Tag: Citizens United

Aug 08

Money, Money, Money

It’s all about the money. Follow the money. Show me the money. American elections have always been about the money and who has the most. The system has made it very expensive requiring candidates to spend massive amounts of time courting millionaires and corporations to donate to their campaigns. Senator Bernie Sanders raised millions with …

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Apr 22

The Case for Overturning Citizens United

One of the major things that the exposure of the Sony e-mails by Wikileaks revealed was the shift in campaign donations  to influence elections

Former Dem Senator Chris Dodd Advised Execs to Give to GOP: “Fundraising Does Have An Impact”

By Lee Fang, The Intercept

Chris Dodd’s first career was as the liberal U.S. Senator from Connecticut, a self-professed champion for working families and a Democratic presidential contender in 2008. But hacked emails from Sony offer new insight into how he operates in his second career, as the head of the Motion Picture Association of America, a lobby group for the movie industry.

On January 28, 2014, Dodd emailed executives from major motion picture studios to share two news articles. One revealed that Google had shifted its campaign donation strategy, giving more to Republican lawmakers, and another projected that the GOP would likely perform well in the midterm elections that year.

or to raise money by currying favor with corporations and their executives:

Hacked Sony emails reveal Cuomo fund-raising details

By Conor Skelding, Laura Nahmias and Bill Mahoney, Capital New York

Emails between Sony executives and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s campaign staff leaked as part of the Sony Pictures hack and published in full by WikiLeaks Thursday appear to show Sony executives believed donating to Cuomo was a good idea because he is a “strong protector” of New York’s film tax credit. [..]

The emails also appear to show Cuomo’s campaign pressing Sony to deliver $50,000 worth of donations before a July 15, 2014 campaign filing deadline as he ramped up his re-election campaign last summer.

The first email dates from Jan. 7, 2014, from Keith Weaver, ‎executive vice president of Worldwide Government Affairs at Sony, to Sony C.E.O. Michael Lynton, concerning a fund-raiser with $25,000 per person ticket prices for Cuomo held on January 23, 2014 at the home of Jim Gianopulos, chairman and C.E.O. of Fox Filmed Entertainment. That fund-raiser yielded $300,000 for Cuomo’s re-election campaign.

Citizens must be made aware of the massive influx of money from billionaires via super PACS to back candidates, and influence congressional and state legislative agendas in order to keep the Republic from further sliding into an oligarchy.

Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL) told Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman that if nothing is done to get money out of politics “we can kiss this country goodbye.”

I said on MSNBC that night five years ago that if we do nothing, you can kiss this country goodbye. Well, pucker up, because right now the millionaires and the billionaires and the multinational corporations are calling the shots with whatever they want in TPP, whatever they want in fast track-more generally, whatever they want. They get the bailouts. They get the tax breaks. They get the so-called deregulation. They get what they want here because they get what they pay for.

Bob Menendez Corruption Case Reads Like An Indictment Of Citizens United Ruling, Too

By Paul Blumenthal, Huffington Post

A prime example of the corruption is the indictment of Sen. Robert Menendezl (D-NJ).The indictment of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) on public corruption charges is the first bribery case involving the use of corporate political spending to support a candidate since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision allowed corporations to do just that.

Justice Anthony Kennedy declared in the 5-4 majority opinion that corporations should be free to spend unlimited sums on independent political activities since “independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” Those making independent expenditures “may have influence over or access to elected officials,” but that “does not mean those officials are corrupt,” Kennedy wrote.

The Department of Justice begs to differ. Menendez’s indictment on Wednesday specifically ties two $300,000 contributions from Dr. Salomon Melgen’s Vitreo-Retinal Consultants to an officially independent super PAC — donations that were earmarked for Menendez’s 2012 re-election effort — to actions that the senator took on behalf of Melgen’s business interests.

This is exactly the kind of behavior that Kennedy could not fathom happening.

Justice Kennedy needed to get oout more.

There are now calls for a constitutional amendment that would overturn Citizens United. Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT-I) has reintroduced an amendment that would do just that

Sen. Sanders had to propose a new amendment because legislation that isn’t acted on by the previous Congress expires at the end of the session. Since Congress didn’t act on the amendment the last time Sanders filed it, he is bringing it back in the new Congress.

