and interest groups.
The court's conservative majority, with the addition of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, both appointees of then-President George W. Bush, in the ruling made a dramatic change in the campaign finance law designed to regulate the role of money in politics and prevent corruption.

January 22nd, 2010, 09:10 PM
Ladies and Gents, we've been sold to the highest bidder. Never in my life, have I've been so upset at our Supreme Court. Totally disgusting.

January 22nd, 2010, 10:05 PM
Maybe change the title of the thread to Supreme Court Defends Free Speech (Doesn't Rule on Corporate Personhood)

What the Supreme Court got right
BY GLENN GREENWALD (http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/01/22/citizens_united/index.html)

A purely pragmatic view is reflected in this comment (http://blog.mises.org/archives/011512.asp#c655523) by geoih:

Maybe you could explain how McCain-Feingold was doing anything except entrenching the encumbant power already making the government bigger.

The problem isn't money buying power, it's money buying government power. Money will always buy power, but government power is absolute. The only real solution is to take the power away from government. McCain-Feingold does exactly the opposite.

This decision takes power away from government, and that is a good thing.

"Congress shall make no law" is pretty straightforward after all... at least for some of the Supremes. :eek: *shudder*

January 23rd, 2010, 01:17 AM
Why not let corporations vote as well? Now, with unqualified equal personhood to other citizens, they are entitled to that other basic right..

January 23rd, 2010, 03:27 AM
"This decision takes power away from government, and that is a good thing."

That is a bad thing. Government is by the people and for the people.

But corporations?

January 23rd, 2010, 07:24 AM
Recent history has been big corporations against the people. That's what accounts for the economic crash, the debacle that is described as health insurance, and the imperialistic wars. Only the government can stand up to the robber barons, and now the barons have given themselves the power to choose the government.

January 23rd, 2010, 08:11 AM
Respectfully ablarc, click the links in this post (http://wirednewyork.com/forum/showpost.php?p=312671&postcount=99), and examine your facile 'conventional progressive' rhetoric.

Anyway, all this about corporate personhood, government by the people, robber barons, etc. is beside the point, i.e., no authority exists within congress' delegated powers enabling it to make any law limiting speech of any kind -- by humans, corporations, dogs, cats -- you name it. Even without the bill of rights McCain-Feingold would be unconstitutional for this very reason.

The constitution limits the government. The entire American political/jurisprudential system is based on this prudent principle. (That the government itself can liberally construe and interpret these limits with impunity has been a major flaw (http://bothwell.typepad.com/whos_your_nanny/2008/12/re-the-meaningless-constitution.html).)

January 23rd, 2010, 10:10 AM
Maybe change the title of the thread to Supreme Court Defends Free Speech (Doesn't Rule on Corporate Personhood)

I agree regarding the thread title; this one is a bit slanted - “allows corporate political cash”. :eek:

In legal terms, I think that would be called (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leading_question) ‘leading the witness’.


January 23rd, 2010, 11:31 AM
It's not speech that was being limited, Jasonik, it's bribery.

Bribery has always sought to limit speech to what the briber desires to have the public hear.

January 23rd, 2010, 11:46 AM
From today's Washington Post:

Court's campaign finance decision a case of shoddy scholarship

By Ruth Marcus
Saturday, January 23, 2010

In opening the floodgates for corporate money in election campaigns, the Supreme Court did not simply engage in a brazen power grab. It did so in an opinion stunning in its intellectual dishonesty.

Many of those commenting on the decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission have focused on the power-grab part. I agree with them. It was unnecessary for the court to go so far when there were several less-radical grounds available. It was audacious to seize the opportunity to overrule precedents when the parties had not pressed this issue and the lower courts had not considered it. It was the height of activism to usurp the judgments of Congress and state legislatures about how best to prevent corruption of the political process.

"If it is not necessary to decide more, it is necessary not to decide more," a wise judge once wrote. That was Chief Justice John G. Roberts -- back when -- and dissenting Justice John Paul Stevens rightly turned that line against him.

As bad as the court's activism, though, was its shoddy scholarship.

First, the majority flung about dark warnings of "censorship" and "banned" speech as if upholding the existing rules would leave corporations and labor unions with no voice in the political process. Untrue. Under federal election law before the Supreme Court demolished it, corporations and labor unions were free to say whatever they wanted about political candidates whenever they wanted to say it. They simply were not permitted to use unlimited general treasury funds to do so. Instead, they were required to use money raised by their political action committees from employees and members. This is hardly banning speech.

