With the blessing of the Supreme Court, corporate money is now pouring into the midterm elections in support of Republican candidates

During the last session of the Supreme Court, as you’ll recall, the Justices, in a contentious 5-4 decision, declared that we, the American people, did not have the ability to regulate what they deemed corporate free speech. And, by “speech,” they meant the amount in dollars that corporations, both foreign and domestic, could spend on election-related communications. So, to clarify, not only are corporations people in the eyes of the court (people who cannot be jailed, or otherwise held accountable for their actions), but, now, the money that these entities spend to influence our elections is considered free speech, and therefor sacrosanct. So, where we once had laws dictating the amount that corporations could spend, we now have unlimited access to the American people via the media. And, we’re already starting to see the ramifications. The following clip comes by way of today’s Washington Post:

…Interest groups are spending five times as much on the 2010 congressional elections as they did on the last midterms, and they are more secretive than ever about where that money is coming from.

The $80 million spent so far by groups outside the Democratic and Republican parties dwarfs the $16 million spent at this point for the 2006 midterms. In that election, the vast majority of money – more than 90 percent – was disclosed along with donors’ identities. This year, that figure has fallen to less than half of the total, according to data analyzed by The Washington Post.

The trends amount to a spending frenzy conducted largely in the shadows.

The bulk of the money is being spent by conservatives, who have swamped their Democratic-aligned competition by 7 to 1 in recent weeks. The wave of spending is made possible in part by a series of Supreme Court rulings unleashing the ability of corporations and interest groups to spend money on politics. Conservative operatives also say they are riding the support of donors upset with Democratic policies they perceive as anti-business…

One of the biggest spenders nationwide is a little-known Iowa group called the American Future Fund, which has spent $7 million on behalf of Republicans in more than two dozen House and Senate races. Donors for the group’s ad campaign have not been disclosed in records the group has filed with the Federal Election Commission.

The group recently entered a previously sleepy race in its home state of Iowa, announcing that it would devote up to $800,000 to campaign against Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley of Waterloo. The campaign kicked off with a commercial alleging that Braley “supports building a mosque at Ground Zero.” Braley denies supporting construction of the proposed Islamic cultural center near the World Trade Center site, saying it’s a zoning issue for New Yorkers to decide…

So, thanks to the Supreme Court, we now have shadowy, unaccountable entities pumping millions into not altogether honest attack ads advocating on behalf of the party most likely to gut regulatory entities and facilitate the concentration of wealth into the hands of a relatively small number of individuals…. Sounds to me to be antithetical to the whole concept of Democracy, but what the hell do I know.

Oh, and it looks as though this may just be the beginning in terms of the high court’s pro-corporate agenda.

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7 Comments

  1. Tim
    Posted October 4, 2010 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    I wouldn’t want to wish death of anyone, but didn’t Roberts have a health issue not too long ago?

  2. ET is Dead
    Posted October 4, 2010 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    The NYT had a good piece on the pro-corporate bias of the Roberts court.

    he Supreme Court enjoys all but free rein in selecting which cases to review. From the end of one term in the summer until the start of the next, on the first Monday in October, the work of the court is to sift through thousands of petitions from parties that lost in one of the federal appeals courts or highest state courts and are eager for the justices to reverse their fate.

    The kinds of petitioners favored say a lot about the court’s interests and biases. The Warren court, eager to champion individual rights, chose a large number of petitions from downtrodden people. The Rehnquist court, looking for opportunities to vindicate states’ rights, favored petitions from the states.

    The Roberts court has championed corporations. The cases it has chosen for review this term suggest it will continue that trend. Of the 51 it has so far decided to hear, over 40 percent have a corporation on one side. The most far-reaching example of the Roberts court’s pro-business bias was Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. By a 5-to-4 vote, the conservative justices overturned a century of precedent to give corporations, along with labor unions, an unlimited right to spend money in politics…

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/04/opinion/04mon1.html?_r=2&hp

  3. Edward
    Posted October 5, 2010 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    This is sick. What we need is a real tea party movement that, instead of fighting on behalf of corporate interests, fights against them. I know it’s a lot to ask, but it would be great if the Jon Stewart event at the end of the month launched a real movement.

  4. Oliva
    Posted October 5, 2010 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    I worry that we might Obamanize Stewart if we’re not careful. All that pressure on one smart human being–or two, thanks to Colbert being there too.

  5. Meta
    Posted October 5, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    From the Think Progress “Progress Report”:

    Corporate America’s Favorite Jurists Return
    Few cases define the Roberts Court like the recent decision in Citizens United v. FEC. With a wave of their hands, the Court’s five conservatives opened the floodgates to allow billions of corporate dollars to spill into American democracy. As a result, outside interest groups — most of which are aligned with conservatives — have already spent five times as much on this midterm election cycle as they did in 2006. And Citizens United is only the tip of the Court’s corporate iceberg. The justices have consistently favored employers over workers and polluters over the environment — and it has gone out of its way to slam the doors of justice shut on ordinary Americans. With the Court’s new term beginning this week, the justices have a few opportunities to correct past errors. Sadly, the Roberts majority is far more likely to find new ways to declare corporate America to be above the law.

