Friday, January 22, 2010

Supreme Court ruling is a blow to democracy

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By Jeff Smith

Yesterday the US Supreme Court ruled to overturn a ban on direct corporate spending on elections. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, “In a 5-4 decision, the court’s conservative bloc said corporations have the same 1st Amendment rights as individuals and, for that reason, the government may not stop corporations from spending freely to influence the outcome of federal elections.”

The federal ban had been in effect since 1907 and prevented corporations and unions from spending their own treasury funds on broadcast ads or billboards that urge the election or defeat of a federal candidate.

Corporate and special interests groups already have tremendous influence during elections and this Supreme Court decision will only exacerbate the problem. Fortunately, some public interest groups are responding with campaigns to confront the court’s decision.

The Center for Media & Democracy (CDM) responded to the Supreme Court decision by saying they “strongly oppose this radical decision by a bare majority of the Supreme Court to rewrite the First Amendment and give corporations even greater influence in elections and public policy. With this decision, huge corporations like Goldman Sachs and AIG will be able to use their enormous wealth to run campaigns against the president or any person who might oppose their agenda.”

CDM has created an online petition encouraging people to express the voice their opposition to this decision. The Center for Media & Democracy will also have a new “portal” they are launching in SourceWatch to help educate the general public about these issues and provide a gateway for getting more involved.

In addition, Public Citizen has also begun a petition campaign in response to the Supreme Court decision. However, Public Citizen thinks that what will ultimately have to happen would be to “pass a constitutional amendment to ensure corporate money does not overwhelm our democracy and clarify that the First Amendment is for people — not corporations.”

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