The key section of the amendment is Section 2. The second section would halt the Supreme Court’s money is free speech interpretation of the Constitution. The first section of the amendment deals directly with the idea that corporations are people, but the second section overturns the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo Supreme Court decision that money is speech. The second section of the amendment would throw out the entire basis for the Supreme Court’s rulings in campaign finance cases.

However, the chances of getting the 2/3rds majority in both houses of congress and 38 states are somewhere around zero to none. Passage was not Sen. Sanders’ point:

The point is to bring attention to the issue of what Citizens United continues to do to our electoral process. The most likely path to overturning Citizens United remains a Democratic presidential victory in the 2016 election. Two of the conservatives Justices who made up the majority in the Citizens United decision are 78 years old. The odds of one or both justices serving the last two years of President Obama’s term and another eight years under another potential Democratic president are slim. (It also wouldn’t be surprising to see the 81 year old Ruth Bader Ginsburg retire before President Obama leaves office.) The Supreme Court is due for a generational change, and if Democrats control the White House, that change could result in a 5-4 liberal leaning court.

In the meantime, Sen. Sanders is leading the fight to inform the American people about the toxic nature of unlimited money in their electoral process. The movement to overturn Citizens United needs and educated population, because outside of the Supreme Court, public pressure is the best way to get the billionaire dollars out of our elections is to have tens of millions of voices demand it.

The more citizens are made aware of the dark influence of billionaires emboldened by the Supreme Court, the better able to confront the candidates and elected officials on their policies and votes. This can be stopped by a truly informed electorate and taking back local and state governments.

Apr 03

The Breakfast Club: 4-3-2014 (The Supreme Court, It’s Stupid Edition)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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Jan 28

The Tangled Web of the Koch Brothers

Since the Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that corporations are people and protected under the First Amendment, the flood gates of private money from billionaires to shape the future of politics everywhere from Washington, DC to state and local local elections. Two of the biggest sources of this money are the Koch brothers, Charles and David, who have a combined wealth of $34 billion. The brothers are the founders of Americans for Prosperity that financed the ironically named, Tea Party. They initially denied their involvement but you can run but you can’t hide from some intrepid journalists determined to keeping the public informed.

As a matter of fact, they get quite upset about it when their attempts to manipulate the political stage are exposed, often sending nasty letters. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has been one of the most intrepid journalists who has dug into the vast network of Koch-funded groups and initiatives to show their influence on conservative politics, undeterred by nasty letters.

The Koch Party

By The Editorial Board of The New York Times

Only a few weeks into this midterm election year, the right-wing political zeppelin is fully inflated with secret cash and is firing malicious falsehoods at supporters of health care reform.

As Carl Hulse of The Times reported recently, Democrats have been staggered by a $20 million advertising blitz produced by Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group organized and financed by the Koch brothers, billionaire industrialists. The ads take aim at House and Senate candidates for re-election who have supported the health law, and blame them for the hyped-up problems with the law’s rollout that now seem to be the sole plank in this year’s Republican platform. [..]

In 2012, as The Washington Post reported, the Koch network raised $407 million, which was secreted among 17 groups with cryptic names and purposes that were designed to make it impossible to figure out the names of donors the Kochs worked with. As one tax expert told The Post, “it’s designed to make it opaque as to where the money is coming from and where the money is going.” [..]

The clandestine influence of the Kochs and their Palm Springs friends would be much reduced if they were forced to play in the sunshine.

The Internal Revenue Service and several lawmakers are beginning to step up their interest in preventing “social welfare” organizations and other tax-sheltered groups from being used as political conduits, but they have encountered the usual resistance from Republican lawmakers. Considering how effectively the Koch brothers are doing their job, it’s easy to see why.

Koch World 2014

By Kenneth P. Vogel, Politico

If the Koch brothers’ political operation seemed ambitious in 2010 or 2012, wait for what’s in store for 2014 and beyond.

The billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch are convening some of the country’s richest Republican donors on Sunday at a resort near Palm Springs, Calif., to raise millions of dollars for efforts to shape the political landscape for years to come.

