There’s one big, but overlooked, development from the election last night: In Montana, a referendum to state that corporations don’t have constitutional rights has unofficially passed by a 75 percent to 25 percent margin. Initiative number 166 stated that “corporations are not entitled to constitutional rights because they are not human beings,” and thus is a blow to the Citizen’s United ruling that helped make this presidential election the most expensive one ever.
Montana quietly passed a measure that says corporations aren’t humans | Derek Mead | Mother Board
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated Montana’s campaign donation limits, telling the federal judge who overturned it to outline his full reasoning so the panel can review the case.
The court intervened late Tuesday less than a week after the judge’s decision opened the door to unlimited money in state elections – during the height of election season.
Big news out of the 9th Circuit this morning, regarding the state of Montana’s continued efforts to regulate campaign finance post-Citizens United. We don’t expect this to be the end of the story though, and it seems increasingly likely that this will end up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court before this is all over.
As I’ve explained on these pages again and again, the Framers of our Constitution gave us a “Republic.” By “a Republic,” they meant a “representative democracy.” And by “a representative democracy,” they meant a government that in the legislative branch at least was to be, as Federalist 52 describes it, “dependent upon the People alone.”
In the 225 years since, Congress has evolved a different dependence — a dependence not “upon the People alone” but increasingly, a dependence upon “the funders” of campaigns as well.
But here’s the obvious problem: “the Funders” are not “the People.” As I’ve written again and again, .26 percent of America gives more than $200 to any congressional candidate; .05 percent of America gives the maximum amount to any congressional campaign; .01 percent gives more than $10,000 in an election cycle; through February, .000063 percent of America — 196 citizens — gave close to 80 percent of Super PAC contributions. And according to U.S. PIRG and Demos, 1,000 citizens of the United States (or so we assume) have given more than 94 percent of Super PAC contributions so far.
No one could deny that politicians are “dependent” upon their funders. Nor could anyone believe these funders are a fair representation of “the People.” And thus, no one should doubt that we have allowed the system our Framers intended to be — in a word — corrupted. Ours is not a government with a legislature “dependent upon the People alone.” It is a government with a legislature dependent upon “the People” and upon a different and conflicting group — “the Funders.”
Although ‘the heart of man is made to reconcile the most glaring contradictions’ (Hume again), now let us use our heads and deal appropriately, as they say in Washington, with a corporate ruling class that has hijacked the nation, and in so doing eliminate at least one glaring contradiction: that ours is a government of, by, and for the many when it is so notoriously the exclusive preserve of the few.
Gore Vidal (talking about the problem of money in politics in 2000, before Citizens United moved the goal posts even farther):
Some nuts and bolts. Of the billions now spent each election cycle, most is donated in checks exceeding $1,000. But less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the general population make individual contributions at this rate. And among group contributors, better than 90 percent comes from corporations, which duly record their political investment as a tax-deductible “cost of doing business.” These happy few are prepared to pay a high and rising price for the privilege of controlling our government. In the 1998 election cycle, the average winning House candidate cost the owners about $900,000, the average winning Senate candidate a bit over $6 million. Multiply both figures by two if you want the cost of dislodging an incumbent from office—in a system where, last time around, over 97 percent were reelected. To finance a race in big media markets like New York or California, it’s a bit more expensive: as of election day 1998, something like $36 million and $21 million respectively.
All of this, of course, is more blowback from the horrible Supreme Court Citizens United decision, which unleashed this corporate cash monster. Just this week, Justice Richard Posner of U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals – a Republican and until recently, no judicial liberal — said that Citizens United had created a political system that is “pervasively corrupt” in which “wealthy people essentially bribe legislators.”
Nonetheless, at the time of the ruling two and a half years ago, eight of the nine justices also made it clear that key to the decision was the importance of transparency. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, “The First Amendment protects political speech and disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way.”
