The Supreme Court’s ruling striking down limits on corporate and union spending in elections is “un-American,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said Thursday.
Additionally, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), a top Senate Democrat who formerly ran their campaign committee, said he would hold hearings on the decision in the coming weeks.
“I think it’s an un-American decision,” Van Hollen said at a press conference along side Schumer on Thursday. “I think when the American people understand what this radical decision has meant they will be even more furious and concerned about special interest influence in politics than they are today.”
Democrats have responded quickly to rebuke the court’s 5-4 ruling in the Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission case, handed down Wednesday. The decision essentially kills a sizable portion of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, better known as the McCain-Feingold Act for its high-profile sponsors.
At least one Republican — Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell — praised that ruling on Wednesday. He described the court’s decision as guarantee of “free speech” to businesses groups that were previously deprived of it.
But a handful of Democrats have since charged otherwise. Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said earlier Wednesday that new corporate spending abilities would only ensure “citizens voices are drowned out.”
Schumer echoed those criticisms in his press conference Wednesday morning, describing the ruling as a grave mistake.
“We will regret the day this decision has been issued,” Schumer said.
Oh, the left is already regreting it, as the subheadline of this “unbiased” Los Angeles Times piece on the SCOTUS ruling demonstrates:
The justices overturn a century of U.S. electoral law by a 5-4 vote. Millions of extra dollars are expected to start flowing from big business to Republican candidates.
What does the LAT (purposely?) leave out of that subheadline? The fact that it opens up the door for union $$ to flow freely to … you guessed it – Democrats:
WASHINGTON—Corporations, labor unions and other political entities are gearing up to play a larger role in elections in 2010 and beyond after a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down elements of campaign-finance law.
The question now is whether corporations and labor unions will take advantage of their new freedom. For the last decade, labor unions have been more aggressive than corporations in finding legal ways to fund independent political campaigns. But the relaxation of campaign-spending restrictions could clear the way for groups from all points along the political spectrum to spend more, and target more of that spending in the critical final days of a campaign.
The President himself is already hinting around at the possibility of new legislation to counter the SCOTUS ruling:
With its ruling today, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. 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. This ruling gives the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington–while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates. 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. The public interest requires nothing less.
LOL. Keep in mind this comes from the guy who in 2008 broke his own promise on the issue of public financing, and continued to collect big money from special interests and lobbyists, who he had been taking money from not just in 2008 – but for years. And who did he blame for having to make that decision? Heheh – of course he blamed sneaky GOPers who would “game” the system:
“We’ve made the decision not to participate in the public financing system for the general election,” Obama says in the video, blaming it on the need to combat Republicans, saying “we face opponents who’ve become masters at gaming this broken system. John McCain’s campaign and the Republican National Committee are fueled by contributions from Washington lobbyists and special interest PACs. And we’ve already seen that he’s not going to stop the smears and attacks from his allies running so-called 527 groups, who will spend millions and millions of dollars in unlimited donations.”
Reason Magazine’s Matt Welch sums up today’s ruling:
Citizens United, a conservative 501(c)(4) nonprofit that has funded a dozen political documentaries over the years, produced a critical documentary about Hillary Clinton in 2008 entitled “Hillary: The Movie.” By a decision of the federal government, which was enforcing the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (known more broadly as McCain-Feingold), this piece of political speech was banned from television.
Let’s boil it down to the essential words: Political documentary, banned, government.
You don’t have to be a First Amendment purist to intuit that political speech was, if anything, the most urgent subcategory covered by the First Amendment’s “Congress shall pass no law” restrictions. And you don’t have to be a Hillary-hater to imagine the shoe on the other foot. What if MoveOn.org’s 501(c)(4), Campaign to Defend America, had been blocked by George W. Bush’s Federal Elections Commission from broadcasting “McCain: The Movie”? Wouldn’t that stink, too?
As Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his majority opinion, “The law before us is an outright ban, backed by criminal sanctions. Section 441b makes it a felony for all corporations — including nonprofit advocacy corporations — either to expressly advocate the election or defeat of candidates or to broadcast electioneering communications within 30 days of a primary election and 60 days of a general election. … If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech.”
Even if you just can’t bring yourself to believe that people who take civil liberties seriously have long-held serious civil libertarian criticisms of campaign-finance laws, or if you simply think they’re all wrong, I’ll offer this last salve: It has never been easier for groups of citizens to swarm together and flow money through the Internet toward campaigns and candidates who excite them. Ask Ron Paul — or more relevantly, Barack Obama — what’s more powerful: $10 million from Dr. Evil Industries, or $10 each from 1 million people who can actually vote?
The American people are not sheep, eager to be led by the highest bidder. As the Supreme Court rightly noted today, “The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves.”