Some of the language in the Citizens United ruling is pretty astounding:
This Court now concludes that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption. That speakers may have influence over or access to elected officials does not mean that those officials are corrupt. And the appearance of influence or access will not cause the electorate to lose faith in this democracy.
What’s ridiculous here is that campaign finance issues have already caused much of the public to lose faith in this democracy…and that was under a system that demanded more disclosure (at least for corporate spending) than this post-Citizens United system. Democrats are right to keep ramming home the point that the sources of funding for this season’s outside ads remain largely undisclosed.
One would think, with all this Koch money flowing around like water, Rossi would be running less idiotic commercials. If you’re gonna cite a newspaper, at least post the damn date of the supposed article you’re citing.
Well, the exact sources of funding are undisclosed, but we know what interests the spending represents. Tens of millions of dollars being poured into opposing Democrats by the health insurance industry, Wall Street, credit card industry, oil companies, and the tea party’s billionaire sugar daddies. Such expenditures are being made because President Obama and the Democrats have been working to end the subsidies of and abuses by those industries.
For example, Democrats shifted $65 billion in federal funds from subsidizing banks to increasing student loans. Democrats shifted tens of billions of dollars from subsidizing private insurance companies that provide Medicare at a higher cost than the government can provide it, and are using that money to expand health insurance coverage. And, Democrats ended abusive health insurance industry practices like pre-existing condition exclusions and retroactive policy cancellations.
If we want to keep on seeing progressive change from President Obama and the Democrats, we must fight back against this wave of campaign cash the corporate interests are trying to use to steal the election.
OK, that’s a really sucky ad. I’m just sayin’.
Oh well. We always knew it was possible to buy an election–now it’s just inevitable.
DougJ, in case you didn’t see it, I suggest the name of Balloon Juice C.R.E.A.M. for the 501c. Now, let’s see if FYWP will allow this through.
@Yutsano: You seem to think facts might make a difference. Rossi knows that some percentage of people will believe no matter what he says, and a somewhat larger percentage will weight his negative commercials against Murry’s and say “they’re both alike.”
Rossi stands zero chance of winning over people concerned with truth. Which is why the GOP+5 Rasmussen has him up by 3.
In the dissent:
End of story. This began with the 14th Amendment and subsequent decisions about ‘corporate personood’.
The capitalists stole the government long, long ago. The struggle isn’t between the Democrats and Republicans, it is where it has always been.
Seriously?! The court seriously wrote that?! That has to be trolling. Scalia and Alito must be having a contest. Put the most batshit insane statement you can into a ruling, and if no one raises a fuss, you win a point. If that segment specifically is cited as precedent in a future case, you win 20 points. If Congress passes a law codifying it and making it the law of the land, you automatically win the game.
I hope you’re happy DougJ. Roberts and Thomas had $50 riding on Scalia getting away with this one and you blew it.
@wilfred: Can same sex corporations marry each other?
@wilfred: Interesting, but depressing, Straight Dope article on corporations and the 14th Amendment.
That quote simply illustrates the wild ass fact-asserting function of our judiciary.
This crap is always discussed like the only way to get policy favors is to ‘turn’ a politician.
That’s not it.
The main aspect of the domination of elections by the rich is to influence who runs and who is supported and likely who will or will not be elected.
If you keep out the people most likely to be hostile to your interests, and you get in people much more sympathetic with your interests (ideologically or for money-grubbing purposes), and if you can do it over the long haul, you win.
DougJ – In case you did not see my comment in the previous thread, there is somethign funky in this post that is messing with the formatting for me (and apparently no one else). I am not really complaining since it just removed the margins on the left and right, but I thought you should know. Other posts are “normal”
What always kills me in their language is the tone of disingenuous naïveté. “Golly, just because there is the appearance or possibility of influence doesn’t mean that anything unseemly is going on.”
It’s not the “appearance of influence or access” that has caused the electorate to lose faith in this democracy. It’s the fact that the appearance is regularly followed like clockwork by the revelation of actual massive corruption stemming from the influence or access.