Second, in the face of logic and history, the majority acted as if there could be no constitutional distinction between a corporation and a human being. Untrue. The Supreme Court has long held that corporations are considered "persons" under the Constitution and are therefore entitled to its protections. For more than a century, Congress has barred corporations from making direct contributions to political candidates, with no suggestion that it must treat corporate persons the same as real ones; that prohibition stands, at least for now. The "conceit" of corporate personhood, as Stevens called it, does not mandate absolute equivalence. That corporations enjoy free-speech protections does not mean they enjoy every protection afforded an actual person. Is a corporation entitled to vote? To run for office?

Third, misreading its precedents and cherry-picking quotations, the majority acted as if the chief case it overturned was an outlier. In that 1990 case, Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, a six-member majority came to the unsurprising conclusion that a state law prohibiting corporations from making unlimited independent expenditures from their general funds was constitutional. The court dismissed this ruling as "a significant departure from ancient First Amendment principles." Again, untrue.

In a 1982 case, the court -- in a unanimous opinion by then-Justice William Rehnquist -- noted that Congress, in writing campaign finance law, was entitled to "considerable deference" in taking into account "the particular legal and economic attributes of corporations and labor organizations" and had made "a permissible assessment of the dangers posed by those entities to the electoral process." Four years later, even as it carved out an exception for nonprofit corporations, the court reaffirmed "the need to restrict the influence of political war chests funneled through the corporate form."

The Citizens United majority relied heavily on a 1978 case overturning a Massachusetts law that prohibited corporations from spending their own money to defeat certain referendums. But that decision specifically noted that "a corporation's right to speak on issues of general public interest implies no comparable right in the quite different context of participation in a political campaign for election to public office."

Fourth, the majority bizarrely invoked the "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" defense. Under the Austin ruling, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy argued, lawmakers unhappy with being lampooned in the movie "could have done more than discourage its distribution -- they could have banned the film." Beyond untrue. There is no scenario under which works of art about fictional lawmakers could be limited by campaign finance laws.

That the majority would stoop to this claim underscores the weakness of its case -- and the audacity of the result it has inflicted on the political process.


January 23rd, 2010, 11:57 AM
We've long known that money gives access to power.

Now it has a new set of lictors to clear its way: the Free Speech boys.

Bearers of fasces, and Goons.

January 23rd, 2010, 12:08 PM
As for the question of whether corporations possess "personhood," that's an interesting issue and, as I said, I'm very sympathetic to the argument that they do not, but the majority's ruling here did not really turn on that question. That's because the First Amendment does not only vest rights in "persons." It says nothing about "persons." It simply bans Congress from making any laws abridging freedom of speech.

"We the People of the United States..."

January 23rd, 2010, 12:16 PM
The Court’s Blow to Democracy
Published: January 21, 2010 - NYTimes

With a single, disastrous 5-to-4 ruling, the Supreme Court has thrust politics back to the robber-baron era of the 19th century. Disingenuously waving the flag of the First Amendment, the court’s conservative majority has paved the way for corporations to use their vast treasuries to overwhelm elections and intimidate elected officials into doing their bidding.

Congress must act immediately to limit the damage of this radical decision, which strikes at the heart of democracy.

As a result of Thursday’s ruling, corporations have been unleashed from the longstanding ban against their spending directly on political campaigns and will be free to spend as much money as they want to elect and defeat candidates. If a member of Congress tries to stand up to a wealthy special interest, its lobbyists can credibly threaten: We’ll spend whatever it takes to defeat you.

The ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission radically reverses well-established law and erodes a wall that has stood for a century between corporations and electoral politics. (The ruling also frees up labor unions to spend, though they have far less money at their disposal.)

The founders of this nation warned about the dangers of corporate influence. The Constitution they wrote mentions many things and assigns them rights and protections — the people, militias, the press, religions. But it does not mention corporations.

In 1907, as corporations reached new heights of wealth and power, Congress made its views of the relationship between corporations and campaigning clear: It banned them from contributing to candidates. At midcentury, it enacted the broader ban on spending that was repeatedly reaffirmed over the decades until it was struck down on Thursday.

This issue should never have been before the court. The justices overreached and seized on a case involving a narrower, technical question involving the broadcast of a movie that attacked Hillary Rodham Clinton during the 2008 campaign. The court elevated that case to a forum for striking down the entire ban on corporate spending and then rushed the process of hearing the case at breakneck speed. It gave lawyers a month to prepare briefs on an issue of enormous complexity, and it scheduled arguments during its vacation.

Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., no doubt aware of how sharply these actions clash with his confirmation-time vow to be judicially modest and simply “call balls and strikes,” wrote a separate opinion trying to excuse the shameless judicial overreaching.

The majority is deeply wrong on the law. Most wrongheaded of all is its insistence that corporations are just like people and entitled to the same First Amendment rights. It is an odd claim since companies are creations of the state that exist to make money. They are given special privileges, including different tax rates, to do just that. It was a fundamental misreading of the Constitution to say that these artificial legal constructs have the same right to spend money on politics as ordinary Americans have to speak out in support of a candidate.

