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NY Times, Adam Liptak, January 21, 2010 "Justices, 5-4, Reject Corporate Spending Limit". Interesantākais:

The 5-to-4 decision was a vindication, the majority said, of the First Amendment’s most basic free speech principle — that the government has no business regulating political speech. The dissenters said that allowing corporate money to flood the political marketplace would corrupt democracy.
The ruling represented a sharp doctrinal shift, and it will have major political and practical consequences. Specialists in campaign finance law said they expected the decision to reshape the way elections were conducted. Though the decision does not directly address them, its logic also applies to the labor unions that are often at political odds with big business.


President Obama called it “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.”

NY Times, DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, January 21, 2010 Lobbyists Get Potent Weapon in Campaign Ruling. Interesantākais:

The Supreme Court has handed lobbyists a new weapon. A lobbyist can now tell any elected official: if you vote wrong, my company, labor union or interest group will spend unlimited sums explicitly advertising against your re-election.
More Politics News“We have got a million we can spend advertising for you or against you — whichever one you want,’ ” a lobbyist can tell lawmakers, said Lawrence M. Noble, a lawyer at Skadden Arps in Washington and former general counsel of the Federal Election Commission.
[…]It is expected to unleash a torrent of attack advertisements from outside groups aiming to sway voters, without any candidate having to take the criticism for dirty campaigning. The biggest beneficiaries might be well-placed incumbents whose favor companies and interests groups are eager to court. It could also have a big impact on state and local governments, where a few million dollars can have more influence on elections.
Democrats predicted that Republicans would benefit most from the decision, because they are the traditional allies of big corporations, who have more money to spend than unions.


As Democrats vowed to push legislation to install new spending limits in time for the fall campaign, Republicans disputed the partisan impact of the decision. They argued that Democrats had proven effective at cultivating their own business allies — drug companies are spending millions of dollars to promote the administration’s health care proposals, for example — while friendly interest groups tap sympathetic billionaires and Hollywood money.
After new restrictions on party fund-raising took effect in 2003, many predicted that the Democrats would suffer. But they took Congress in 2006 and the White House two years later.
Thursday’s decision, in Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission, “is going to flip the existing campaign order on its head,” said Benjamin L. Ginsberg, a Republican campaign lawyer at the law-and-lobbying firm Patton Boggs who has represented both candidates and outside groups, including Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group formed to oppose Senator John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign.
“It will put on steroids the trend that outside groups are increasingly dominating campaigns,” Mr. Ginsberg said. “Candidates lose control of their message. Some of these guys lose control of their whole personalities.”
“Parties will sort of shrink in the relative importance of things,” he added, “and outside groups will take over more of the functions — advertising support, get out the vote — that parties do now.”
In practice, major publicly held corporations like Microsoft or General Electric are unlikely to spend large sums money on campaign commercials, for fear of alienating investors, customers and other public officials.
Instead, wealthy individuals and companies might contribute to trade associations, groups like the Chamber of Commerce or the National Rifle Association, or other third parties that could run commercials.
Some disclosure rules remain intact. An outside group paying for a campaign commercial would still have to include a statement and file forms taking responsibility. If an organization solicits money specifically to pay for such political activities, it could fall under regulations that require disclosure of its donors.
And the disclosure requirements would moderate the harshness of the third-party advertisements, because established trade associations or other groups are too concerned with their reputations to wage the contentious campaigns that ad hoc groups like or Swift Boat Veterans for Truth might do.
Two leading Democrats, Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York and Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, said that they had been working for months to draft legislation in response to the anticipated decision.
One possibility would be to ban political advertising by corporations that hire lobbyists, receive government money, or collect most of their revenue abroad.
Another would be to tighten rules against coordination between campaigns and outside groups so that, for example, they could not hire the same advertising firms or consultants.
A third would be to require shareholder approval of political expenditures, or even to force chief executives to appear as sponsors of commercials their companies pay for.

