Sweeping aside a century-old understanding and overruling two important precedents, a bitterly divided Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections.
The 5-to-4 decision was a doctrinal earthquake but also a political and practical one. Specialists in campaign finance law said they expected the decision, which also applies to labor unions and other organizations, to reshape the way elections are conducted.
Justice John Paul Stevens read a long dissent from the bench. He said the majority had committed a grave error in treating corporate speech the same as that of human beings. His decision was joined by the other three members of the court’s liberal wing.
Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, an author of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, called the ruling “a terrible mistake.”
And it's not the first time the Court has made one of those.
Not that we didn't need a shake-up in politics, but as this week has shown, we can't seem to go but one direction: the wrong one.
Today’s ruling upends the nation’s campaign finance laws, allowing corporations and labor unions to spend freely on behalf of political candidates. With less than 11 months before the fall elections, the floodgates for political contributions will open wide, adding another element of intrigue to the fight for control of Congress.
At first blush, Republican candidates would seem to benefit from this seismic change in how political campaigns are conducted in America. The political environment – an angry, frustrated electorate seeking change in Washington – was already favoring Republicans. Now corporations, labor unions and a host of other organizations can weigh in like never before.
The five assholes in robes have managed to do what I never imagined: make the 2000 Bush v. Gore decision seem petty and minor.
I am angry, saddened, stunned, and nauseated. How many days before we see the first blast of special-interest advertising? You can bet the film crews are already loading up equipment. Scripts are being written as I type.