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The Almighty Buck The Courts Politics

US Supreme Court Expected Political Ad Transparency 617

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the oh-yeah-that'll-happen dept.
T Murphy writes "The Supreme Court, when ruling that corporate and union political donations were allowed under free speech, assumed the source of the donation would be disclosed immediately under current donation laws. Due to loopholes, this has not been the case, eliminating the hoped-for transparency the Supreme Court ruled to be vital to democracy. Justice Kennedy, who sided with the majority on the ruling, has been called naive for his expectation that there would be greater transparency. In the meantime, campaign spending for House candidates alone is expected to reach $1.5 billion."
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US Supreme Court Expected Political Ad Transparency

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @09:59AM (#34036770)

    Kennedy has always attempted to be a fair mediator between the left and right impulses on the Court. But he really blew it on this one. His attempt at moderation in this case has taken an already out-of-control problem and made it much worse. This ruling will ensure that individual citizens are forevermore completely and totally drowned out in our government by corporate interests and their puppet foundations/non-profits. It was almost that way *already*, but now the big interests won't even have to *try* to hide their bribery. And, thanks to this, nothing short of a Constitutional amendment will ever stop corporate control of the government now (and good luck getting a 2/3's majority in a Congress owned by those corporations). Thanks Anthony!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by FatSean (18753)

      Something tells me that Kennedy is the only Justice who didn't realize the loopholes existed.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        >>>that individual citizens are forevermore

        Don't exaggerate. The Supreme Court is free to change their mind. They once ruled that segregation was legal, and then later changed their minds. Also take heat in the words of Thomas Jefferson (founder of the Democrat-republicans):

        "The question whether the judges are invested with exclusive authority to decide on the constitutionality of a law has been heretofore a subject of consideration with me in the exercise of official duties. Certainly there is

    • by Shakrai (717556) * on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @10:10AM (#34036914) Journal

      Did you read the same Citizens United ruling that I did? Did you read then Solicitor General Kagan's argument that basically said "Yeah, this legislation gives the Feds the power to ban books, but that's irrelevant because we would never do such a thing."? The 1st amendment says plainly enough that Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech. The old law prohibited Citizens United from publishing a film about a political candidate within a certain timeframe preceding a Federal election. Such a law is not compatible with the 1st amendment if free speech is to have any meaning.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Kagan said no such thing.

        McCain-Feingold kept "**corporations** and **unions** from using their __general treasury funds__ to make an "electioneering communication" or for "independent expenditures," defined as speech that expressly advocates the election or defeat of a candidate and that is made independently of a candidate's campaign."

        The Supreme Court said that corporations and unions must be treated as individuals. This is a radical extension of corporate power that is almost unknown in the rest of the

        • by toastar (573882) on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @10:23AM (#34037080)

          >

          The Supreme Court said that corporations and unions must be treated as individuals. This is a radical extension of corporate power that is almost unknown in the rest of the world, and certainly something our Founders would be shocked to find.

          Just because people chose to exercise their right to assemble into a group, does not mean they have to give up their other rights. The Corporation only has the powers of the individuals that own it.

          • by SiChemist (575005) on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @11:21AM (#34037856) Homepage

            This [hbr.org] is what the creators of our government thought about corporations.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            >>>Just because people chose to exercise their right to assemble into a group, does not mean they have to give up their other rights. The Corporation only has the powers of the individuals that own it.

            You are 100% correct.

            However just because people form a group, doesn't mean the group acquires personhood. For example Microsoft employees retain their rights, but the actual microsoft, which is as inanimate as a building, should have no rights. If the owner of MS wants to speak let him speak as *hi

        • by Shakrai (717556) * on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @10:30AM (#34037142) Journal

          Yes, actually she did [supremecourt.gov]. Start on page 64. She is arguing that the law DOES cover books but you don't need to worry about it because the Government has never tried to regulate books and if it did there would be grounds for a legal challenge. You'll forgive me if I don't find that argument very compelling.