NY Times, 24 States’ Laws Open to Attack After Campaign Finance Ruling, IAN URBINA, January 22, 2010

A day after the United States Supreme Court ruled that the federal government may not ban political spending by corporations or unions in candidate elections, officials across the country were rushing to cope with the fallout, as laws in 24 states were directly or indirectly called into question by the ruling.
The states that explicitly prohibit independent expenditures by unions and corporations will be most affected by the ruling. The decision, however, has consequences for all states, since they are now effectively prohibited from adopting restrictions on corporate and union spending on political campaigns.
Montana is one of the states that will probably be affected. It has one of the nation’s oldest campaign finance laws, approved by voters in 1912 after a copper baron, William A. Clark of Butte, bribed members of the State Legislature to get a United States Senate seat.
Chris Gallus, a former lobbyist and a lawyer who represents business interests in Montana, said his clients would most likely challenge the statute if it were not stricken.
States that can expect to see the biggest and most sudden influx of money are those — like Ohio and Florida — where it is relatively expensive to run campaigns and where races are competitive, said Ray La Raja, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He predicted corporate spending would increase in states where control of state governments hangs in the balance.
The ruling left many state lawmakers frustrated and uncertain how to proceed.
“It’s absolutely outrageous and we’ve got to find a way to deal with it,” said Michael E. Gronstal, the Senate majority leader in Iowa, where lawmakers were exploring how they might keep at least some of the restrictions on political expenditures in the current state law.
The decision could also affect pending trials, like that of Mr. DeLay, who was charged in 2005 with criminal violations of state campaign finance laws and money laundering.
“The money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering charges will definitely be undermined,” said Dick DeGuerin, Mr. DeLay’s lawyer. “The reason is that the foundation of the prosecution’s argument is that corporate donations are illegal in any part of the political process, but the Supreme Court just struck that idea down.”
But Carl Bryan Case, the director of the Appellate Division at the Travis County District Attorney’s Office, which is handling Mr. DeLay’s case, disagreed.
“The indictments against Mr. DeLay describe corporate contributions to a political campaign,” he said. “What the Supreme Court addressed was independent expenditures made by third parties on their own and without having to do with campaigns.”
David Primo, a political science professor at the University of Rochester, counseled caution about predicting the impact of the Supreme Court decision. While it grants corporations and unions new access, it is also likely to spur state officials and campaign reform groups to push for new types of restrictions.
“This tug of war will continue as long as we have fundamental disagreements in the country over the role of money in politics,” he said.
The decision may galvanize reformers to push harder for public financing of elections.
It will also bring new pressure on states to improve their disclosure rules, experts said, since those rules will be one of the only ways left to regulate how corporations and other groups make expenditures in local races.
Joseph Birkenstock, the former chief counsel for the Democratic National Committee now with the law firm Caplin & Drysdale in Washington, said states that previously banned corporate expenditures would begin adapting disclosure rules so that the public can get the same information about corporate political advertisements that is currently available for advertisements paid for by individuals or political action committees.
Richard Hasen, an election law specialist at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said he expected state judicial races to be especially affected by the Supreme Court decision. […] January 21, 2010, Supreme Court Removes Limits on Corporate, Labor Donations to Campaigns

> In a stunning reversal of the nation's federal campaign finance laws, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Thursday that free-speech rights permit groups like corporations and labor unions to directly spend on political campaigns, prompting the White House to pledge "forceful" action to undercut the decision.
Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, whose name bears the law that was upended Thursday, said he hadn't read the decision but thought that it was headed that way when he listened to arguments presented last fall. McCain said he does not think it completely repudiates the law he wrote with Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold.
Feingold issued a statement that notes the decision does not overturn the ban on soft money donations to political parties, which can then distribute cash to candidates.
"But this decision was a terrible mistake," he said. "This court has just upended that prohibition, and a century's worth of campaign finance law designed to stem corruption in government. The American people will pay dearly for this decision when, more than ever, their voices are drowned out by corporate spending in our federal elections."
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, AFL-CIO, National Rifle Association and other groups sided with Citizens United in calling a loosening of restrictions.
"This is a victory for Citizens United, but even more so for the First Amendment rights of all Americans," said Citizens United President David Bossie. "The fault line on this issue does not split liberals and conservatives or Republicans and Democrats. Instead, it pits entrenched establishment politicians against the very people whom they are elected to serve."
But watchdog groups like Common Cause and Public Citizen called the ruling a blow to democracy. Public Citizen said it is "going to do everything we can to mitigate the damage from today's decision, and to overturn this misguided ruling."
Feingold said he too is working on new legislation to restore restraints on corporate participation.

