Sunday, January 24, 2010

Law Profs nail it on corporate influence at the US Supreme Court

See this post by law professor Jack Balkin, who explains how the Supreme Court is a product of the corporate money corruption in our Republic.

I have often said we have been in a new Gilded Age, Clinton is the modern equivalent to Grover Cleveland (and now Obama fits that model), and our Supreme Court is a Gilded Age Court. The difference between the Gilded Age railroad lawyer justices of the late 19th Century, the ones who enshrined capitalist ideology over mercantile ideology and made corporations into "persons" under the 14th Amendment (see: Thom Hartmann's polemic, "Unequal Protection" for a non-lawyer's perspective on this), and this Court is that this Court has right-wing movement activists such as Roberts, Alito and Thomas as justices. And those three will be there for another 20 to 30 years plying their trade on behalf of big business. And their "zygotes are people too" mantra may yet carry the day in that large marble building in DC.

Also, Yale law professor, Heather Gerken, who specializes in elections law, caught something I noticed too, but did not blog about, which is the Court majority's summary dismissal of any connection between how Congresspeople vote and from whom those Congresspeople receive money. As Gerken notes, the Court majority is so carried away with their rhetoric that they are undermining the public's right to prosecute bribery. One wonders when the first case is going to come along where a person arrested for bribing a public official says, "I am only exercising my First Amendment rights to access my Congressman..."

House and Senate Democratic leaders, and Obama, as usual, are calling for playing around the edges with this decision instead of seeking institutional reforms that are outside the conundrum the Supreme Court majority has set regarding "money equals speech." I like reforms such as requiring shareholders to approve political campaign donations, but as with laws requiring labor unions to give their members a voice in approving political expenditures, it just adds another layer of bureaucracy to the institution and is almost always approved by the members of the organization.

As I say, the best way to combat this decision from the US Supreme Court is to increase the number of seats in the House of Representatives so congressional candidates can actually meet a majority of the voters in the resulting smaller districts, and support public financing. In tandem, those two reforms will be most effective at challenging the power of corporate money in politics than any other reform I've seen over the decades.



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