Most people understand this before they are 20. I’m sure the Supremes understand this as well as anyone else. So for them to write the above–I’d love to know which justice penned the decision–is to basically flip the bird to all of us
P.S. The link in the post at the top doesn’t work for me. This one does.
@El Cid: You are thinking too deeply about the issue. This must be remedied at once. The SCOTUS frowns upon its citizenry thinking for itself.
@jl: This is very fun, yet, sadly apt.
If I make myself a corporation, then maybe I could get free speech rights.
Excellent point. If you can elect true believers who think the “right” way, you don’t need to exert any extra influence. They’ll do the “right” thing all by themselves.
@Steeplejack: You don’t even have to get true believers elected — though it’s great when that happens.
You play the odds and you push every rule to be in your favor. Over time each higher tick on the probability of your interests gaining favor adds up. Each tick against those opposing you accumulates too.
You spend generations making it less likely that people who disagree with you too much get elected, actually it’s best if you make sure that other people are the ‘realistic’ candidates and can get donations, so that they run and the others do not — money can weed people out of elections before any vote is ever cast.
You spend generations contributing to party apparatuses and ideological institutions like publications and radio programs and the like. You create hordes of fake experts and fund policy planning ‘think tanks’ and make them glitzy and available to each and every reporter or talking head who needs one handy.
And, of course, if it works really well, then you’ve done a whole helluva lot to choose who the judges are, and they can start to rule in your favor directly.
Welcome to the 1890s on.
@El Cid: Yes. Then you would be an individual worthy of the privilege of free speech.
And with your next post, you thoroughly depressed me.
Word. But so depressing.
This reads like Arthur Jensen is an Associate Justice of SCOTUS.
Off to bed for me, probably just in time to miss Anne Laurie’s next pet-rescue post. Will check back tomorrow.
Republicans uncover the fiendish librul plot to allow there to be Mexicans in Mexico.
On his own blog the journalist added
@Steeplejack: Night, Steepman. Sleep well.
@El Cid: Why the hell don’t you have your own blog?
I also frequently have margin problems here. My daughter installed Firefox onto my computer and I use that for Balloon Juice. Problem solved.
[free, I think]
thanks for bringing this depressing news to us. need to spread the word.
Scholar of the US power structure G. William Domhoff summarizes:
I don’t know. Seems like someone should have given me one by now.
@El Cid: Nice! (But I’m serious).
This Court now concludes that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.
Was the issue ever “corruption” per say? I thought (and think) the problem is that corporations can provide funds for advertising and other ways of influencing the public debate on a scale that will dwarf what any group of average can manage. To me, it’s campaign contributions that are the real corrupting influence. But to lobby successfully, corporations first have to get pliable politicians elected. And that’s where the independent expenditures come in.
The ruling is tl;dr for me, so I am probably wrong, but that particular quote strikes me as a red herring.
El Cid might well have greater readership and a greater affect on the world around us by commenting here.
On the other hand, guest posting could be great.
Guys? John? Doug? Ann? Are you listening?
With my newfound fame and accolades, I now can happily drift off to sleep.
Every Democrat who is targeted by the Chamber of Commerce or Rove’s phony PAC needs to tie them to Osama bin Laden. It would be easy as pie.
Just say “Karl Rove and US Chamber of Commerce are taking blood money from our enemies in order to put the GOP back in power”. All the while showing pictures of Osama bin Laden, Hugo Chavez and that Sonny Bono look-alike from Iran.
If the little babies want to whine (as they always do) the Dems should tell them “SUE US”! The discovery phase of the lawsuit will be eye opening.
@Linda Featheringill: This is true. He’s consistently excellent, though. I like the idea of a guest post.
@El Cid: Night! May dreams of mad monies dance in your head tonight.
Feh. I need a nap. Catch y’all later.