January 22, 2010 Lawmakers Race to Limit Corporate Spending on Elections After Court Ruling

Reaction to the decision was swift and harsh. While supporters said the 5-4 decision was a win for free speech, several lawmakers said it amounted to a green light for special interests to overrun political campaigns this fall and beyond.
"This is one of the most defining moments in American political history. This opens the floodgates in a way that we've never seen it before," said Steve Hildebrand, former deputy campaign manager for Obama.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., pledged to pursue legislation to "mitigate" the impact of the decision. Other lawmakers, including Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., pledged the same. The White House called for Congress to develop a "forceful response."
They said they were still exploring their options. But with the Supreme Court ruling that there is "no basis for allowing the government to limit corporate independent expenditures," they will have to proceed cautiously to ensure subsequent legislation is not challenged and struck down again.
Some groups are pushing for Congress to enact a new piece of legislation introduced last spring. The Fair Elections Now act would allow candidates to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in public funding for their campaigns, provided they first raise a large number of small contributions of $100 or less. One proposal would fund the campaigns with a fee on businesses that get $10 million or more in government contracts.
The bill has 126 co-sponsors in the House, though just five in the Senate.
Hildebrand, a consultant to the Public Campaign Action Fund and Common Cause, which support the bill, called the package a "bold" step toward curbing special-interest influence.
Mark McKinnon, a former strategist for Republican Sen. John McCain, also backed the bill.
"It may just be that this decision is so outrageous that it'll actually be the catalyst" for new reforms, he said.
Roughly 40 executives from companies including Playboy Enterprises, ice cream maker Ben & Jerry's, the Seagram's liquor company, toymaker Hasbro, Delta Airlines and Men's Wearhouse sent a letter to congressional leaders Friday urging them to approve public financing for House and Senate campaigns. They say they are tired of getting fundraising calls from lawmakers — and fear it will only get worse after Thursday's Supreme Court ruling.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell called the ruling a "monumental decision" that restores First Amendment rights to those who want to "express themselves about political candidates."
"Our democracy depends upon free speech, not just for some but for all," he said in a statement.

Campaign-finance ruling may prove to be a lifeline for broadcast networks, Frank Ahrens, Washington Post Staff Writer , Saturday, January 23, 2010

The struggling media industry — particularly television networks and local broadcast stations — could end up being the big beneficiaries of Thursday's Supreme Court ruling lifting limits on corporate donations to political campaigns.
How big? One Wall Street research firm has already upped its 2010 profit estimate for CBS Corp., which owns a television network and several stations.
Before the ruling, corporations and labor unions could not use their general treasuries to fund ads expressly supporting or opposing candidates. They also were banned from paying for ads that mention any specific federal candidate and air 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election
Research firm Needham and Co. added three cents per share to its 2010 earnings estimate for CBS on Friday largely because of Thursday's ruling. CBS shares rose sharply at Friday's opening before settling down and finishing the day up 10 cents at $13.30.
"We believe that this will drive higher corporate political spending," Needham analyst Laura Martin wrote. Even better, she said, television networks and stations can raise their rates.
"Given that most political advertising is on television where advertising is limited to only 12-16 minutes per hour, this change implies higher prices in the days immediately before an election," Martin wrote.
Analysts said the court ruling could also benefit the struggling newspaper industry, particularly local papers and those that have a high readership in the nation's capital, such as The Washington Post.

Ruling seen as unlikely to spark corporate rush to get political, DAVE HELLING and DIANE STAFFORD, The Kansas City Star

