For decades, liberals have insisted that we need to “get the money out of politics”, that campaign contributions and strong political advocacy by individuals needed to be limited, that spending by businesses and corporations should be eliminated, and that government funding of campaigns needed to be codified in law.
Yet when Barack Obama sought the presidency, he abandoned the public finance option and raised more than $600 million in private funds which he used to defeat John McCain. This is classic Democrat hypocrisy.
Now the US Supreme Court has sent shock waves across the political landscape when it ruled on January 21 that government cannot restrict private corporations, or even unions, from spending their own money to influence political campaigns. And the decision could lead to challenges to the long-time ban on direct campaign contributions from corporations and unions.
In the 5-4 decision, supported by the conservative wing of the Court and joined by justice Anthony Kennedy who was the swing vote on the issue, Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion, “The censorship we now confront is vast in its reach.” Special-interest groups also have been liberated.
The Center for Competitive Politics called the decision “a win for the First Amendment political rights of small businesses, grassroots groups and others who now can avoid the burden of running through a regulatory maze before speaking out in campaigns.”
But Democrats immediately blasted the decision. Obama said, “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.” Meanwhile Democrats like US senator Charles Schumer of New York have vowed to propose new restrictive legislation. Liberal groups like Common Cause also protested.
The case arose when an organization called Citizens United wanted to offer through a TV video-on-demand service an anti-Hillary-Clinton movie that it had made for the 2008 presidential campaign. The Federal Election Commission ruled that the film was subject to a 2002 campaign law that bans TV or radio ads funded with money from private corporations or unions.
When the Court first considered the case, it focused narrowly. But then it asked a broader question: How far may government go to restrict corporate and union spending on elections without abridging the First Amendment?
Its recent decision overturns a 1990 ruling, Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, in which justice Thurgood Marshall wrote for the majority that “corporate wealth can unfairly influence elections.”
But one might have asked of Marshall‘s decision: Why were the entities (private corporations) that provide the best, most stable jobs and the most crucial products and services to the American economy somehow barred from participating in elections? Wouldn’t our economy be improved if these productive entities had equal influence as everyone else? After all, do not Democrats routinely swing elections through welfare handouts and other government subsidies in exchange for votes? And is that not having a deleterious effect on our economy by putting more and more power in the hands of the idle poor and other unproductive citizens?
Another contradiction in the old law was that media corporations (NBC, CNN, New York Times etc.) often have dedicated their corporate wealth and power to harming Republicans. So now these same companies and their allies in Congress are angry that, say, gun makers or oil companies now will have the same power against Democrats.
But opponents of the recent decision now are ignoring the fact that many corporations now will use their new power to support Democrat causes. A recent survey reported on Fox News showed that since 1990, private corporations politically have favored Democrats and Republicans equally.
General Electric, for instance, with its very-liberal CEO Jeffrey Immelt, has been close to the Obama administration because Obama favors government subsidies for wind energy while GE is a maker of wind turbines. Many companies in fields like clothing, fashion, recreation equipment, education, health and beauty aids, and women’s products – to name just a few – also could tend to lean left. Bill Gates is a liberal on most issues so Microsoft might support Democrats.
The final effect of the decision is that three new entities are being empowered – conservative corporations (which will support Republicans), unions (which will support Democrats) and liberal corporations (which will support Democrats). So overall the court ruling actually seems poised to benefit liberals!
At the same time, unions for decades have been using their members as volunteers in Democrat campaigns, a type of ‘funding’ that could not be challenged under the old law. Yet there would have been a huge outcry if a corporation sent 1,000 employees out to campaign for a pro-business Republican candidate.
This Supreme Court decision will level the playing field somewhat for common-sense opposition to liberal bias. But it is hardly what it is being portrayed as.
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