Which Way, Ruin Or Virtue?

27 Jun

Which Way, Ruin or Virtue? SCOTUS overturned Montana’s ability to “…guard against what historically has been seen as political corruption and the buying of elections” by applying the Citizens United precedent to states. John Nichols explains how lop-sided a victory corporations have won.

If Walmart wanted to support candidates who promised to eliminate all taxes for Walmart, the corporation could spend unlimited amounts of money. It would not need to gain stockholder approval. It can just go for it.

But if AFSCME wants to counter Walmart argument, saying that eliminating taxes on out-of-state retailers will save consumers very little but will ultimate undermine funding for schools and public services, the union will have to go through the laborious process of gaining permission from tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of workers. And even then, it will face additional reporting and structural barriers imposed by the Court.

Campaign finance reformers had held out some hope that states might be able to apply some restrictions on corporate spending, as Montana did with its 100-year-old law barring direct corporate contributions to political parties and candidates. That law, developed to control against the outright buying of elections by “copper kings” and “robber barons,” was repeatedly upheld. Until now.

Now, says Marc Elias, one of the nation’s top experts in election law, “To the extent that there was any doubt from the original Citizens United decision [that it] broadly applies to state and local laws, that doubt is now gone.… To whatever extent that door was open a crack, that door is now closed.”

The one option left now, to overturn Citizens United, is a series of constitutional amendments.

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