|January 26, 2010|
|SCOTUS Finance Ruling Bigger Than Bush-Gore|
|By Kevin McCauley|
|The Supreme Court on Thursday delivered a gift to Big Business, allowing it to spend untold millions to back political candidates that promise to carry its water. |
The decision to junk aspects of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law will have more of an impact on the political process than Bush vs. Gore, says Michael Waldman, executive director of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law.
"In that case, the court reached into the political process to hand the election to one candidate. Today it reached into the political process to hand unprecedented power to corporations," noted Waldman on the New York Times blog.
While supporters pitch the decision as vindication of the First Amendment, the ruling is bound to corrupt the political process. The Fortune 100 companies have combined revenues of more than $13 trillion. That's a lot of dough. Companies are now free from restrictions of direct campaign spending, which have been in effect in some form since the Tillman Act of 1907.
Money talks in today's America. Politicians will now do a lot of listening to the demands of corporate paymasters.
Chief Justice Roberts, in the majority opinion, doesn't fret about Corporate America spending untold sums to elect candidates of their choice. His dubious reason: the rise of the Internet. He believes the 'Net will out corporate spending so voters will learn to take that spending with a grain of salt:
"With the advent of the Internet, prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions and supporters."
Note to Roberts: the vast majority of America is not going to troll the 'Net to seek out those funding of political ads. Many people consider showing up on Election Day a major achievement.
A prediction: companies won't cave to activist pressure as long as they know their political outlays promise a solid return on investment. ROI tops PR any old day.
Ellen Miller, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, is a strong advocate of transparency and disclosure. She doesn't buy Roberts' point, calling it "utopian to believe that making it easier to track corporate electoral activity even comes close to solving the problem of money in politics."
Sen. Chuck Schumer has called for hearings on the Supreme Court ruling. Nice try, Chuck. There's no chance that the now disarrayed Democrats will be able to restore corporate limits on campaign spending.
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