The majority also makes the nonsensical claim that, unlike campaign contributions, which are still prohibited, independent expenditures by corporations “do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” If Wall Street bankers told members of Congress that they would spend millions of dollars to defeat anyone who opposed their bailout, and then did so, it would certainly look corrupt.

After the court heard the case, Senator John McCain told reporters that he was troubled by the “extreme naïveté” some of the justices showed about the role of special-interest money in Congressional lawmaking.

In dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens warned that the ruling not only threatens democracy but “will, I fear, do damage to this institution.” History is, indeed, likely to look harshly not only on the decision but the court that delivered it. The Citizens United ruling is likely to be viewed as a shameful bookend to Bush v. Gore. With one 5-to-4 decision, the court’s conservative majority stopped valid votes from being counted to ensure the election of a conservative president. Now a similar conservative majority has distorted the political system to ensure that Republican candidates will be at an enormous advantage in future elections.

Congress and members of the public who care about fair elections and clean government need to mobilize right away, a cause President Obama has said he would join. Congress should repair the presidential public finance system and create another one for Congressional elections to help ordinary Americans contribute to campaigns. It should also enact a law requiring publicly traded corporations to get the approval of their shareholders before spending on political campaigns.

These would be important steps, but they would not be enough. The real solution lies in getting the court’s ruling overturned. The four dissenters made an eloquent case for why the decision was wrong on the law and dangerous. With one more vote, they could rescue democracy.


January 23rd, 2010, 12:35 PM
Beyond shameful.


January 23rd, 2010, 03:37 PM
It's not speech that was being limited, Jasonik, it's bribery.
Isn't bribery already a crime?

The special interests want favors from government. Limiting the ability of government to dole out favors by restricting the scope of its powers disincentivizes corrupt corporate rent seeking. It is manifestly ironic that by obstinately championing a powerful government of nearly unlimited scope to intervene against business, those who claim to be against corporate influence in politics actually invite it with the creation of the very regulatory mechanisms whose levers corporate interests wish to grasp.

"We the People of the United States..."
[paraphrasing] ...create a bicameral legislative body having only the specific powers granted herein (and for good measure because we don't trust legislators) especially prohibited from certain actions, first of which is limiting freedom of speech or of the press.

A more fruitful line of inquiry than corporate personhood, is just how a group of people composing, financing, and printing up leaflets (blogs, TV ads, films, etc) change from free political expression into something nefarious and criminal? And how would a statute or constitutional amendment be structured to make the distinction (http://letters.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2010/01/22/citizens_united/permalink/401008b8c64d99e8730e94ad54399f4f.html)?

January 23rd, 2010, 03:50 PM
Follow the money.

This isn't about freedom of speech. This is about influence-peddling.

Don't be disingenuous.

January 23rd, 2010, 04:30 PM
Follow the money.

No, follow the MANY - ;)

Laws that restrict any ‘entity’ (corporate or individual) from fully expressing their political viewpoint is clearly a violation of the first amendmant.

Corporations that choose to use their own funds in order to ‘express’ those political views are simply excersizing a fundamental constitutional right which is fully protected by the first amendment: an obvious fact to anyone who understands - and upholds - constitutional constructionist principals.

This is not a matter of ‘what I like’, it’s a matter of ‘what is the rule of law’ regarding constitutionality - as it was understood by the framers of that very constitution.

This ruling is simply correcting a prior flawed decision; and is in good standing with the majority americans - according to the gallup poll anyway.


exerpt -
January 22, 2010
Public Agrees With Court: Campaign Money Is "Free Speech"
But have mixed views on other issues at heart of new Supreme Court ruling
by Lydia Saad
PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans' broad views about corporate spending in elections generally accord with the Supreme Court's decision Thursday that abolished some decades-old restrictions on corporate political activity. Fifty-seven percent of Americans consider campaign donations to be a protected form of free speech, and 55% say corporate and union donations should be treated the same way under the law as donations from individuals are. At the same time, the majority think it is more important to limit campaign donations than to protect this free-speech right.

January 24th, 2010, 12:41 AM
Then toss out all laws about slander, libel, etc.

Scream "Fire" in a crowded theater just for fun; you're now protected to rant at will, no matter the consequences.

Declare an intent to do harm to all sorts of high ranking folks.

Lie about the benefits of your snake oil.

According to the argument put forth: All of that is A-OK.

Following this line of thought then what basis is there for any -- ANY -- law?

The government (by consent of the people) puts limitations on speech of various sorts in order to the benefit the citizenry as a whole.

Belief that all persons will always do good and should be left fully free to exercise whatever whims pop into their (its) head is, at best, naive.