On Friday, though, area experts and consultants played down the possibility of a torrent of corporate political commercials and campaigns — at least in the short term.
Direct political advocacy, they said, usually makes someone mad.
“If you bring the boardroom into politics, you bring politics into the boardroom,” said Kansas City political and business consultant Patrick Tuohey. “Can you imagine what the annual shareholders meeting might look like (after a political endorsement)?”
Others in the corporate world and politics agreed. Most companies, they said, must answer to customers, employees, and shareholders, any of whom might be upset if the CEO decides a corporation should endorse a candidate on television or in the newspaper days before an election.
“You have to be sensitive as a company when contributing to any candidate,” said Betsey Solberg, interim general manager of the Kansas City office of Fleishman-Hillard public relations.
“When you’re dealing with people, you’re not always putting your money on a sure thing,” she said. “Your candidate may slip and then you’re sitting there with your company’s name on his golf bag.”
Barbara Koirtyohann, director of public affairs of privately owned Hallmark Cards Inc., said she “can’t imagine” the corporation directly endorsing or opposing candidates. Instead, she said, employees can give to HallPAC, a political action committee that then gives to campaigns.
Warren Erdman of Kansas City Southern Railway — and a former aide to Republican Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri — said most companies won’t be in a hurry to buy political ads.
“It’s a new law, it has not been tested,” Erdman said. “And to be honest, we get pounded from political fundraisers so much already, most companies will choose to participate through existing channels.”
Those channels include corporate and labor union PACs, trade associations and lobbyists, and direct giving by corporate officers and employees to campaigns and candidates.
Alternative forms of political participation such as PACs grew from long-standing laws prohibiting corporations from giving directly to candidates. That prohibition remains intact — the court’s decision merely allows companies — like people — to directly speak about candidates and issues on TV, the Internet and elsewhere.
The court’s decision means labor unions are also allowed to directly advertise, although they have long been heavily involved in political campaigns, providing organizational power as well as financial and logistical support. That will continue.
But Pat Dujakovich, president of the Greater Kansas City AFL-CIO, said labor can’t compete with wealthy businesses in buying political commercials.
“Labor unions have nowhere near the capital to spend that corporations have,” he said. “Our strength is in our numbers, their strength is in money.”

David G.Savage Supreme Court lifts curbs on corporate political donations, January 21, 2010

Until now, corporations and unions have been barred from spending their own treasury funds on broadcast ads or billboards that urge the election or defeat of a federal candidate.
This restriction dates back to 1907 when President Theodore Roosevelt called on Congress to forbid corporations, railroads and national banks from using their money in federal election campaigns. After World War II, Congress extended this ban to labor unions.
Two significant prohibitions on corporations were left standing. Corporations, and presumably unions, cannot give money directly to the campaigns of federal candidates. These "contribution" restrictions were not challenged in the case decided today. And secondly, the court affirmed current federal rules which require the sponsors of political ads to disclose who paid for them.
Most election-law expert have predicted a court decision freeing corporations will send millions of extra dollars flooding into this fall's contests for Congress. And they predict Republicans will be the main beneficiaries.
Today's decision was supported by five justices who were Republican nominees. They include Kennedy and Roberts along with Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.
The dissenters included the three Democratic appointees: Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. They joined a dissent written by 89-year old Justice John Paul Stevens.

Minnesota businesses prepare for new political spending rules by Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio,January 22, 2010

The ruling means basically one thing for Minnesotans.
"They're probably going to have to put up with more ads. More newspaper ads. More radio ads. More TV ads," said Charlie Weaver, executive director of the Minnesota Business Partnership, a coalition of the state's largest businesses.
Weaver praised this week's Supreme Court ruling, which allows businesses to spend unlimited sums of money on political ads. He said it levels the playing field in Minnesota, because state law allows unions to spend on campaigns but barred corporations from doing so.
Weaver said he's already talking with business leaders in Minnesota about the decision.
Since candidates have mostly agreed to spending limits, Goldsmith predicts the court ruling will mean spending will balloon even more when businesses start to weigh in.
"The costs of the campaigns to the candidates themselves have been relatively low — in fact, really low compared to other states. Because of the low cost of campaigns, the money goes to independent expenditures," said Goldsmith. "Up to this point, those have been done by political committees and funds, or PACS and party units. Now we have a third group participating, and that will be corporations."
Goldsmith said groups won't be allowed to mix corporate and individual donations if they intend to contribute directly to candidates. He said mixing those funds will violate another state law that forbids corporate contributions to candidates. The U. S. Supreme Court upheld a federal law prohibiting those contributions.
The court ruling won't impact just business groups. The executive director of the abortion opposition group, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, said he expects his nonprofit corporation to spend directly on Minnesota races in 2010. That's a change from traditional spending from the group's political action committee.
Other political observers predict the Republican Governors Association and the Democratic Governors Association may also start buying ads in Minnesota. Those groups couldn't spend in the past because they took corporate contributions.