One of the DISCLOSE Act’s biggest opponents isn’t buying that argument. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who used to say, “We need to have real disclosure,” has changed his tune. Now that conservatives and the GOP are able to haul in the big bucks, he claims that divulging the identity of corporate donors would be the equivalent of creating an “enemies list,” like the one Richard Nixon kept to punish his foes and settle political scores. Here’s what McConnell said in a speech at the conservative American Enterprise Institute last month:
“This is nothing less than an effort by the government itself to expose its critics to harassment and intimidation, either by government authorities or through third party allies… That’s why it’s a mistake to view the attacks we’ve seen on ‘millionaires and billionaires’ as outside our concern. Because it always starts somewhere; and the moment we stop caring about who’s being targeted is the moment we’re all at risk.”
McConnell’s not the only one — every Republican voted to kill the DISCLOSE Act, including fourteen who just a couple of years ago supported it. Groups like Ron Paul’s Campaign for Liberty smell an un-American conspiracy lurking behind the demands for disclosure. So do the National Rifle Association and FreedomWorks — the Tea Party organizers originally funded by David Koch — each of which warned senators that their votes on the DISCLOSE Act will be included in the scorecards they keep, recording each ballot they don’t approve like pins in a voodoo doll.
Their outrage is ridiculous and hypocritical. These non-profits are just another magic trick, an illusion intended to obscure the fact that these are monumental slush funds, plain and simple.
… The good news is that people are fighting back. On July 5th, California joined state legislatures in Hawaii, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Vermont calling for a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United. The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding hearings July 24th and the state of Montana, which recently had its law barring corporate spending in elections struck down by the Supreme Court, has put a voter initiative on its November ballot, also calling for a constitutional amendment. [++]
Three things don’t go together: Money. Secrecy. Democracy. And that’s the nub of the matter. This is all a sham for invalidating democracy in the name of democracy. It’s the trick authoritarians always use to hide their real intention — in this case absolute power over our public life and institutions: the privatization of everything. The Supreme Court is pointing the way. Instead of mitigating the worst excesses of both the state and the private sector, the Court has taken sides. Saying to the massed wealth of the one percent: America is yours for the taking, for the buying.Bill Moyers (via azspot)
The Supreme Court on Monday reaffirmed its disastrous 2010 ruling that lifted limits on corporate spending to influence elections. Justices reversed the Montana Supreme Court and struck down a state law. ”The U.S. Supreme Court’s absurd 5-4 ruling two years ago in Citizens United was a major blow to American democratic traditions. Sadly, despite all of the evidence that Americans see every day, the court continues to believe that its decision makes sense,” Sanders said.
“In recent weeks, multi-billionaires such as the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson have made it clear that, as a result of the Citizens United decision, they intend to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to buy this election for candidates who support the super-wealthy. This is not democracy. This is plutocracy. And that is why we must overturn Citizens United if we are serious about maintaining the foundations of American democracy.
“I intend to work as hard as I can for a constitutional amendment to overturn this disastrous Supreme Court decision.
“In his famous speech at Gettysburg during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln talked about America as a country ‘of the people, by the people and for the people.’ Today, as a result of the Supreme Court’s refusal to reconsider its decision in Citizens United, we are rapidly moving toward a nation of the super-rich, by the super-rich and for the super-rich. That is not what America is supposed to be about. This Supreme Court decision must be overturned.”
The Supreme Court just announced a 5-4 decision striking down Montana’s ban on corporate money in elections. The decision was handed down without hearing oral argument on the case, meaning that the five conservative justices were not even open to hearing arguments that their election-buying decision in Citizens United might have been wrongly decided.Supreme Court Doubles Down On Citizens United | ThinkProgress
As the rich get richer, throwing six-figure sums at presidential campaigns is just like tipping for good service.