      • by mc6809e (214243) on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @10:20AM (#34037050)

        Did you read the same Citizens United ruling that I did? Did you read then Solicitor General Kagan's argument that basically said "Yeah, this legislation gives the Feds the power to ban books, but that's irrelevant because we would never do such a thing."? The 1st amendment says plainly enough that Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech. The old law prohibited Citizens United from publishing a film about a political candidate within a certain timeframe preceding a Federal election. Such a law is not compatible with the 1st amendment if free speech is to have any meaning.

        I laughed when I learned that Micheal Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11M was used to attack the old law. Under the old law, Fahrenheit could have been banned during the 30 days before the 2004 election as a form of electioneering.

        It wasn't banned, of course, and that made arguing against the old law even easier because it suggested that the state could pick and choose what speech to ban and what speed to allow and that created a fear that the state under the old law would manipulate the political conversation.

    • by mc6809e (214243) on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @10:10AM (#34036922)

      This ruling will ensure that individual citizens are forevermore completely and totally drowned out in our government by corporate interests and their puppet foundations/non-profits.

      The individual citizen is always going to be drowned out in a democracy. The biggest gang wins. That what Democracy is.

      Very few people have won elections without the help of large groups. People must form large groups to get anywhere. As a legal convenience, these groups become corporations by incorporating.

      The AARP is a corporation. The NEA is a corporation. The AFL/CIO is a corporation. The NAACP is a corporation. They're all groups of like-minded people that would be nothing if they couldn't act together (and spend together) as a unit.

      • by Saishuuheiki (1657565) on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @10:24AM (#34037090)

        The problem is you're assuming the corporations are controlled by a large group.

        I'm sure that in some cases, if not most, these decisions are ultimately made by one or a few with all the power of the many. Just because a corporation is composed of thousands of workers or owned by thousands of investors doesn't mean that these people have any control. Moreover, most of these corporations are not formed for political purposes or around political ideas.

        I'd be surprised if I read a story of any of these million dollar corporations holding a vote amongst shareholders whether and to whom they should donate a political contribution.

        • by dasdrewid (653176) on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @11:29AM (#34037984)

          That's the point I was going to make.

          The problem is still with the organization of corporations. The management isn't at fault, because they're just the hired guns doing the will of the owners (stockholders). The stockholders aren't at fault because there's so many of them you could never apportion blame, and they can't know the ins-and-outs of every action taken by the corporation. Basically, no one is to blame (officially...when Target donates 150k to a politician the CEO likes, everyone knows exactly who to go after...but how're you gonna fire him? If more than 50% of the stock is owned by institutional investors who only trade based on price, and he continues to make the price better, you can't get rid of him...)

      • by sckeener (137243) on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @10:33AM (#34037166)
        which makes me wish the Supreme Court hadn't also given companies the same rights as individual citizens. It is like they can have it both ways. At the heart a company is an idea and you can't throw an idea in jail. You can penalize it and put CEOs or more likely peons in jail, but you can't just close it down for yelling fire in a crowded theater.
        • Corporate personhood (Score:3, Informative)

          by bouldin (828821)

          Agreed, the real problem here is corporate personhood (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporate_personhood).

          Businesses have something approaching the full rights of a human being, except, as the quote goes "They (corporations) have no soul to save and they have no body to incarcerate."

          Combine this with the ideas of limited liability, proprietary knowledge, and the common practice of boards of directors being friends with the executives they appoint, and what you have is a class of corporate management run amo

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Arctech (538041)

        The individual citizen is always going to be drowned out in a democracy. The biggest gang wins. That what Democracy is.

        There's a saying that goes, "Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner."

      • by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy&gmail,com> on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @10:42AM (#34037306) Journal

        The problem isn't people banding together, the problem is that they're allowed to pump money into the system to push their agenda.

        I don't think we're going to have anything resembling a fair democracy until we restrict politicians to public funding.