Expect an 'onslaught' of Ohio political ads this fall, thanks to Supreme Court on corporations and free speech, By Stephen Koff, The Plain Dealer , January 21, 2010
"Brace y

ourself." That's Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner's advice for Americans this fall, when they could get caught in an onslaught of TV, radio and Internet political commercials, the velocity and volume of which we've never seen.
In states like Ohio, where U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races this fall are already shaping up to be fierce, such unbridled spending will almost certainly add to the cacophony of political commercials, politicians and watchdog groups say.
"I feel for the voters," said Brunner, "because this will bring on an onslaught, and it won't be pleasant to watch TV."
Some experts question whether companies that sell shampoo or dog food will really want to alienate customers with partisan political ads, and whether shareholders will object to that kind of spending. "I tend to think the practical effect is not going to be as great as some people think, just because I don't think corporations actually are itching to spend that much on electioneering expenditures," said Columbia Law School professor Nathaniel Persily.
Yet a number of politicians and watchdog groups disagree, saying they expect companies and unions to invest in supporting the candidates who can advance their interests in Washington and state capitals.
Whether that's good or bad depends on one's view of constitutional rights, as well as his or her views of corporate responsibility — and tolerance for 24/7 politics.
Bill Wilson, president of the conservative group Americans for Limited Government, said the ruling is "major step in overturning arcane, gargantuan censorship boards, laws and regulations that tie up our electoral processes in red tape, restrict speech, and favor incumbents."
President Barack Obama, however, called the decision "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."
And U.S. Rep John Boccieri, Democrat of Alliance, said it's "as if the Supreme Court rolled up to the drive through and super-sized the campaign contributions of big corporations and special interests."
The exact extent to which Ohioans will be deluged with ads cannot be known for months. A spokesman for Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, who is running against Brunner for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, would not say whether Fisher expects companies to run ads supporting a Republican opponent. But Fisher said through the spokesman, "I believe that voters, not special interest groups, should decide elections, and this ruling undermines that core American value."
Many Republicans and conservative groups suggested that Democrats' outrage over Thursday's ruling was disingenuous, since leading labor unions already operate in tandem with Democratic interest groups. Unions spend heavily on phone banks to urge their members' support of Democratic candidates, and frequently are involved in voter mobilization drives.
Now the unions as well as corporations — whose executives, while acting as individuals, frequently help politicians raise money — can expand their involvement by making and airing their own commercials to elect or defeat specific candidates. They must make those commercials independently of the politicians' campaigns, however, operating as if on a parallel but similar track. And they must disclose their expenses to the FCC.
This will give Americans "a clear view of who is supporting which candidate" and "who is opposing which candidate," putting the public in the best position to decide "how much money is enough," said U.S. House Minority Leader John Boehner, of Southwest Ohio.
Conventional wisdom has held that corporations assist Republicans while unions help Democrats. In the years when corporations, individuals and unions could make unlimited "soft money" donations to political parties, a practice banned by Congress in 2002, Republicans were disproportionate beneficiaries, typically collecting 20 to 50 percent more of it than Democrats, said Dave Levinthal of the Center for Responsive Politics, a non partisan group that analyzes money in politics.
"That may be the best indication of the landscape before us, but whether that will hold true now, I don't know," Levinthal said.
"If any industry said it wanted to affect an election like the governor's race, it could spend money on TV and buy ads saying 'vote for X and vote against Y,'" said Edward "Ned" Foley, an Ohio State University law professor and elections law expert. The only caveat will be that corporate or union ad campaigns cannot not coordinate with the candidates' own campaigns.
"So, there's really no limit now on what the corporation can do if it acts on its own," Foley said.
But Mark Weaver, an elections law professor at the University of Akron, does not believe the court ruling automatically shoots down Ohio's rules. It may take someone filing a lawsuit in the state, using the Supreme Court case as grounds for change.
"And if I look in my crystal ball here, it's not too hard to guess that somebody is going to file a lawsuit in Ohio and ask a judge to apply this case," Weaver said.
Brunner, the secretary of state, said another way might be for the state legislature to change the law — and she won't be surprised to see lawmakers move to do that soon.