January 24th, 2010, 03:25 AM
This ruling is simply correcting a prior flawed decision

A flawed decision in place for over 100 years.

From the NYTimes article posted previously:

"In 1907, as corporations reached new heights of wealth and power, Congress made its views of the relationship between corporations and campaigning clear: It banned them from contributing to candidates. At midcentury, it enacted the broader ban on spending that was repeatedly reaffirmed over the decades until it was struck down on Thursday."


About that Gallup poll:

"Fifty-seven percent of Americans consider campaign donations to be a protected form of free speech, and 55% say corporate and union donations should be treated the same way under the law as donations from individuals are. "

I wonder what the results would have been if people were asked if campaign donations from banks should be treated the same way under the law as donations from individuals are. After all: banks are corporations too.


January 24th, 2010, 06:40 AM
Campaign finance laws are a bit like gun control statutes: actual criminals continue to possess large stockpiles of weapons, but law-abiding citizens are disarmed. An apt analogy, although not intended.

Apply the interpretation of the 2nd amendment to the result - a society with the highest firearm homicide rate in the developed world.

Laws that restrict any ‘entity’ (corporate or individual) from fully expressing their political viewpoint is clearly a violation of the first amendmant.Yes, clearly a unanimous decision. :rolleyes:

January 24th, 2010, 08:46 AM
The idea that a corporation and a person have the same rights is preposterous, and the rhetorical source of the court's error.

January 24th, 2010, 10:40 AM
As an oblique response to the two previous posts let me say that I think resonable arguments can be made for both sides of the issue: so I can not completely refute any ones position as simply WRONG.

I am being a absolutest regarding constitutional interpretation in my agreement with the majority opinion: a simple constitutional constructivist position. And, all remarks regarding ‘personhood’ and ‘money equals speech’ are not at issue: there was not a disagreement between (any) of the chief justices on those particular matters.

The only thing I can say for sure is that a ‘constitutional constructivist’ will generally be in agreement with the majority chief justice decision.

And again - "The idea that a corporation and a person have the same rights" was taken as a given by ALL the supreme court justices: why even bring that up in this context.
A quote from Glenn Greenwald
More important, I want to note one extremely bizarre aspect to the discussion. Most commenters (though not all) grounded their opposition to the Supreme Court's ruling in two rather absolute principles: (1) corporations are not "persons" and thus have no First Amendment/free speech rights and/or (2) money is not speech, and therefore restrictions on how money is spent cannot violate the First Amendment's free speech clause. What makes those arguments so bizarre is that none of the 9 Justices -- including the 4 dissenting Justices -- argued either of those propositions or believe them. To the contrary, all 9 Justices -- including the 4 in dissent -- agreed that corporations do have First Amendment rights and that restricting how money can be spent in pursuit of political advocacy does trigger First Amendment protections. Here's what Justice Stevens himself said in his dissent (p. 54-55):

January 25th, 2010, 11:28 AM
Here we go on interpretations of the phraseology of another written dictate.

We have to realize that "Freedom of Speech" is related to "Freedom of Expression" and not a literal be-all-end-all shouting "fire" in a crowded theater.

Expand the analogy. What happens when someone, say the owner of the theater next door, PAYS someone to shout "fire" in their competitors establishment?

Companies should and do have rights, but the problem is, when a company has the power of the people working for them, but only one person (or small commitee) gets to decide what they want, you enter the realm of feifdoms and other almost regal power structures.

I am not ready for the Duke of Duane Reede or the Earl of Phizer.

January 25th, 2010, 11:41 AM
Expand the analogy. What happens when someone, say the owner of the theater next door, PAYS someone to shout "fire" in their competitors establishment?Or get selected for a jury, stand on a corner and exercise free-speech during the trial, and see what happens.

The idea that a corporation and a person have the same rights is preposterous, and the rhetorical source of the court's error.Yes. What about the owners (shareholders) of the corporation? Are they of one voice in political expression? And don't they each individually retain the right of political expression?

What has become standard practice for corporations is to fund both opposing candidates. What political viewpoint is being expressed?

January 25th, 2010, 12:05 PM
What has become standard practice for corporations is to fund both opposing candidates. What political viewpoint is being expressed?

Could you explain this further? Perhaps I don't understand.

I am a big wealthy drug company.... I'm funding two opposing candidates. The political viewpoint being expressed is the policy I'm trying to bulldoze through.

January 25th, 2010, 12:10 PM
We have to realize that "Freedom of Speech" is related to "Freedom of Expression" and not a literal be-all-end-all shouting "fire" in a crowded theater.

The First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

ABRIDGE (http://www.merriam-webster.com/netdict/abridge)

Taking the position of the Strict Constructionists: Where in that Amendment is there leeway to allow the government, at any level, to "reduce in scope" any speech whatsoever?

