If you were already concerned that big business had its hands in politicians' pockets, you ain't seen nothin' yet. The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Thursday to allow corporations and unions to spend as much money as they want to support or attack congressional and presidential candidates.
"With its ruling today, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics," said President Obama in a statement. "It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans....That's why I am instructing my Administration to get to work immediately with Congress on this issue. We are going to talk with bipartisan Congressional leaders to develop a forceful response to this decision."
Despite vows from the President and other political leaders, the Supreme Court's decision is grounded in the protection of free speech. The US Constitution stands in the way of any reform Congress might push for, because Congress cannot overturn a decision based on the Constitution. How 'bout them apples?
The decision, supported by the SCOTUS's five conservative members, abolishes the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law and the 1971 Federal Election Campaign Act. The majority argued that a corporation has the same free-speech rights as an individual. The case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, actually concerned a conservative group's funding of an anti-Hillary Clinton movie to be released during last year's primaries - exactly the type of spending the McCain-Feingold law prohibits.
Justice John Paul Stevens, who dissented from the majority, explained his stance:
At bottom, the Court’s opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding....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.
So taxpayers have given billions of dollars to banks and insurance companies to keep them afloat (and provide huge bonuses), and now we're going to tell these same corporations they can spend whatever they want to influence political elections.