JESS BRAVIN Court Kills Limits on Corporate Politicking The Wall Street Journal JANUARY 22, 2010

President Barack Obama attacked the ruling and said it gave "a green light to a new stampede of special-interest money in our politics," particularly "big oil, Wall Street banks, health-insurance companies and the other powerful interests" that "drown out the voices of everyday Americans." He pledged to work with lawmakers to craft a "forceful response."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican who has long fought campaign-finance regulations, hailed the court for a "monumental decision" toward "restoring the First Amendment rights of [corporations and unions] by ruling that the Constitution protects their right to express themselves about political candidates and issues up until Election Day."
Federal law aimed to rein in independent campaign spending by corporations and unions—advertisements these groups buy to advocate for or against a candidate. They had to channel campaign spending through a special fund, or political action committee, which can accept donations from employees, shareholders and other affiliates. The federal rules applied equally to corporations and unions, although some state laws may treat them differently.
Critics contended that corporations and unions continued to spend general funds on electioneering through ads masquerading as commentary on public issues that implicitly urged a particular candidate's election or defeat. McCain-Feingold aimed to plug that purported loophole by restricting those ads in the weeks before a federal election
Although the Supreme Court broke along familiar philosophical lines, the case itself scrambled the ideological deck. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO both urged the court to strike down the McCain-Feingold provision, as did the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Rifle Association. Sen. McCain and the Democratic National Committee both argued for the law's constitutionality.
The ruling not only strikes down the federal requirement, it also calls into question similar provisions enacted by nearly half the states. "States like Montana, whose people adopted a corporate electioneering law by initiative in 1912, have distinct and compelling histories of corporate domination in the political process that the court did not address," said Montana State Solicitor Anthony Johnstone, who filed a brief on behalf of 26 states seeking to affirm the precedents., Freedom to spend, Jan 21st 2010

BY THE narrowest of majorities, America's Supreme Court ruled on Thursday January 21st that Congress may not bar corporations and unions from paying to disseminate political messages at election time. The ruling is arguably a blow for free speech, although critics of the decision quickly concluded that it would lead to big business buying elections.
The case concerned “Hillary: The Movie”, a 90-minute documentary which portrays Hillary Clinton as a power-crazed gorgon. It is a dreary and unbalanced piece of hack work, but clearly protected by the Constitution. “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech,” says the First Amendment. Not “thoughtful, judicious speech”. Just “speech”. Yet the makers of “Hillary: The Movie” were forced to drop plans to distribute their work via cable for fear of being fined or jailed.
The Federal Election Commission ruled that the film was an attack ad, not a documentary, and therefore subject to America’s confusing mess of campaign-finance restrictions. The conservative group that made it, Citizens United, wanted to release it during the Democratic primaries in 2008. Under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, better known as McCain-Feingold after its sponsors in the Senate, that was not allowed.
Until today, firms that wanted to express political views near election time had to form a political action committee (PAC), clear many regulatory hurdles and accept only limited amounts of money from each donor. Fans of McCain-Feingold denied that this chilled free speech. But the court’s majority, led by Justice Anthony Kennedy, disagreed.
The rules are so confusing that even experts struggle to follow them. Senator John McCain, who co-wrote the bill, was accused of a serious violation of it during his presidential campaign in 2008. Big firms with expensive lawyers can usually navigate the system, but small players flounder. In the states, campaign-finance laws have been used to stifle debate. Prosecutors in Washington state claimed that favourable radio coverage of an anti-tax campaign was a “donation” that the campaigners should have disclosed. In Colorado, a group of homeowners protesting against plans to incorporate their neighbourhood into a nearby town were sued for not registering as a PAC. Both groups won, but they needed lawyers.
The new ruling leaves several restrictions intact. Corporations may not donate money directly to candidates. Electioneering messages paid for by a firm must clearly disclose that firm’s identity. Individuals face strict limits on how much they may give to a candidate, so the kind of big donations that jump-started Eugene McCarthy’s anti-war candidacy in 1968 are still illegal. Incumbents still enjoy a huge fund-raising advantage, and very rich candidates who can pay for their own campaigns enjoy an even bigger one. McCain-Feingold has failed utterly to keep money out of politics. The last presidential election was the most expensive ever.