I don’t mean to pick on you, but I am really quite tired of people whining about “corporate personhood” (a concept which did not spring from the evil hive mind of the California Supreme Court in 1886, but rather was a well-known part of the English common law) and making no attempt to describe how a world without it would work. Feel free to take a crack at it if you’d like.
This is depressing. You know what’s not depressing, and is in fact awesome? My animals.
You know it.
@freelancer (itouch): Heh. That’s somewhat eerie. I mean to see Network, but I’ve never really gotten around to it. I’m familiar with Howard Beale’s “Mad As Hell” broadcast in the movie, but I’d really like to see the context behind it too.
Angry Black Lady
@El Cid: anytime you want a place to rant, you can rant at my place. i’ve got a few guest contributors. then again, i’m no balloon juice! i’m tiny.
also, if anyone wants to get thoroughly depressed about how fox newsified the nation is becoming/is read this:
my friend did a media study on consumer satisfaction with the news. it’s fucking frightening.
(this dude is the real deal. he did a media study on consumer dissatisfaction with facebook and a week later, he gets a call from zuckerburg and ends up meeting with the facebook muckity mucks to discuss why consumers are unhappy.)
i plan to talk with him further about this, but… you know… yikes.
James E. Powell
The question is not whether corporations have “personhood” as that legal fiction was developed under the common law. Rather, it is whether corporations are “persons” under the fourteenth amendment. That is, are corporations the same as human beings? I haven’t researched it, but I sincerely doubt that it the authors of the fourteenth amendment intended it to apply to artificial persons created by state law.
But it’s an academic argument. Failing some kind of socialist revolution that produces a new or substantially amended constitution, we are stuck with it. The only question is whether we, the people, are going to do anything about it.
I am considering becoming a religious corporation. That way, I am tax-free and I get to buy elections.
My proposed name is The Bibulous Order of the New Dionysus INC.
There is a little game we lawyers play, in an effort to justify the six-figure sums we laid out for law school, that involves lording our superior knowledge of legal terminology over the masses. “Ha! Without corporate personhood, corporations couldn’t sue or be sued, is that really what you want?” And then we strike that dramatic “smartest guy in the room” pose.
But one can also choose to inhabit the world of common sense. In that world, when someone objects to corporate personhood what they typically mean is “it doesn’t make sense to me that corporations automatically get to have all the same rights as a real person.” And they have a point. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. We can agree that the Due Process Clause protects the property of a corporation (it does) without agreeing that a corporation has a right against self-incrimination (it doesn’t) or a right to privacy (it doesn’t).
Likewise, we can accept that the New York Times Corporation is protected by freedom of the press without skiing the slippery slope all the way to the bottom and concluding that every business corporation has to have unlimited free speech rights. Chief Justice Marshall wrote in 1819:
The other Justice Marshall wrote in Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the case overruled by Citizens United:
Justice Rehnquist, a Republican’s Republican to be sure, wrote some of his most persuasive dissents on this issue. In First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti he said:
Shorter: Opposition to “corporate personhood” is not a know-nothing position.
So, the persuasive power of the guy who gives a candidate a bit of his mind at the Q&A of an election rally is the same as that of the guy in a boardroom who cuts the candidate a check for, say, a cool $100k?
Are they even trying any more?
@burnspbesq: This smartass schtick is getting tedious. Corporate personhood is pretty old and well established, and I doubt more than one in 200 leftists would want to abolish corporate personhood so long as corporations operates within their historically prescribed roles.
And yes, Santa Clara, which has been read as giving XIVth amendment rights to corporations due to headnote, is ridiculous. Please don’t tell me that sort of chicanery is within the common law treatment of corporate personhood.
Odie Hugh Manatee
This line from the ruling:
is astounding in that it is as if they think they can absolve officials of corruption and bribery by simply stating that although the donors may influence the officials this does not mean that they are corrupt. It’s like they are standing outside a house that is on fire telling us that just because the house is burning down that doesn’t mean that it is burning down. With judicial brilliance like this, if we let them rewrite the rules for Monopoly I bet the game would only need one player after they were done.