Chief Justice Roberts apparently wanted a much broader, sweeping outcome, and it is now clear that he manipulated the Court’s process to achieve that result. Once only a question about an ‘on-demand’ movie, the majority in Citizens United ruled that corporations and unions could now use their general treasuries to influence elections directly. Despite giving strenuous assurances during his confirmation hearing to respect settled law, Roberts now stands responsible for the most egregious upending of judicial precedent in a generation. As now-retired Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in his dissent to the majority in Citizens United: ‘[F]ive Justices were unhappy with the limited nature of the case before us, so they changed the case to give themselves an opportunity to change the law.’The Money Crisis | Stanford Law Review
Legislators have clearly reached their own conclusion that there is an ‘appearance of corruption.’ Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have joined Montana in asking the Supreme Court to uphold the state’s ban on corporate expenditures. This coalition is a mix of red, blue, and purple states, including New York, Arkansas, California, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Utah, Vermont and West Virginia. Senators John McCain and Sheldon Whitehouse also filed an amicus brief in support of Montana, writing, ‘Evidence from the 2010 and 2012 electoral cycles has demonstrated that so-called independent expenditures create a strong potential for corruption and the perception thereof.’
McCain is starting to resemble his reformer self again. He slams the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision every chance he gets. He has teamed up with Democrats to demand a rethinking of Citizens United and to craft a new bill that would beef up disclosure of campaign donations and political ads. “He is starting to exert himself, which he had not been doing over the past couple years,” says Craig Holman, the top lobbyist for Public Citizen.
McCain’s criticisms of the Supreme Court’s five conservative justices and their ruling in Citizens United—which allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited treasury money on so-called independent expenditures—has been fierce. He caused a stir in January when he veered off script during a Mitt Romney campaign press call and launched into a tirade against super-PACs and the state of the political money wars. “I think the outside super-PACs and others [are] so disgraceful that I’m ashamed of the United States Supreme Court in their decision on [CitizensUnited],” he said. “I predict to you there will be a major scandal associated with the Supreme Court decision on Citizens United.”
McCain has since doubled down on his prediction: “I promise you, there will be huge scandals, because there’s too much money washing around, too much of it we don’t know who’s behind it, and too much corruption associated with that kind of money. There will be major scandals.”
Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the Republican leader of the Senate, and in all likelihood, the next Senate Majority Leader, thinks corporations deserve the right to spend limitless amounts in American elections. He was the point person in Congress fighting campaign reforms in the late 90s, and now, he’s begging the Supreme Court not to reverse its Citizens United ruling. In fact, he just petitioned the court. His argument, that corporations deserve political rights akin to regular Americans because they rarely exercise that right, is laughable. […]
In reality, corporations have aggressively taken advantage of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling (and related rulings, such as FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life) to spend millions in attack ads and other electioneering efforts to influence elections. They have done so, however, largely through 501(c) organizations that do not have to disclose their donors. Although the media is obsessed with the idea of Super PACs, 501(c) groups actually spend more money and have had a far greater impact on competitive general elections. Most corporations do not want the bad publicity associated with directly influencing a campaign with shareholder money — so they spend through undisclosed 501(c) groups.
Here’s what McConnell cleverly chose to ignore in his brief, which only analyzed segmented Super PAC spending. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce dwarfed all other outside spending groups in 2010 by using its 100%-corporate funded budget to run television and radio ads to support big business candidates for Congress. The Chamber, a 501(c)(6) tax exempt entity, refused to disclose a single penny of its spending efforts. Similarly, other corporate-funded groups sprung to action in the wake of the court’s decision. The American Chemistry Council, a lobby funded by chemical corporations like DuPont and Dow Chemical, began airing election ads for candidates for the first time in 2010, and is now airing an aggressive multimillion dollar campaign ad effort for this election cycle. The NRA, funded in part by gun companies, followed suit as well. The Chemistry Council and NRA are both 501(c) groups.
The evidence McConnell submitted to the court is completely arbitrary. The true big spenders are 501(c) groups like the 60 Plus Association, American Future Fund, Americans for Job Security, etc. These groups could be funded by Fortune 100 companies; they could be funded by individuals. But we have no idea, so the numbers McConnell uses in his brief are meaningless.