Original Link: http://www.pnj.com/article/20100124/OPINION/1240305/Editorial-Buy-the-people
The United States Supreme Court struck a mighty blow for free speech and the First Amendment last Thursday by ruling that the corporation or union with the most money wins.
The court, no doubt hearing the echoes of patriots like Thomas Paine, those who staked their lives in the fight against entrenched royalty, ruled that nothing less than American tradition provides constitutional cover for a Fortune 500 company or union to spend like sailors on leave for the candidate of their choosing.
Goodbye "By the People.''
Hello "Buy the people.''
So dear reader, this is what we have:
We have a nation where elections will be less a contest of ideas and more an eBay auction.
We have lobbyists who now can shake down lawmakers for their vote. Normally, that is called extortion and is a felony. Here, it has the court's encouragement.
And how do you like those activist judges everyone has been talking about? We have five right here who have overturned settled law; tradition and precedent be damned.
But it's a free speech issue, the majority cries.
No, it is not.
The court has no justification to treat corporations and unions as people, which is what it is doing. This decision is so far removed from reality that no less than Sen. John McCain, who has fought for campaign-finance sanity for years, said he was surprised by the court's "extreme naivete.''
And by the way, in the First Amendment the word "people'' is included. "Corporation'' is not. Nor is "union.''
The most important role of the court isn't necessarily to rule, but to balance. Much of the existing free speech law is based on just that — balancing legitimate arguments. The court has a strong tradition of balancing the needs of different groups — in this case it's basic fairness — with the needs of free speech. The court has set numerous "tests'' toward what is allowed and what might be prohibited.
This decision shatters that delicate balance.
With one divisive vote, the justices have sold the election process to the highest bidder and hid behind the cloak of faux free speech.
This is a legislative issue. Not one for the court.
One of the five who voted for the change, Justice Antonin Scalia, is a self-proclaimed originalist. He tries to interpret what the constitutional framers would have wanted.
But we suspect James Madison would have sided with the minority.