January 25th, 2010, 12:52 PM
Again, "speech" is not vocal dictation.

It is a mode of expression of opinion or political standpoint. The MEANING of the phrase is different than the sterile grammatical interpretation.

Not all vocalizations are "speech".

Also, if the individuals of a company all have voices, the company does not have the right to ursurp that right and use it as it pleases. Maybe they should redefine "company" and indeed let it have a voice. One voice.

The hard part comes in proving if they coerced their employees to speak the same (to the tune of $2000 per person, per candidate).

You think, maybe, that politics should be funded fully by the government rather than private interests? You run for office, you are ONLY allowed the cash that the government gives you for it?

NO other private ads or endorsements allowed?

How can you make it so that anybody can run without having to have these backers to fund them?

January 25th, 2010, 01:12 PM
The question asked:

... standard practice for corporations is to fund both opposing candidates. What political viewpoint is being expressed?

The question answered:

I am a big wealthy drug company.... I'm funding two opposing candidates. The political viewpoint being expressed is the policy I'm trying to bulldoze through.
It makes not a whit of difference which politician pushes it through.

This is called hedging your bets, and is considered prudent business practice.


January 25th, 2010, 01:26 PM
The question was rhetorical, so therefore, sarcastic. :)

January 25th, 2010, 02:33 PM
^ The answer fits, even so (see post #28). :)


January 25th, 2010, 04:00 PM
Again, "speech" is not vocal dictation.

It is a mode of expression of opinion or political standpoint. The MEANING of the phrase is different than the sterile grammatical interpretation.

That is a restrictive interpretation ;)

Read the words of the Amendment. There is no such actual limitation in the text that ties speech either to "opinion" or "political standpoint."

Either the SCOTUS gang are constructivists and go purely by the rule of the words in the 1st Am., or -- by the decree of the SCOTUS -- governmental types are allowed to limit speech in certain cases.

January 25th, 2010, 04:24 PM
^ Well, now ... what actually makes sense?

January 25th, 2010, 07:07 PM
The founders of this nation warned about the dangers of corporate influence...
Big corporations are killers.

Syriana, A Civil Action, Michael Clayton, The International: what more evidence do you want? :cool:

January 26th, 2010, 08:03 AM
Loft, I know what you are saying, but it irritates me when the meaning of something can be shifted to break the balance of power.

I guess when it says that "all men are created equal" that did not mean Women?

I mean, that one is pretty self evident there...... ;)

January 26th, 2010, 08:09 AM
Also, obviously, it didn't mean men of color.

By today's standards, the Constitution in its original form is pretty much a piece of crap.

January 26th, 2010, 04:00 PM
Easily forgotten ^ (or ignored ) by those who call themselves Constructionists.

January 26th, 2010, 05:32 PM
^ Well, for some reason they seem to want this country to be the shitty place it was in 1789.

Go figure.

January 27th, 2010, 07:51 AM
I think they called it "earthy".

It all depends on how long since the last bath.....

February 8th, 2010, 06:36 PM
New robes at SCOTUS ...


January 20th, 2011, 11:57 AM
Reform group: Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas had Citizens United conflicts of interest

POLITICO (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0111/47855.html)
1/19/11 7:27 PM EST

To mark Friday’s anniversary of a court decision that allowed corporations to sink millions into politics, Common Cause, a reform group, is asking the Department of Justice to investigate alleged conflicts of interest involving two Supreme Court justices – in hopes of forcing the court to vacate the 5-4 ruling.

Common Cause officials and at least one legal expert acknowledged the difficulty of getting the landmark case overturned in this way. But in a document to be submitted to the department Thursday, Common Cause President Bob Edgar cites appearances by Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Antonin Scalia at retreats sponsored by Koch Industries, a corporation run by two major Republican donors who helped finance some of the new GOP groups founded after the ruling.

It appears both justices have participated in political strategy sessions, perhaps while the case was pending, with corporate leaders whose political aims were advanced by the decision,” the Common Cause petition asserts.

In addition, Common Cause argues that Thomas should have recused himself because his wife was the founder of Liberty Central, a conservative group funded with a small group of anonymous donors who endorsed candidates in about a dozen 2010 races.

It’s unknown whether those donors are corporations or individuals, but Virginia Thomas said publicly that she’d accept corporate money in light of the decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

Mary Boyle, Common Cause’s spokeswoman, called the strategy “a long shot” but said, “Just the mention of Scalia and Thomas in Koch Brothers materials raises questions about the impartiality of both justices.”

According to Boyle, “until these questions are resolved through a formal investigation, public debate over allegations of bias and conflicts of interest will serve to undermine the legitimacy of the Citizens United decision and erode public confidence in the integrity of our nation’s highest court.

