Supreme Court Rolls Back Campaign Finance Restrictions
By a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court on Thursday rolled back restrictions on corporate spending on federal campaigns. The decision could unleash a torrent of corporate spending on attack ads in upcoming campaigns, though several Democratic lawmakers have already signaled plans for a legislative response to limit the impact of the decision.
"Because speech is an essential mechanism of democracy -- it is the means to hold officials accountable to the people -- political speech must prevail against laws that would suppress it by design or inadvertence," wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy for the majority.
In his dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens accused the majority of judicial activism and attacked the use of corporate personhood in the case: "The conceit that corporations must be treated identically to natural persons in the political sphere is not only inaccurate but also inadequate to justify the Court's disposition of this case."
Progressive good-government groups and Democratic politicians reacted to the decision with universal despair. Republicans offered measured praise.
Democracy 21's Fred Wertheimer, for years a leading advocate of campaign finance reform, called the decision a "disaster for the American people and a dark day for the Supreme Court."
"The Supreme Court majority has acted recklessly to free up corporations to use their immense, aggregate corporate wealth to flood federal elections and buy government influence. The Fortune 100 companies alone had combined revenues of $13 trillion and profits of $605 billion during the last election cycle," Wertheimer wrote.
"Under today's decision, insurance companies, banks, drug companies, energy companies and the like will be free to each spend $5 million, $10 million or more of corporate funds to elect or defeat a federal candidate -- and thereby to buy influence over the candidate's positions on issues of economic importance to the companies."