It’s the cash that can possibly kick Democrats out of the Senate majority this fall and shape the philosophy and agenda of the GOP conference – not to mention the 2016 presidential field.

The Koch political operation has become among the most dominant forces in American politics, rivaling even the official Republican Party in its ability to shape policy debates and elections. But it’s mostly taken a piecemeal approach, sticking to its sweet spots, while leaving other tasks to outsiders, or ad hoc coalitions of allies.

That’s changing. This year, the Kochs’ close allies are rolling out a new, more integrated approach to politics. That includes wading into Republican primaries for the first time to ensure their ideal candidates end up on the ticket, and also centralizing control of their network to limit headache-inducing freelancing by affiliated operatives.

The shift is best illustrated in the expansion of three pieces of the Koch political network expected to be showcased or represented at the three-day meeting in Palm Springs, whose evolving roles were described to POLITICO by several sources.

The Koch’s agenda to influence politics needs more than sunshine, it needs bleach.

Jan 21

Citizens United: Four Years Later

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

 photo Corporate-vote_zps9e1fa673.png It has been four years since the Supreme Court handed down it ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission holding that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting political independent expenditures by corporations, associations, or labor unions.

Ian Vandewalker, counsel for the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, explains the consequences he ruling has made of unlimited spending by corporations and unions, leading to an explosion of outside money in elections.

Certainly, big donors seem to believe their donations can buy influence. Thanks to Citizens United, outside spending skyrocketed in 2012 to more than $1 billion, including $400 million from dark money groups that don’t disclose their donors.

Legislators targeted by the outside negative ads are concerned. Some have used the specter of massive outside spending to argue that they need more direct contributions for their re-election campaigns in order to ‘weaken’ the influence of outside money. Eight states have increased the dollar amounts that donors can give directly to candidates, and similar legislation has advanced in several others. Alabama eliminated its $500 limit on corporate donations, allowing corporations to give unlimited amounts of money directly to candidates. Limits in other states, like Florida, are now several times higher.

Now the same justices whose Citizens United ruling created the outside expenditure quandary are arguing that it necessitates weakening limits on direct contributions. In oral argument for McCutcheon v. FEC, a case challenging limits on the total amount individuals can donate directly to all federal candidates, the court’s conservative justices seem to contradict the reasoning they used to justify their 2010 decision. Justice Scalia said there is no real distinction between the gratitude a candidate would feel toward a contributor on the one hand and a major independent spender on the other. He added, “The thing is, you can’t give [unlimited contributions] to the Republican Party or the Democratic Party, but you can start your own PAC… . I’m not sure that that’s a benefit to our political system.”

There is movement toward removing big money from politics, as John Nichols of The Nation notes, and putting democracy back in the hands of the voters. There has been a movement to amend the constitution that is gaining ground:

Sixteen American states have formally demanded that Congress to recognize that the Constitution must be amended in order to re-establish the basic American premise that “money is property and not speech, and [that] the Congress of the United States, state legislatures and local legislative bodies should have the authority to regulate political contributions and expenditures…” [..]

Support for an amendment now stretches from coast to coast, with backing (in the form of legislative resolutions or statewide referendum results) from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia. The District of Columbia is also supportive of the move to amend, as are roughly 500 municipalities, from Liberty, Maine, to Los Angeles, California – where 77 percent of voters backed a May, 2013, referendum instructing elected representatives to seek an amendment establishing that “there should be limits on political campaign spending and that corporations should not have the constitutional rights of human beings.” [..]

The groundbreaking work by national groups such as Public Citizen, Common Cause, Free Speech for People and Move to Amend, in conjunction with grassroots coalitions that are now active from northern Alaska to the tip of the Florida Keys, is far more dramatic than most of the initiatives you’ll see from the Democratic or Republican parties-which don’t do much but fund-raise-and various and sundry groupings on the right and left. [..]

Free Speech for People highlights the fact that dozens of Republican legislators have backed calls for an amendment to overturn not just the Citizens United ruling but other barriers to the regulation of money in politics. With backing from third-party and independent legislators, as well, the passage of the state resolutions highlights what the group refers to as “a growing trans-partisan movement…calling for the US Supreme Court’s misguided decision in Citizens United v. FEC (2010) to be overturned, through one or more amendments to the US Constitution.”