Gloves come off after Obama rips Supreme Court ruling By Alan Silverleib, CNN

on (CNN) — The political furor escalated over President Obama's high-profile rebuke of a recent Supreme Court ruling on campaign advertising Thursday, as Democrats pounded the high court decision.
Democrats rallied around Obama the day after the president committed a rare breach of political etiquette, criticizing the controversial ruling in his State of the Union address as members of the high court sat only a few feet away.
That triggered something equally unusual. Justice Samuel Alito, a conservative backer of the ruling, frowned and appeared to mouth the words "not true." Alito's apparent reply was a rare flash of emotion among Supreme Court justices who typically sit stony faced and refrain from even clapping during State of the Union speeches.

NYT, Court Ruling Invites a Boom in Political Ads, By BRIAN STELTER, Published: January 24, 2010

[…] he expects more money will flow to radio and local cable operators. Election advertising is especially critical this year, given the beating that local stations have taken in the downturn. Exacerbating the economic pressures, the lack of political ad dollars last year meant that many stations experienced 30 percent declines in ad revenue, according to the Television Bureau of Advertising. […]

NYC Pensions Press Companies to Disclose Political Spending Share Business, By Mark Drajem

Jan.28 (Bloomberg) — New York City pension funds are pressing as many as 15 companies including Bank of America Corp. and Humana Inc. to disclose campaign contributions as the U.S. Supreme Court ends a ban on corporate political spending.
The city’s public advocate, Bill de Blasio, is encouraging other pension funds to follow New York’s lead and file investor proxy resolutions calling for companies to report their campaign contributions and political spending.

Does Corporate Money Lead to Political Corruption? NYT, By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, Published: January 23, 2010

And what about the corporations that contributed so much of that money? A review of the biggest corporate donors found that their stock prices were unaffected after they stopped giving to the parties. The results suggest that those companies did not lose their influence and may have been giving “because they were shaken down by politicians,” said Nathaniel Persily, a professor at Columbia Law School who has studied the law’s impact.
Supporters of the restrictions point to Britain to show that governments can police corruption without imperiling free speech. Britain started regulating political spending as far back as 1883 and has tightened the rules steadily ever since.
Those British restrictions would violate the Supreme Court’s view of the First Amendment, yet Britain’s political debates are as robust as they are in the United States.
Opponents of restrictions, on the other hand, point out that Australia barely regulates political money. Individuals and corporations can give without limit. Parties can spend freely. And there is not much disclosure about who gives what to whom. But political corruption has not threatened a vibrant democracy there.
In the United States, studies comparing states like Virginia with scant regulation against those like Wisconsin with strict rules have not found much difference in levels of corruption or public trust, several scholars said. Jeff Milyo, an economist at the University of Missouri, has compared states with strict bans on corporate contributions to political parties against those with no limits at all. “There is just no good evidence that campaign finance laws have any effect on actual corruption,” he said.

WSJ, How to Counter Corporate Speech, BRUCE ACKERMAN AND DAVID WU, JANUARY 26, 2010

Critics of the decision worry, with good reason, that corporate interests might now exhibit outsize influence on campaigns.
We need to embrace a market solution to this problem. The answer to the disproportionate influence of big money is to give ordinary citizens the financial capacity to compete effectively in the political marketplace.
The place to begin is with a tax cut. Each American should get a refundable federal tax credit of $50 that they can use to make contributions to federal candidates during presidential years, and a suitably smaller sum during off-year federal elections.
About 120 million Americans went to the polls in 2008. If each citizen also had a chance to contribute democracy dollars, their donations would overwhelm the sums that corporations are likely to spend under the recent Supreme Court decision.
Under our initiative, candidates will find new rewards by appealing to mainstream interests. If they effectively express the concerns of ordinary people, citizens could respond by sending millions of democracy dollars in their direction. Despite the new financial power granted to corporations, Americans would gain a renewed sense that they could make a difference in politics.
Democracy dollars would allow ordinary Americans to fight back against big money without raising any prospect of a Supreme Court counterattack. It's far too soon to say whether the court's recent decision is just the first shot in a much bigger war on traditional campaign-finance regulation; this will be determined by the new appointments to the bench over the next decade.

