While we hold our breath for the Supreme Court’s decision on Obamacare, let’s consider what they decided yesterday. No, I’m not talking about the Arizona immigration slap down, but rather, the Court’s chance to reconsider its terrible Citizens United decision by reviewing a case in the Montana Supreme Court that claimed Citizen’s United did not supersede the state’s anticorruption law that has been on the books since 1912.
See, Montana’s Court found that indeed the state has a strong interest in limiting campaign donations, precisely because of the possibility of corruption. A Montana 1912 law does just that, because in 1899, a copper baron by the name of William Andrews Clark basically bought his way into the Senate, by promising to pay legislators (who were then responsible for appointing Senators) $10,000 for every vote to elect him Senator. Luckily, the actual United States Senate at that time refused to seat him. However, by throwing more money around, he was able to win a Senate seat in 1901, where—surprise—he did nothing but vote against mining and logging regulations.
In reaction to this (and other circumstances that we’ll come back to in the end), Montana enacted a law in 1912 that essentially prevents corporations and business stakeholders from contributing money to the election of a political candidate or party. Last year, a conservative organization, then the Western Tradition Partnership, challenged that law in the state’s supreme court. The Montana Court smartly threw the challenge out, stating that Citizen’s United did not apply because the 1912 law was directly crafted to address a compelling state interest and did not abridge freedom of speech.
Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court gave the state of Montana the middle finger, by the same 5 to 4 margin in which it decided Citizen’s United, striking down 100 years of precedent. What is most amazing is that the 5 conservative justices chose to stick with their assertion that “independent expenditures do not corrupt or appear to do so.”
Really? Even after the Koch Brothers, owners of all kinds of corporations and products, have declared that they aim to spend $200 million dollars to unseat President Obama? Even after the Wisconsin election in which Republican Scott Walker outspent his Democratic opponent by a 7 to 1 margin, 66% of which came from out of state donors? Even after casino magnate Sheldon Adelson has pledged to spend as much as $100 million against President Obama, having already contributed $26 million to Republican Super PACs? Really? This kind of insane spending by the wealthiest citizens doesn’t corrupt the political process or even appear to do so?
Columnist EJ Dionne makes a strong case that this decision shows that conservatives don’t really care about state’s rights, as they often claim, and that Chief Justice John Roberts essentially lied when he testified before the Senate. I’ll take it a step further: the Citizen’s United decision was a political calculation by the conservative justices that by asserting that corporations were people, that money is speech, and that unlimited election spending does not give rise to corruption, it would allow Republicans to outspend Democrats in every election from the local education board right on up to the office of the President. Ultimately, it shows exactly what the Republican Party has become: a group of greedy, corrupt politicians that put their own selfish interests before that of the U.S. citizens they are elected to represent. And now, thanks to the Supreme Court and especially Bush appointees Roberts and Alito, who both lied under oath during their Senate confirmations, Republicans can spend ungodly amounts of money to convince average Americans to vote against their own best interests.
This is the modern day Republican Party, which believes only in itself. There are no principles. There is no integrity. The only thing that matters is power and money. And if Republicans win, we’ll get laws like the one in Montana before its anti-corruption bill, which expanded the state militia, requiring all Montana males between 18 and 45 to serve three years as a militiaman—the only exceptions were criminals, idiots, lunatics, or elected officials. To pay for it all, a tax was levied on all working Montana citizens. Oh, and why was the Montana Militia expanded? To protect corporate mining property. Sounds eerily familiar to the Republican economic plan: increase corporate profits by shifting the tax burden onto the middle and lower class.
However, there is something we can do about it. Please sign the petitions at movetoamend.org, amend2012.org, or at Sherrod Brown’s website, to overturn the Citizen’s United decision, and please send this blog post to your friends, family, relatives, and peers. Make sure that everyone knows about this terrible decision. Over 67% of Americans are already with us. This is, without question, the single most important issue currently facing our nation, because if we allow our politicians to be bought and sold, we are never going to solve the fundamental problems set against us.