    THE SQUEEZE ON WORKERS: In its first full term together, the Roberts majority handed down its infamous Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire decision, which cut off access to equal pay for equal work for many women. Moreover, when Congress swiftly overturned this egregious decision, the conservative justices responded — not with the humility Chief Justice Roberts promised in his confirmation hearing — but with an equally indefensible decision limiting the rights of older workers. This term, the justices have three more opportunities to examine whether corporations can be held accountable when they illegally mistreat their workers. In Staub v. Proctor Hospital, the Court will decide whether the law protects workers who are fired after a junior supervisor convinces a senior manager to fire the worker, not because of any legitimate reason, but because the supervisor objects to the worker’s race, gender or service in the military. This term also presents two important cases on the right of workers to be free from unlawful retaliation in the workplace. In Thompson v. North American Stainless the Court will decide whether an employer can strike back at a worker who complains about discrimination by firing the worker’s fiancée. And in Kasten v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp., the Court will decide whether employees who verbally complain that their right to a fair wage is being violated are protected against illegal retaliation or whether they must put these complaints into writing.

    SIGNING AWAY YOUR RIGHTS: One of corporate America’s most common and abusive assaults on workers and consumers is a practice known as “forced arbitration.” Before many banks, cell phone companies, employers, or even nursing homes will do business with a consumer, worker, or patient they force that individual to sign away their right to sue the company in a real court. Instead, they require that any disputes be brought in a secretive, privatized arbitration system that overwhelming favors corporate parties. This privatized justice system exists solely because the Supreme Court allowed it to exist in a series of opinions stretching back into the 1980s, and the Court’s conservatives expanded corporate power to force consumers into arbitration as recently as last June. This term, in a case called AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, the justices will decide whether corporations can also force consumers to sign away their right to bring a class-action lawsuit before the arbitrator in addition to forcing consumers into a privatized justice system. If the Court sides with the corporate party in this case, it would enable corporations to break the law a few dollars at a time — because class action suits are often the only way to hold a company accountable when it inflicts a small-dollar injury on hundreds or thousands of people.

    THE HOT BUTTONS: Although the Court’s pro-corporate bent is one of its most defining features, corporate immunity is hardly the only thing on this term’s docket. In one of the most important cases this term, Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting, the justices will decide whether to follow the longstanding rule that policy decisions that are intimately connected to foreign policy — such as immigration — should be made by national leaders and not by fifty different state legislatures. Two other cases on the Court’s docket could provide a window into how the justices will treat the administration’s controversial use of the “state secrets” doctrine to get rid of cases challenging U.S. anti-terror policy. In these two cases, the justices will decide whether the government can sue a military contractor, then invoke state secrets to limit the contractor’s ability to defend against the claim. Finally, another closely watched case could test the limits of how far the First Amendment extends to protect the most hateful and disgusting kinds of protests. In Snyder v. Phelps, the justices will consider whether Fred Phelps’ toxic blend of anti-gay hate speech must be tolerated when Phelps and his hate group surround a military funeral with hateful picketers.

  6. JB Poersch
    Posted October 5, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Karl Rove’s American Crossroads groups will plow another $4.2 million into eight key Senate races, including Nevada, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. And the Associated Press just reported that national Republicans are making a massive $2 million TV buy to try to topple Democratic champion Barbara Boxer. They’re hoping a tidal wave of attack ads can wash away Boxer’s lead over failed HP CEO Carly Fiorina.

  7. Meta
    Posted October 5, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Eugene Robinson writes the following about the situation today.

    Officially, groups such as Americans for Job Security and American Crossroads are not allowed to spend on behalf of specific candidates; rather, they are supposed to confine themselves to such anodyne activities as highlighting issues and advocating policy positions. In practice, however, this gives them the latitude to attack one candidate — a Democrat, say — for his or her position on health care, financial reform or whatever.

    There can be no overt coordination between these groups and any specific candidates, but there doesn’t have to be. The political operatives in charge of the American Future Fund, for example, can read a map of congressional districts as well as anybody else. All they have to do is identify a potentially vulnerable Democrat and start pouring in the cash, mostly to buy television ads accusing the incumbent of being an enemy of all that America holds dear — and, gasp, a friend of Nancy Pelosi.

    The Supreme Court made all this possible with its ruling early this year, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which legalized unlimited campaign spending by corporations, unions, trade associations and other such entities. And the independent-expenditure groups with the patriotic names are often structured as nonprofits, which means they are not required to disclose their donors publicly.

    The result is a system in which oil companies opposed to an energy bill that would begin to steer the country away from fossil fuels, or Wall Street firms that want to undo financial regulatory reform and return to the days of the Big Casino, or gazillionaires who want to keep George W. Bush’s tax breaks, can all spend as much as they like to try to buy Congress for the Republican Party.

    And they can do it secretly, in the dark, without anyone knowing. It’s bad enough that public offices can be purchased. It’s unconscionable that we can’t even know who the buyers are.

    The rest of the article:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/04/AR2010100404052.html?wpisrc=nl_pmheadline

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