Reformers also hope to stir debate about ruling next week by staging a counter-event and a rally outside a Palm Beach hotel where Charles Koch is hosting a semi-annual retreat that will focus on politics and policy.

In a September invitation to the event unearthed by Think Progress, a liberal activist group, Koch said: “We cannot rely on politicians to do so, so it is up to us to combat what is now the greatest assault on American freedom and prosperity in our lifetimes.”

He also boasted that at the summer 2010 meeting in Aspen, “our group heard plans to activate citizens against the threat of government over-spending and to change the balance of power in Congress this November. In response, participants committed to an unprecedented level of support.”

Among the groups lending a hand was American for Prosperity, a Koch-backed group, which spent more than a million dollars airing attack ads against Democrats in the midterms.

On a page summing up next week’s meeting, Koch notes that past retreats “have featured such notable leaders as Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas” among other conservative talk show and political leaders.

“We believe it is inappropriate for a Supreme Court judge to be ‘featured’ at or attend closed-door strategy meetings with political donors, corporate CEOs, candidates and political officials, and thereby lend the prestige of their position to the political goals of that event,” Common Cause argues in its petition.

“A reasonable person would question the impartiality of Justices Thomas and Scalia in the Citizens United case based on their attendance at political strategy meetings sponsored by a corporation that raises and spends millions to defeat Democrats and elect Republicans,” it added.

Although Supreme Court justices are not bound by the same codes of conduct as federal judges, those rules were used as a model to provide guidance to the High Court.

Common Cause wants the justice department to investigate the connections between the justices and the Koch organizations to determine if conflicts – or the appearance of them – exist. If the department were to make such a finding, it could then ask the Supreme Court to vacate the ruling.

But Rick Hasen, a visiting election law expert at University of California Irvine law school, said the DOJ appeal isn’t likely to succeed.

“Justice Scalia has refused to recuse himself from cases involving a far closer relationship,” he said, adding that there is not evidence that the justices participated in strategy sessions about the case.

“I am a big critic of the Citizens United case. I would love to see it reversed,” said Hasen. “But this approach seems both unlikely to yield the desired result of seeing the case overturned and appears to be an unwarranted attack on the ethics of the Justices.”


January 20th, 2011, 12:04 PM
Wow, everyone knows Thomas and Scalia are corrupt but this is just plain scandalous. If there's any justice in this country the ruling will be vacated

January 20th, 2011, 01:23 PM
An "unwarranted" attack?

It is well warranted, it will just probably not be effective.

January 20th, 2011, 01:49 PM
How could a member of SCOTUS be deemed "unethical"?

All of those who sit on the court take an oath (http://uspolitics.about.com/od/usgovernment/a/oaths_of_office_3.htm) to uphold the constitution, which includes this interesting clause:

... I will administer justice without respect to persons ...

Seems that the Citizens United ruling fits that to a T.

Besides, who are we to question such an honorable citizen, who gives up his / her life to so selflessly serve the country?

Only one member of SCOTUS has ever faced impeachment: Samuel Chase (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Chase). In 1805 he was acquitted (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Chase#Impeachment) of all charges (which dealt with his actions as a judge prior to his term on SCOTUS) and her remained on the court until his death in 1811.

The Chase case established boundaries that remain to this day: "All impeachments of federal judges since Chase have been based on allegations of legal or ethical misconduct, not on judicial performance."

January 24th, 2011, 09:41 PM
Like I said, how dare we even think that these arbiters of justice aren't acting in the most honorable way possilbe?

Thomas Cites Failure to Disclose Wife’s Job

NY TIMES (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/25/us/politics/25thomas.html?ref=us)
January 24, 2011

WASHINGTON — Under pressure from liberal critics, Justice Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court acknowledged in filings released on Monday that he erred by not disclosing his wife’s past employment as required by federal law.

Justice Thomas said that in his annual financial disclosure statements over the last six years, the employment of his wife, Virginia Thomas, was “inadvertently omitted due to a misunderstanding of the filing instructions.”

To rectify that situation, Justice Thomas filed seven pages of amended disclosures listing Mrs. Thomas’s employment in that time with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative policy group, and Hillsdale College in Michigan, for which she ran a constitutional law center in Washington.

The justice came under criticism last week from Common Cause, a liberal advocacy group, for failing to disclose Mrs. Thomas’s employment as required under the 1978 Ethics in Government Act. While justices are not required to say how much a spouse earns, Common Cause said its review of Internal Revenue Service filings showed that the Heritage Foundation paid Mrs. Thomas $686,589 from 2003 to 2007.