    • by toastar (573882) on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @10:19AM (#34037042)
      Meh....

      If it weren't for anonymous political speech we wouldn't have the Federalist papers.

  • But.. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @10:01AM (#34036794) Journal

    The Supreme Court doesn't make mistakes!

  • This was obvious. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Haffner (1349071) on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @10:02AM (#34036802)
    I fail to understand how SCOTUS could be so short-sighted. When they made the ruling, I agreed with their judicial logic, but that was a case where very clearly the ruling was not in the good of the general population. I don't know how much transparency matters; if you can buy an election, you need not bother with appeasing the populace - you can just ignore it.
    • by corbettw (214229) <corbettw@y a h o o . c om> on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @10:09AM (#34036886) Journal

      When they made the ruling, I agreed with their judicial logic, but that was a case where very clearly the ruling was not in the good of the general population.

      The Supreme Court needs to concerns itself with protecting the rights of the individual, not the good of the general population. Otherwise we'll end up with a tyranny of the majority.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by timeOday (582209)

        Otherwise we'll end up with a tyranny of the majority.

        The bigger problem now is backsliding to the natural state collective of human affairs - tyranny by the minority. The rich get richer until they have all the power, individual rights are equated with capitalism so only the rich actually have them, and free enterprise boils down to "choosing" whether to slave away for a monopoly, or starve.

    • Re:This was obvious. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by epiphani (254981) <epiphani@dal. n e t> on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @10:17AM (#34037018)

      Just for reference:

      The Canadian election system limits campaign spending to roughly $20 million per major party. The full amount of money allowed in our election is somewhere around $60 million. It costs more to actually run the polling booths. We have a population roughly one tenth of the US. Taking a rough stab at it, you're spending $2.5 Billion for your midterm elections. Or about four times the amount per capita as us.

      Additionally, in our system, a large percentage of that is publicly funded. And the maximum corporate donation is $1000. We have problems with corporate interests and lobbyists in Canada. You guys don't have a problem with it: you're OWNED by corporate interests.

  • Bullshit (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @10:08AM (#34036878)

    I call bullshit. The court knew exactly what it was doing and knew that loopholes big enough to drive a dump truck full of money through were in place.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Pojut (1027544)

      To play devil's advocate here, if that's the case...what's their motivation? They've already been granted lifetime appointments, why would they need to give in to the demands/wishes of special interests or politicians?

  • simple fix (Score:4, Interesting)

    by corbettw (214229) <corbettw@y a h o o . c om> on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @10:11AM (#34036930) Journal

    The problem is not corporate/union donations to individuals, the problem is one of transparency. Focus on that and on closing the "loopholes" mentioned in the summary, rather than beating your chests about the supposed unfairness surrounding the act of individuals joining together to pool their resources for political change. Anything else is merely a red herring.

  • Easy fix (Score:5, Insightful)

    by commodore64_love (1445365) on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @10:16AM (#34037008) Journal

    Contributions may only come from registered voters (and with the current $2000 limit)
    That would exclude money from corporations.

    • Re:Easy fix (Score:4, Informative)

      by Mongoose Disciple (722373) on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @10:20AM (#34037048)

      The problem isn't even direct donations to a candidate, really.

      It's that, for example, Microsoft could set up a shell group called "Concerned Citizens for Software Freedom" and funnel money into it to buy a million political ads that trashed a candidate running against a candidate they liked.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Shakrai (717556) *

        Microsoft could set up a shell group called "Concerned Citizens for Software Freedom" and funnel money into it to buy a million political ads that trashed a candidate running against a candidate they liked.

        Yeah, so? Why are you so worried about speech?

      • Re:Easy fix (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mdarksbane (587589) on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @11:01AM (#34037578)

        And this is incredibly more dangerous than, say, Michael Bloomberg funneling money into "Americans for Safe Streets" and running a bunch of political ads...

        http://www.opensecrets.org/527s/527cmtedetail_donors.php?ein=263516710&cycle=2008 [opensecrets.org]

        All those opposed to Citizens United are saying is that only the rich should be able to buy free speech.