USATODAY, It's a new era for campaign spending,By Fredreka Schouten and Joan Biskupic, 1/22/2010

[…]Twenty-four states have similar laws prohibiting or restricting corporate spending in state candidate elections. Gubernatorial races are underway in 19 of those states.
The decision specifically affects presidential and congressional candidates, but also appears to render similar state laws unconstitutional, making them likely to be struck down by courts or repealed quickly by state legislatures, Hasen said.
Analysts said they did not expect to see a flood of corporate spending on ads that call for the election or defeat of an individual candidate.
"I don't see the Cokes and Pepsis of this world writing checks for political campaigns in this economic environment," said Evan Tracey, who tracks political advertising at Campaign Media Analysis Group. "They have shareholders, boards of directors and customers who come from all sides of the political spectrum."
Experts, such as campaign-finance lawyer Kenneth Gross, said the money is more likely to flow through trade associations and non-profit groups. Corporations provide money to such groups now, but that money could not be used for campaign ads and any other political communication that advocates for the election or defeat of a candidate.
Robin Conrad of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce called Thursday's opinion "a positive for the political process."
Thursday's decision left intact rules that require businesses and unions to disclose their spending and that prohibit unlimited donations, also known as "soft money," to political parties.

LA Times, Campaign finance ruling's likely impact overblown, Stephen R. Weissman, January 28, 2010

With last week's ruling, the justices granted corporations (and implicitly unions) a constitutional license to explicitly urge voters to support or oppose candidates in all communications, while interring the remains of the McCain-Feingold restrictions on ads.
Finally, it is curious to see some of the same Democratic members of Congress who fought — on behalf of labor union allies — legislative proposals to rein in corporate and union-financed 527 political organizations now denouncing the Citizens United decision, which essentially ratifies a status quo they worked to protect.
It is also revealing that we heard little from members of either party when the Federal Election Commission emasculatedthe McCain-Feingold 60/30-day ad restrictions. Nor was there congressional resistance when the bipartisan FEC adopted a weak public disclosure regulation for such ads, one that does not require their 501(c) nonprofit corporate sponsors, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or Health Care for America Now, to reveal their ultimate for-profit corporate, union and individual donors. Although the court last week upheld disclosure, this regulation still enables Citizens United to hide its donors.
If members of Congress are now serious about searching for new ways to limit the impact of corporate and union spending in elections and improving its disclosure, they should start by reexamining their own behavior

Unbound, Jan 28th 2010 | WASHINGTON, DC | From The Economist print edition

The First Amendment says: “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” But in recent decades Congress has passed laws making it harder to disseminate opinions about politicians. The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, better known as McCain-Feingold after its sponsors in the Senate, bars companies, unions and other groups from directly paying for political ads during election campaigns. If they want to express an opinion they must first form a political action committee, accept limited donations from a restricted pool of donors and clear various other regulatory hurdles.
Campaign-finance rules are so complex that even the politicians who wrote them sometimes fall foul of them. Big organisations with sharp lawyers can usually navigate the system, but small groups tend to get lost. The government at one point even claimed the right to ban books, though it later backtracked.
The ruling’s many critics fear that it will unleash a deluge of corporate money, drowning the little guy’s voice and corrupting legislators. Bradley Smith of the Centre for Competitive Politics, a pro-speech group, says such fears are exaggerated. Firms are still barred from making direct contributions to politicians. Congress can toughen rules on disclosure or ban foreign firms from participating—and probably will. Half the states already allow corporations to buy political ads, says Mr Smith, and their elections work just fine.
Another criticism is that the Supreme Court is treating corporations like people. Bloggers joke disgustedly that the next step will be to give companies the vote. But the decision does not depend on any such logic. The First Amendment protects both citizens and associations of citizens, argues Justice Anthony Kennedy. There is precedent to back him up; there is also argument over whether spending counts as speech.
Stuart Taylor, a legal writer, argues that the court should have ruled more narrowly, unzipping speech by ideological groups but keeping the curbs on for-profit corporations. Five justices decided, however, that the constitution required a broader ruling. Like Mr Taylor, they wanted to make it easier for, say, a pro-choice group to run an ad attacking a pro-life politician, or for a gun club to buy a local radio spot supporting a congressman who shoots things. But they also wanted to help, say, a wine merchant who wants to advocate the defeat of a politician who jacks up booze taxes.

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