Send a message to your state legislators asking them to give voters a chance to directly instruct Congress to pass a constitutional amendment!

Oct 14

Citizens United: Part Deux

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This week the Supreme Court heard arguments for the ending of limits on campaign contributions for individuals, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. The argument for lifting the limits is the same that were used to argue Citizens United that opened the flood gates of money from corporations, money is free speech.

Next Citizens United? McCutcheon Supreme Court Case Targets Campaign Contribution Limits

by Paul Blumenthal, Huffington Post

Alabama electrical engineer and budding political donor Shaun McCutcheon broached a problem in conversation with conservative election lawyer Dan Backer, who one day earlier had led a CPAC panel on rolling back campaign finance laws in which he predicted that campaign contribution limits would soon rise.

McCutcheon had recently learned there were overall federal campaign contribution limits on what a single donor could give during a two-year election cycle. He voiced his annoyance to Backer and wondered if he could just ignore the aggregate limits — something that a few dozen donors wound up doing], whether deliberately or inadvertently, in the 2012 election. [..]

A little more than a year later, McCutcheon, now joined by the Republican National Committee, is bringing the biggest campaign finance case before the Supreme Court since the controversial 2010 Citizens United decision. If the justices rule in their next term to toss the overall limits, it would mark the first time the Supreme Court had found a federal contribution limit unconstitutional and would open the door for even more money to flood the political system.

It would also be a major victory for counter-reformers, who have racked up a string of wins rolling back campaign finance regulation ever since Justice Samuel Alito replaced the more campaign regs-friendly Sandra Day O’Connor. And it would be a major blow to the campaign finance regime crafted in the 1970s following a string of corruption scandals culminating in the abuses revealed in the Watergate investigation.

One other small point, McCutcheon is a climate denier.

This week’s guest on Moyers & Company, Yale Law School election and constitutional law professor Heather Gerken discussed the how a ruling in favor of McCutcheon will further erode campaign finance regulations and allow more cash and influence to slosh around in the system.

McCutcheon challenges aggregate caps on how much individual donors can give to candidates and political parties. The current overall cap stands at $123,200 per donor for a two-year election cycle, but McCutcheon could raise that amount to more than $3.5 million.

Gerken says if the court rules in favor of McCutcheon, one donor could write a check that might cover a politician’s entire election campaign. “We’re going to start to worry about the bad old days when politicians were beholden to an incredibly small group of wealthy donors … Right now when politicians want to raise money they have to talk to at least middle class voters. They have to talk to a pretty big number of voters to raise money for their campaigns.”

Gerken fears that a small, rich group would not only influence the outcome of elections, but policy decisions as well. “It’s not just a seat at the table on election day, it’s a seat at the table for the next four-to-six years when they’re governing,” Gerken says. “Wall Street is going to be controlling the congressional agenda, Main Street is not.”

Transcript can be read here

As suggested by Karin Kamp, at Moyers’ & Company web site, here is a list of recommended articles that explain the case.

Chief Justice Roberts: A Campaign Finance Moderate Who Gets It?

by Rick Hasen, Election Law Blog

Poor Little Rich Guys

by Dahlia Lithwick, Slate

Conservative Justices Signal Dismantling Of Campaign Donation Limits

by Sahil Kapur, TPM

Mitch McConnell’s Moneyocracy

by Katrina vanden Heuvel, The Washington Post

Meet Shaun McCutcheon

by Ben Jacobs, The Daily Beast

There is also a very informative video from the Washington Post that is worth watching.

May 17

IRS Gate: Just Ineffective Management?

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

President Obama is definitely having a bad week with two screw ups by the IRS and the Department of Justice and the Republicans obsession with Benghazi. The media has latched on to these “crises” like pit bulls with a juicy ankle. While Benghazi-gate is purely political with its eye on tainting the possible 2016 presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, the secret subpoena of AP’s phone records and the IRS targeting of right wing 501(c)4’s financing have more relevance.