    • Re:Easy fix (Score:4, Interesting)

      by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy&gmail,com> on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @10:46AM (#34037350) Journal

      Easier fix: all funding must come from the gov't, in equal (and relatively small) amounts for each candidate. Offer each candidate who gets the required number of signatures to be on the ballot, a set amount of TV time, a set amount of ad money, and tell everyone else to butt the fuck out of the process.

      As long as you can win by drowning your opponent in money, the system is fucked.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by smellsofbikes (890263)

        Easier fix: all funding must come from the gov't, in equal (and relatively small) amounts for each candidate. Offer each candidate who gets the required number of signatures to be on the ballot, a set amount of TV time, a set amount of ad money, and tell everyone else to butt the fuck out of the process.

        I *like* this plan, and have always liked it, but it seems to run afoul of the first amendment. You can't prevent people (or, apparently, corporations) from endorsing candidates, and getting together in groups to form support coalitions for candidates, without stepping on their freedom of speech. Likewise, you can't stop them spending their money advertising in favor of a candidate, without stepping on the freedom of the press to print whatever they want (or are paid to print.) So how do we implement som

  • by rbrander (73222) on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @10:17AM (#34037020) Homepage

    Every US election cycle, I get more proud of Canada. My latest warm fuzzy? There was a nice article in Maclean's (our Newsweek) a few months ago about Beverly Mclachlin, our Chief Justice for the last 10 years, and the various notable decisions of the Mclachlin court. It's only because of that article I know her name, and I can't name any of the other eight.

    Whereas, just from news spillover, I can probably name most of the SCOTUS, because every confirmation and a dozen decisions every year are so politically charged. Polarized pitched battles seem to infuse every branch of the US governments, at every level. Quite frankly, it sounds exhausting.

  • Undemocratic (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Teun (17872) on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @10:30AM (#34037138) Homepage
    It is highly undemocratic that entities without votes can legally spend so much on influencing the democratic process.

    Democracy can only function properly when it's a one man-one vote system where every man and vote has the same bearing on the outcome.

    This level playing field is seriously out of balance because of the present donations by companies, organisations and rich individuals.

  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @11:04AM (#34037602) Homepage Journal

    Back in January 2010, Obama gave the State of the Union right after the Court handed down the Citizens United decision. Obama told Congress, with several of the Supremes sitting in the front row, that the decision would allow foreign corporations to influence US elections, which most Americans still realize is a terrible development. Justice Alito, who had just decided in the majority to allow corporations "free speech" by spending unlimited money in US political campaigning, was mad: he angrily mouthed [nydailynews.com] "not true". The corporate mass media attacked Obama for "picking on the justices" by warning Congress and "embarrassing" the court, but of course failed to examine whether it was true.

    Less than a year later, we see it was totally true. We see that foreign corporations have invested huge amounts of money campaigning in the 2010 election. Republican candidates have gotten hundreds of $millions spent to elect them, sponsored by corporations [corpwatch.org] including many foreign ones. The "US" Chamber of Commerce (Inc.) collects money from lots of foreign corporations [thinkprogress.org], especially Indian ones that want US jobs shipped there, foreign banks like Credit Suisse and HSBC that want financial reform repealed, and even corporations owned by foreign kings, like the Emir of Bahrain. Foreign kings are spending more in US election campaigns than US citizens.

    Whether you think that's OK or not (it is very not OK), Alito was totally wrong. And a jerk about it. Not surprising, since Alito was installed by Bush. Alito swore in his Senate confirmation hearings that he would respect established law, but his Citizens United decision overturned lots of established law, went against the basic understanding that corporations are not people, and recklessly unleashed foreign corporate power on US election campaigns.

    He should be impeached. Then he'll be free to skip the State of the Union [wonkette.com] the way he plans to from now on because he can't stand criticism of his abominable rulings.

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