Tag Archives: Supreme Court

The Constitutional Woes of American Democracy

by Roger Cohen, Autokthonous, 2/10/14

Of all the myriad public-policy problem facing the country, there is probably broad consensus that the very worst of them is the corruption of our elections and officeholders by the ceaseless orgy of political fundraising and contributions.

The 1974 reforms enacted by Congress in the shadow of Watergate only served to prove conclusively the law of unintended consequences that result when trying to separate thirsty politicians from their supply of mother’s milk.

And the horrible irony of the mess is that it is a direct outgrowth of our most cherished and fundamental constitutional principle: the freedom of speech — or at least as it is understood by the constitutional interpreters who sit on the Supreme Court.

Since the High Court’s five-to-four decision in 2010 in Citizens United v FEC, ending the ban on corporate independent political expenditures, political spending has exploded, turning what had already become a permanent campaign into a full-time fever of nearly election-eve frenzy.

Political communication now is as much driven by Super-PACs and a new structure called “Hybrid PACs” (combining traditional Political Action Committee direct support to candidates with the independence of Super-PACS, all under one roof), and untraceable “Dark Money,” that the politicians themselves — always so eager to collect — find they’ve lost control of the process.

The effect of so much independent cash flooding the marketplace of debate, said Philadelphia elections law attorney Adam C. Bonin, has been “to destabilize the parties as a mediating influence and to shift the center of gravity to outside the party structure.”

Bonin, at a presentation last weekend in Hershey, Pa. on campaign finance post-Citizens United, said he foresees even greater disruption ahead. The 2010 decision of the DC Circuit in SpeechNow.org v FEC “takes Citizens United to its extreme,” Bonin said, holding that “if [under Citizens United] it’s not corrupting for one corporation to do independent expenditures, it can’t be corrupting for a lot of them to join together to do it.”

Currently only binding in the District of Columbia, SpeechNow portends an environment where independent political spending enlarges to a scale approaching the economy of medium-sized countries like Chile or Malaysia.

“The next earthquake,” Bonin said, is likely to be McCutcheon v FEC, now awaiting Supreme Court decision, which challenges aggregate limits on individual contributions to political parties and candidates for office….

continue reading at Autokthonous

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Filed under Election rights and laws

Our Pro-Corporate Supreme Court

By Bill Moyers, Moyers & Company, Reader Supported News, 9/16/12

MOYERS: Welcome. When five conservative members of the Supreme Court handed corporations and the super-rich the right to overwhelm our elections with tsunamis of cash, they moved America further from representative government toward outright plutocracy, where political power derived from wealth is devoted to protecting wealth.

We saw it first in the mid-term elections of 2010, and we’re seeing it in spades in this year’s elections – organized money, much of it dark money, given secretly So it can’t be traced, enveloping the campaign for president, Congressional campaigns, and state legislative and judicial races. There’s never been anything like it in our history – not on this scale, and not this sinister. We’ll take a look at this radical threat to democracy in our next two broadcasts – how it’s happening, and what can be done about it.

We’ll begin with this current issue of “The Nation” magazine, “The One Percent Court,” devoted entirely to the United States Supreme Court. It’s one you’ll not want to miss – and not because it opens with an article jointly written by me and the historian Bernard Weisberger. Our mission was simply to remind the reader of what’s obvious: that because of the partisan gridlock paralyzing both president and Congress, more than ever the court has become the most powerful branch of government, and the center of a controversy which may shape the fate of democracy for generations to come….

keep reading at Reader Supported News

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Filed under National govt & politics

Justice Scalia Should Quit

EJ Dionne Jr, Washington Post, 6/27/12

Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia. (Photo: Stephen Masker)Washington – Justice Antonin Scalia needs to resign from the Supreme Court.

He’d have a lot of things to do. He’s a fine public speaker and teacher. He’d be a heck of a columnist and blogger. But he really seems to aspire to being a politician — and that’s the problem.

So often, Scalia has chosen to ignore the obligation of a Supreme Court justice to be, and appear to be, impartial. He’s turned “judicial restraint” into an oxymoronic phrase. But what he did this week, when the court announced its decision on the Arizona immigration law, should be the end of the line.

Not content with issuing a fiery written dissent, Scalia offered a bench statement questioning President Obama’s decision to allow some immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children to stay. Obama’s move had nothing to do with the case in question. Scalia just wanted you to know where he stood….

continue reading at Washington Post

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Filed under Rights, Justice, Law

Lessons of FDR vs. 9 Old Men

by Reid Warren

As has been illustrated time and again, the real evaluation of an event in history cannot be found at the time or even within a few years after the event. We have learned that regarding the true events during slavery, Jim Crow, women’s liberation and the right to vote, etc.

For a long time I believed that one of the three or so mistakes that Roosevelt made was his attempt to pack the U.S. Supreme Court. This article (below) spells out why he tried to do it, and those of us who have seen the actions and decisions of the present Court, whether handing Bush the 2000 election or deciding that corporations are equal to individuals.

I naively believed that the Court was above us all, was sacrosanct. Nothing could be farther from the truth, even though we may believe that it should be so. Supreme Court judges go to the job, by appointment, with all of their conservative, religious, liberal, and variations of what is moral and ethical values just as do members of Congress and the President. They all wipe their bums just the same way all the rest of us do.

Watching the recent Supreme Court actions I can sympathize with FDR trying to pack the court. It wasn’t right of course, in a democracy. But, deciding legal issues lock step with ideology isn’t right either.

Given this, what RIGHT did the Supreme Court have in deciding the 2000 election–by a majority of nine members of the court and not by the citizens.

re: “The People’s Rogue: FDR vs. the Nine Old Men” by Robert Wilbur, Truthout | Book Review

Throughout American history, Supreme Court justices have enjoyed undeserved reverence, which has allowed them, by and large, to be water boys (and girls) for the forces of money and power. The vaunted system of checks and balances is skewed in favor of the Supremes [4], and, inexplicably, ordinary men and women do not seem to realize that they’re being rolled. The present political gridlock as a proximate result of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision recalls the situation FDR confronted In Jeff Sheshol’s new book, “Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt vs. the Supreme Court.”

continue reading the book review at Truthout

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Filed under History, Rights, Justice, Law