The news that the IRS was focusing on conservative groups with words such as “tea party” or “patriot” in their names broke when the director of the IRS’s exempt-organi­zations division, Lois G. Lerner, confirmed complaints by tea party groups that their applications for ­tax-exempt status were being unfairly scrutinized and delayed. Oops.

Naturally, the right wing came was furious and rejected the IRS apology demanding an full investigation:

“I call on the White House to conduct a transparent, government-wide review aimed at assuring the American people that these thuggish practices are not underway at the IRS or elsewhere in the administration against anyone, regardless of their political views,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said. “An apology won’t put this issue to rest.”

“The IRS has demonstrated the most disturbing, illegal and outrageous abuse of government power,” said Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator of Tea Party Patriots. “This deliberate targeting and harassment of tea party groups reaches a new low in illegal government activity and overreach.”

The IRS has a notoriously bad history of being used by presidents to harass and intimidate their political enemies, most infamously by Richard M. Nixon. Since Watergate the IRS was reformed making it more independent supposedly to insulate from politics.

In a government oversight report (pdf) by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the IRS was found to have acted “inappropriately” and was poorly managed allowing “inappropriate criteria to be developed and stay in place for more than 18 months.”

All In host, Chris Hayes discussed the report and how the IRS handled this internally with New York Times reporter Nicholas Confessor.

Andy Kroll at Mother Jones recounts the five things you need to know in the Inspector General’s IRS Tea Party Scandal Report:

Treasury’s Inspector General for Tax Administration conducted the probe from June 2012 to February 2013 in response to pressure from Congress, and the 54-page report sheds light on the whole debacle.

Here are five key takeaways from the report.

1) Incompetence appears to have caused this scandal, not wrongdoing. [..]

2) Even the IRS doesn’t understand how political is too political in the murky world of 501(c)(4) groups. [..]

3) All the confusion at the IRS led to a huge backlog and a lot of unnecessary headaches. [..]

4) The IRS didn’t feel outside pressure to single out tea partiers. [..]

5) The report gives as much fodder to transparency advocates as it does to IRS critics.

Feb 20

Contributions Are Killing Democracy

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

In January of 2010, the US Supreme Court handed down its decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that held that the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions. However, the case did not involve the federal ban on direct contributions from corporations or unions to candidate campaigns or political parties, which remain illegal in races for federal office.

Once again the US Supreme Court is about to weigh in on campaign finance agreeing to hear arguments in the McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission which contends that limits on what individuals are allowed to give candidates and parties and PACs is an unconstitutional violation of the individual donor’s free speech rights.

Supreme Court Takes Campaign Finance Case, Will Rule On Contribution Limits

by Paul Blumenthal, The Huffington Post

The U.S. Court of Appeals already ruled in favor of keeping the biennial limits, which have been in place since 1971 and were upheld in the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo case. By accepting the case, the Supreme Court is stepping into the thick of another controversial campaign finance case just three years after ruling in Citizens United v. FEC that corporations and unions can spend freely on elections. [..]

Campaign finance reformers are already calling on the court to maintain the Buckley precedent and rule against the challenge in McCutcheon, for fear that any overturning of Buckley will eventually lead to future erosion of contribution limits and other campaign finance precedents meant to protect against corruption or the appearance of corruption. [..]

A ruling to overturn the biennial limits would not directly affect the amount an individual donor could give to a single candidate, but, thanks to the proliferation of joint fundraising committees, known as victory funds or committees, a candidate could potentially solicit a single contribution from one donor of up to — if not more than — $3,627,600.

In a recent segment of Moyers & Company, host Bill Moyers discussed how “big money” is destroying democracy with Dan Cantor, Executive Director of New York’s Working Families Party, and Jonathan Soros, co-founder of the Friends of Democracy super PAC and a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.

“There’s so much money being spent, there’s so much cynicism about the system, but the evidence shows, in states that do have public financing systems, that candidates can run in those systems and win, and they do it by focusing on their constituents and small donors,” Soros tells Bill.