Just imagine what they could do with Scrabble!
What a fucking disgrace.
Angry Black Lady
@Steve: well-said, except:
i strike the dramatic “smartest gal in the room” pose.
@Xenos: I would abolish by stating that corporations only have those rights specifically assigned to them by law. They are not people and do not deserve any inalienable rights. They are a artificial construction designed to make the most money at the least risk to the investors.
This of course would change if the business in question still had someone directly and personally liable for it.
@JimF: Thus you are squarely in the ‘common law’ history of how to treat corporations – creatures of statutory law that have limited constitutional rights. That ‘common law of corporations’, to the degree it ever existed, was completely superseded by statutory law long before 1886.
In any case, the whole issue comes not from granting rights to corporations, but from giving them XIVth Amendment rights, which is ridiculous. And the case that apparantly gives them these rights explicitly avoids ruling on the XIVth amendment claims raised by the appellant.
From this statement, we now conclude that someone at the SCOTUS has access to the best drugs evah! Gotta be the red pill.
So that IS his usual schtick, eh? I never really noticed burns’ comments around here until he mocked mistermix for criticizing Mankiw’s retarded article yesterday, where he invoked the horror of the 35% corporate tax rate.
I guess the guy really is just a smug asshole.
@Angry Black Lady: An excellent post; but we have to remember FOX viewers, and surfers, are a distinct subgroup. They don’t want to go anywhere else; because they get their worldview shaken up.
Getting diverse points of view doesn’t do that to me; my outlook is built on it, with plenty of room for stuff I didn’t know before. The FOX viewers I’ve met are remarkable; they don’t want any new information.
I’d cut and paste Stevens entire dissent, but that pretty much sums it up.
in ref. to burnspesq
There’s no guessing to it, he demonstrates it daily.
DougJ is the business and economics editor for Balloon Juice.
Thanks, I think I fixed it.
@Sly: You might want to add to that Stevens quote some sniping at XIVth Amendment personhood of corporations by Hugo Black, in the dissent to CONNECTICUT GENERAL LIFE INS. CO. v. JOHNSON, 303 U.S. 77 (1938). I can’t see how anything asserted in that dissent is not correct, but then again I am one of the DFH lawyer-types.
@Angry Black Lady: Thank you. I could be an Angry 11th Century Mercenary.
James E. Powell
The supreme court interprets the constitution as a mandate for modern Republican ideology: if rich people are doing it, then it cannot be unconstitutional.
I love how giving large amounts of cash to a politician doesn’t make me a contributor, or a briber, but rather a “speaker.” The decision is an absolutely direct assault on democracy. The fact that they ludicrously affirm that allowing large anonymous bribes will in no way undermine the public’s faith in their democracy indicates to me that destroying that faith is very much part of their intention.
@Bullsmith: Citizens United doesn’t allow contributions, only independent expenditures.
Spending a million bucks on advertising to support someone’s campaign is still bullshit, but I wouldn’t confuse it with “giving large amounts of cash to a politician.”
In effect it’s like a donation in kind to either a politician or a number of politicians. Not in the constrained legal sense or formal ethical rules, but in the real world.
@El Cid: Sure, but a donation in kind still isn’t cash, particularly where the campaign wouldn’t have made an equivalent expenditure on its own.
I’m not trying to minimize the harm of the Citizens United ruling, but independent advertising bears a stronger resemblance to “free speech” than dropping off a bag of cash does, that’s for sure.
The last time the Court’s language was so out of touch with regard to ordinary people was….well, whatever previous decision was written by Johnny. John’s been in the pocket of corporate interests so long, he forgot that ordinary people don’t trust entrenched money.
he also, apparently, has never read the tax code. If he believes there is no appearance of impropriety in huge donations, then a) why do companies do it (they’re just civic minded) and b) why do those donations seemingly help get stadiums built, loopholes, passed, and legislation written?