The group also asserted that Justice Thomas should have withdrawn from deciding last year’s landmark Citizens United case on campaign finance because of both Mrs. Thomas’s founding of another conservative political group in 2009 and Justice Thomas’s own appearance at a private political retreat organized by Charles Koch, a prominent conservative financier.

Justices Thomas and Antonin Scalia said in a statement released by the court on Thursday that they had each spoken at dinners at the Koch retreat and that their expenses were paid by the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group.

The additional filings released by the court on Monday regarding Mrs. Thomas’s employment put Justice Thomas in the odd position of issuing two formal statements in five days about his personal dealings.

Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause, said he found Justice Thomas’s explanation about the omission to be “implausible.”

As a Supreme Court justice who regularly hears complex legal cases, “it is hard to see how he could have misunderstood the simple directions of a federal disclosure form.”

Deborah L. Rhode, a law professor at Stanford University who specializes in judicial ethics, said the recent episodes could do some harm to Justice Thomas’s reputation. But she added that it was unlikely to have any lasting impact on him or on the disclosure requirements that give justices wide leeway to decide whether they have a financial conflict in hearing a case.

Professor Rhode noted, for instance, that it was still unknown who contributed a total of $550,000 to Liberty Central, the conservative legal group that Mrs. Thomas founded in 2009 in opposition to President Obama’s policies. The amended disclosures filed by Justice Thomas, which do not include income in 2010, do not mention Liberty Central, and no regulation requires the group or the Thomases to disclose the source of the group’s financial support. Mrs. Thomas left the group in the fall.

“There’s no formal mechanism for review of conflicts among Supreme Court justices,” Professor Rhode said. “Personally, I think issues like this are somewhat scandalous for the court, but from what we’ve seen when these issues have come up before, I don’t see that changing.”

© 2011 The New York Times Company

January 24th, 2011, 09:53 PM
And then there's ol' Tonio, schooling some of Congresswoman Bachmann's closest allies ...

'Pay attention to the Constitution,' Scalia tells Bachmann group

MINNESOTA POST (http://www.minnpost.com/derekwallbank/2011/01/24/25162/pay_attention_to_the_constitution_scalia_tells_bac hmann_group)
By Derek Wallbank
Mon, Jan 24 2011 6:23 pm

WASHINGTON — Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia gave members of Congress what amounted to a largely uncontroversial lesson on the Constitution and Federalist Papers in a briefing this afternoon organized by Rep. Michele Bachmann.

"I told them to pay attention to the Constitution," Scalia told MinnPost following the hourlong discussion, which included a short question and answer session between lawmakers and the Court's most outspoken conservative jurist.

More than 50 members and staffers attended the "wonderful civil discussion," which was closed to the press, Bachmann told reporters in a news conference afterwards. At least three Democrats were present, one of whom said the briefing was "incredibly useful" and non-partisan.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Democrat of Illinois, said Scalia told the members to get a hard copy of the Federalist Papers and keep it on their desks.

"You're not going to like some of the things I have to say about the ability of Congress to limit the executive [branch]," Schakowsky said Scalia told them. Iowa Republican Steve King later told reporters that was in reference to Congress ceding authority to the executive in recent years, a practice King has frequently (and vocally) opposed.

King said Scalia was "very careful to not address subject matter that may come before the Court." That includes the recently-passed health reform law, which is being challenged in several federal courts and is expected to be appealed to the Supreme Court.

But while the meeting may not have been controversial in what was said, it certainly was in terms of who said it, to whom and by whose invitation. The Star Tribune's Kevin Diaz wrote a particularly good summation of many of those concerns, quoting one legal scholar who said it ""suggests an alliance between a conservative justice and a conservative member of Congress."

Bachmann declined to comment on the substance of the meeting. Asked afterward by MinnPost what she personally learned from the seminar, she replied that it was that Scalia has a good sense of humor.

Bachmann has pledged that her constitutional conservative seminars will be open to scholars who lean toward either party, and said the Supreme Court's more liberal justices have or will be invited too. That will have to wait at least a month though; the next speaker scheduled is the very conservative Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College in Michigan, where he also teaches a class on the U.S. Constitution.


January 24th, 2011, 10:03 PM
... The Star Tribune's Kevin Diaz wrote a particularly good summation of many of those concerns, quoting one legal scholar who said it "suggests an alliance between a conservative justice and a conservative member of Congress."

Bachmann declined to comment on the substance of the meeting ...

Does Scalia belong at Bachmann sessions?

The justice will cross the street to meet with lawmakers
in the first "Conservative Constitutional Seminar"
Bachmann is holding. But will he cross a line?

THE MINNEAPOLIS ST. PAUL STAR TRIBUNE (http://www.startribune.com/politics/national/114463399.html?elr=KArks:DCiU1PciUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aUoa EYY_1Pc_bDaEP7U)
By KEVIN DIAZ, Star Tribune
Last update: January 23, 2011 - 9:21 PM

WASHINGTON - U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., raised a few eyebrows last fall when she announced plans to hold "Conservative Constitutional Seminars" for arriving members of the new GOP-controlled House.