Soros and Cantor advocate for a New York State public financing system inspired by New York City’s publicly-funded program that makes it less financially prohibitive to run for city-wide office. “People should appreciate who gets to run for office when you have a system like this. Librarians run for office, ex-teachers run for office – not just people who have a rolodex of prospective donors,” Cantor says. “It’s good for the candidates and the voters alike.”

The Super PAC That Aims to End Super PACs

by Michael D. Shear, The New York Times

In the next four months, Mr. Soros and a small team at Friends of Democracy, the new Super PAC, are going to pick 10 to 15 House lawmakers whose records and public statements have not been supportive of what Mr. Soros calls a system of “citizen-led” elections.

In those districts, the new Super PAC will produce direct mail, telephone calls, Internet advertising and even a few television commercials aimed at making sure voters know the positions of the lawmaker

In addition, a separate sister organization will be picking a handful of campaign finance reform “heroes” who will receive some direct contributions to reward them for their positions.

If all goes according to plan, Mr. Soros is hoping to eventually demonstrate to politicians that there is a political cost for standing in the way of reform.

For sale to the highest bidder, the Unites States of America.

Jun 27

SCOTUS Ruling Limited Free Speech

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The latest session of the US Supreme Court is coming to a close with several decisions handed down since last Thursday, that peaked today with several rulings handed down. The “grand finale” will be this Thursday when the court announces its decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. The media has been focused mostly on today’s ruling that gutted three quarters of Arizona’s controversial immigration law, S.B. 1070. The overturn of a 100-year-old Montana state law that banned corporations in that state from spending any of their corporate cash to support or oppose a candidate or a political party and the ruling that struck out any requirement that life without parole be the mandatory penalty for murder by a minor got second and third billing.

What the media chose to ignore was last Thursday’s 5 -4 decision in Knox v. Service Employees International Union (SEIU) that dealt a blow against public sector labor unions and in favor of employees who are represented by a union but are not members:

The case has three holdings: (1) When a public-sector union imposes a special assessment or dues increase, the union must provide a fresh Hudson notice (the Court’s vote on this issue was seven to two); (2) the union cannot require nonmembers to pay the increased amount unless they opt in by affirmatively consenting (vote of five to four); and (3) the case was not rendered moot by the union’s post-certiorari offer of a full refund (unanimous).

So what you say? Why is this an important ruling? It’s important because it requires Unions to do something that corporations aren’t. It requires unions to get permission from their non-members, who pay fees so they are covered by SEIU-negotiated contracts, before that money can be used for political spending. Instead of the traditional “opt-out”, the now have to “opt-in.” Corporations are not required to get share holders permission to spend millions on a political campaign. This could significantly impact on labor’s ability to fight back against corporations in the political arena. It restricts the union’s First Amendment rights to spend unlimited amounts under the 2010 Citizens United ruling:

“The court’s opinion makes clear its displeasure with 60 years of precedent on the dues issue, which have placed the burden on employees who object (to political spending) to opt out,” said William Gould, who from 1994 to 1998 chaired the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency that governs labor relations in the private sector. “This decision is an invitation to litigate this issue.”

Although the Knox case involved special assessments on non-union members, Gould said, the Supreme Court’s reasoning suggests that it could be applied to all union dues that fund political spending paid by non-members. The next time that a union goes through the standard process of notifying non-members they have the ability to opt out, the union may well be met with a legal challenge, warned Gould. “(This decision) indicates that if these five (justices) are there when these cases come back to the Court, that the Court will decide these cases adversely to unions,” he said.

That thought has the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which represented the plaintiffs in the case, and similar groups celebrating — and labor advocates fearing the worst.

Patrick Semmens, vice president of the foundation, said via email that while some justices have used similar language in the past, the Knox decision confirms that now a majority believe “compulsory unionism” is a violation of First Amendment rights.

SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Eliseo Medina pointed out that while this complicates matters for unions it is “doable”. But he also noted that this decision was one sided in that “There is nothing in this [Knox] decision that even speaks to the question of shareholders, or corporations having to tell shareholders about any of the contributions they make, [..] “The language, to me, signals what has been the rightward drift of the Supreme Court … Now they’ve come up with a decision to make it more difficult for workers to be able to effectively participate in the [political] process.”