It’s a mystery to John Roberts
@timb: true, though it’s really a systemic problem: almost no one who is going to be at elevated levels in the legal system in the US would fail to have a sympathetic understanding of corporations. after all, they are inside, operating the levers, rather than outside, being mashed flat underfoot.* as a visual image, any dystopian fantasy of machines run wild will do. i prefer the gargantuan steam shovel/tank idea, myself.
all you really need to know about modern america is represented in the gulf between the upholding of personhood for corporations and the eagerness to abandon rights for persons. the individual is truly subordinate to the mass, though the teabaggers have it wrong in that the individual is subordinate to the corporatist entity rather than the state. and, when the corporation’s own actions are no longer governed by agency-principal understandings, well, then, the table is laid for legal piracy at home.
otherwise, interesting thread. as any student of legal history could attest, much (though not all) legal doctrine in the anglo-saxon tradition is the product of happenstance and misunderstanding rather than reason or hard-won insight.
*in fairness, many of those in the legal universe believe that the problem simply requires a better rule rather than say a recognition of the limitations of the legal belief system. the popular parallel here is McNamara’s corps during Vietnam, or for that matter, the Bush administration thinking war was simply a matter of managing public perception “correctly”.
@DougJ is the business and economics editor for Balloon Juice.: FYI – Back to normal now
@Steve: Given the proven success Fox has had, or Rush Limbaugh say, in getting each and every Republican politician to tow the line on each and every issue they wanted, I’d say a million buck spend directly on media is every bit as valuable, and as influencing, as a million bucks in direct donation to the politician. Also, If you give the cash directly to the politicians, they might use it in some independent way. But if you control the message, they simply dance to your tune.
@Bullsmith: I can’t imagine any politician who would be more grateful for a million-dollar advertising campaign than they would be for a million bucks in cash. Also, if you’re going to make the case for the pernicious effects of Citizens United, it kind of hurts your argument to cite stuff that was going on before Citizens United, like Rush Limbaugh pulling the strings of the Republican Party.
Wile E. Quixote
Have you noticed that none of Dino Rossi’s commercials or his yard signs identify him as a Republican? I’d love to see someone run a series of commercials that ask why Dino Rossi is so ashamed Republicans that he won’t even identify himself as a member of the party.
Wile E. Quixote
We should start an “Impeach Antonin Scalia” movement. We could have a saying “What’s the difference between Tony Soprano and Tony Scalia? Tony Soprano has some ethics.” Scalia is corrupt, we need to stop pretending that he isn’t corrupt just because he wears a black robe.
Steve you’re totally misunderstanding me. Of COURSE the politician would rather have cash, it’s their corporate masters who have realized the best way to control them is to limit the cash you give them and keep control of the politicians media presence largely in the hands of those interested in controlling them, instead of giving them independence to spend the money themselves. Like a parent saying no I won’t give you fifty bucks but if you sleep with my good friend Tommy here I will buy you that election you want. (Sorry to be crude, but this is politics we’re discussing.)
If the corporations thought it was better to give unlimited cash directly, then that would be legal by now. This way the big donators (free speakers, sorry) get to own the pols and still say “But I’m not giving him money directly.”
As for Rush Limbaugh pre-dating the Citizens United ruling, I see him as a major inspiration for it, as were Willy Horton ads etc. Lots of corporations that don’t own media stations wanted in on the gulling the public and picking who gets elected business. Citizens United broadened the market. I never suggested it invented it.
Not meaning to repeat myself, but…
That was in January.
Just SIX MONTHS EARLIER, the court had been forced to rule that the chief justice of the state of West Virginia, Brent Benjamin, had acted inappropriately in failing to recuse himself from a case involving Massey Coal.
Why was it inappropriate? BECAUSE MASSEY COAL HAD SPENT $250,000 getting him elected. And he had then ruled in favor of Massey.
So after witnessing first hand how corporate cash could buy an election AND buy policy results, the court concluded… “expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption”.
“While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.”–Justice Stevens, dissenting
Tune in in 2012 for the new hit song, “Who Let the Trolls Out?”