But the decision of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to speak at the first class on Monday has raised legal hackles about his participation in what turns out to be a closed-door event in conjunction with Bachmann's Tea Party Caucus.

One of the most outspoken critics is University of Minnesota law professor Richard Painter, chief White House ethics lawyer under former President George W. Bush. Painter notes that Bachmann is among 63 House members who filed a brief in support of a lawsuit by more than two dozen states challenging President Obama's health care overhaul. The case could easily end up before the Supreme Court.

Painter recently posted an entry on the online Legal Ethics Forum entitled, "Justice Scalia Takes Some Tea (http://www.legalethicsforum.com/blog/2010/12/justice-scalia-takes-some-tea.html)."

Bachmann's office has portrayed the class as a bipartisan event open to all members of Congress, with more than 40, including Bachmann, expected to attend. No one else from the Minnesota delegation will be there, with the possible exception of freshman Republican Chip Cravaack, who is tentatively scheduled to attend.

In addition to Painter, others have raised alarms about whether Scalia is injecting himself into partisan politics. Among them is George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, who wrote a column about it for the weekend edition of the Washington Post.

In an interview with the Star Tribune, Turley said Scalia's participation "suggests an alliance between a conservative justice and a conservative member of Congress."

Bachmann also has received some support in academia.

"This is a complete nonissue," said University of St. Thomas law professor Michael Stokes Paulsen. "There is absolutely nothing unethical or improper about Supreme Court justices or other judges giving public speeches, teaching classes, giving lectures, participating in panel discussions or writing books -- which often may include discussion of their views about the Constitution or specific legal issues. Justices do it all the time."

Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said Scalia accepted an invitation from Bachmann to talk to members of Congress about the separation of powers among the three branches of government -- a doctrine Scalia's critics say he is violating. Arberg's written statement referred to the event as a "constitutional seminar," leaving out the qualifier "conservative" used by Bachmann's office.

Caroline Fredrickson, executive director of the liberal-leaning American Constitution Society, said in a letter to Bachmann on Friday that the term "Conservative Constitutional Seminars" suggests "you do not intend to provide members of Congress with a comprehensive understanding of the Constitution, but instead will offer an interpretive approach that yields results consistent with the political views of Tea Party Caucus members."

Bachmann aides stressed that while the event is being held in conjunction with the Tea Party Caucus, it is not considered a caucus meeting. But, they added, they expect the twice-monthly seminars to be consistent with Tea Party principles.

A spokesman for Bachmann, who is eyeing a White House run, said she views Scalia's participation in the inaugural seminar as "entirely appropriate."

"It's ironic that at a time when the country wants to see a good working relationship between the legislative and executive branches, that some critics have found fault with a member of the judicial branch talking about constitutional issues with members of Congress," said Bachmann communications director Doug Sachtleben. "The fact that a constitutional scholar is offering his insights on constitutional matters to members of Congress from both sides of the aisle should be evidence of a worthwhile dialogue in Washington."

Painter, in an interview, drew a line between public speeches, books, and law school lectures and a closed-door meeting with members of Congress who have business before the high court.

"A lot of what the Supreme Court does is decide whether what Congress does is constitutional," Painter said.

He said it would "help" if the press were allowed to monitor the meeting, where Scalia could be exposed to pressure from lawmakers with political agendas. "There's no guarantee these members of Congress are going to just sit there like potted plants," Painter said.

Bachmann's office said the meeting is closed to the media at the court's request. Arberg, however, said it was Bachmann's office that "set the guidelines for the event."

Whether or not Scalia's presence represents an actual conflict of interest, some scholars say it could at least raise the perception of such a conflict at a time when the national political debate has focused intensely on the constitutional limits of government in health care and the economy.

Adding to the sparks is the timing of the event, coming on a day of national protests and commemorations of Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court's landmark ruling legalizing abortion.

"I don't think there's a clear answer to it, but I think raising the issue is appropriate," said court watcher Carl Tobias, who teaches at the University of Richmond Law School.

Kevin Diaz is a correspondent in the Star Tribune Washington Bureau.

© 2011 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.

November 19th, 2011, 02:52 PM
January 20, 2012 – Move to Amend (http://movetoamend.org/occupythecourts) Occupies the Courts!


November 19th, 2011, 08:12 PM
Now, that's a cause worth sticking with...and then maybe OWS would naturally flow on to (also) be more organised, cohesive, focused and meaningful.

http://a7.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash2/s320x320/34306_123134664398029_120664581311704_132036_33559 3_n.jpg