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow and her guest, legal correspondent and senior editor for Slate Dahlia Litwick discussed all of these rulings with emphasis on the Knox ruling.

As was expressed in it opinion on June 23, the New York Times rightly noted:

The conservative majority strode into the center of the bitter debate about right-to-work laws preventing unions in 23 states from requiring nonmembers to pay any union expenses, including those supporting collective bargaining that benefits nonmembers. It used this narrow case to insert itself into that political controversy when there was no reason to do so.

Jun 11

Citizens United, June 5th, and Money, Money, Money, Money! by Geminijen

“When the madness is directed towards the likes of you and me,

Then our blindness may be lifted and we might begin to see.

For when others are afflicted, with the scourge that has no end,

Then we practice our denial — and the purging, we defend.

So the powers and the peoples of the nations of this Earth

Could be fully in connivance — or denial of the hurt…

And even, in our hubris, in our information age,

We are blinded by our bias — and at petty issues rage.

So the workers were divided and they voted Nazis in,

And so many were the workers, who paid dearly for this sin!

And we see now in Wisconsin, there’s a Walker riding high,

And there’s cash enough from coffers to propagate the lie.”


Arjun Jalah

Sometimes you would give anything not to be right!  When I started writing this diary three weeks ago, I predicted that Scott Walker would win the recall election for governor in Wisconsin. Walker, with unlimited corporate money, was challenged by a massive people’s movement when he outlawed most collective bargaining rights in what was usually considered a progressive state.  I knew, with the certainty of a cynic that that much money would out-weigh people power.   It was the fight between John Henry and the steel driving machine all over again. Yet, there I was, Tuesday night, praying that the people power would, in the end, win.  Not.  Walker beat Tom Barrett, the Democratic candidate 53%-46%, winning by a whopping 6% points. As Ed of the Ed Show so colorfully pointed out, there was no way to put lipstick on that pig. Or as Chris Hedges had said a couple of weeks earlier: “We lost. They won.”


Nov 10

From Occupy Wall Street to Occupy the Neighborhoods

The Occupy movement has done something amazing, getting Americans to start questioning our economic divides. It’s created spaces for people to come together, voice their discontents and dreams, creatively challenge destructive greed. It’s created powerful political theater, engaged community, an alternative to silence and powerlessness.  

Jun 28

SCOTUS Strikes Down AZ Campaign Finance

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Once again the corporate owned, conservative Supreme Court has struck down the 1998 Arizona Campaign Finance Law provided escalating matching funds to candidates who accept public financing. How the Roberts’ court decided that law violates the First Amendment rights of these corporation is truly a backbreaking twist if logic and the constitution.

The vote was again 5-to-4, with the same five justices in the majority as in the Citizens United decision. The majority’s rationale was that the law violated the First Amendment rights of candidates who raise private money. Such candidates, the majority said, may be reluctant to spend money to speak if they know that it will give rise to counter-speech paid for by the government.

“Laws like Arizona’s matching funds provision that inhibit robust and wide-open political debate without sufficient justification cannot stand,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority. Justice Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined the majority opinion.

What about the under funded candidate’s right to be heard under the First amendment? The reason for the law, which  was written after a corruption scandals rocked the state’s election financing during the 90’s, was to foster free speech:

The idea was to encourage candidates to forgo the scramble for money, with all its inherent invitations to corruption — to spend more time speaking to the electorate, and less time speaking to potential funders.

In that sense, its goal was very much to increase genuine political speech. But to the Roberts court, money as speech takes precedence over speech as speech.

The court’s majority clearly telegraphed its antipathy to the Arizona provision during oral arguments in March. The only real suspense was whether they would go further, and use the case to cast doubt on public financing generally.

So there was a sense of relief in the good-government community Monday.

“This is not the death knell of public financing. This ruling affects only one mechanism of public financing, and there are numerous ways to fix it,” said Common Cause president Bob Edgar in a statement. “Today, in the wake of Citizens United, it is more critical than ever that we change the way we pay for our elections by moving to a small donor system that gives the public a voice back in our government. Nothing short of our democracy is at stake.”

Well, thank these corporate shill justices for that.

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