The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a potentially devastating blow to democracy with its ruling to roll back restrictions on corporate spending in federal campaigns. The 5-4 decision, with conservative justices forming the majority, could unleash a torrent of corporate-funded attack ads in upcoming elections.
In their ruling, the conservative Justices said essentially that corporations are entitled to the same free-speech rights as individuals. That might sound good in principle, but corporations with millions to spend on behalf of politicians who support their interests are not the equivalent of ordinary citizens.
In fact, corporations are not individuals at all, but rather government-chartered entities with unique benefits and obligations that go far beyond those of individuals. They are treated differently under a multitude of laws, including regulations concerning their “free speech” about the products and services they offer.
The recent ruling could be particularly bad news for progressive and LGBT citizens. If there’s any doubt about who will benefit from this decision, consider the differing reactions from leaders on opposing ends of the political spectrum.
“Sadly, the majority of justices have sent the message that money, power, and influence rule the day,” lamented U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., an out lesbian and a political progressive.
The progressive and LGBT-friendly Wisconsin Democracy Campaign blasted the ruling as “a bastardized version of democracy.” The Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group called the High Court’s action a case of “judicial activism” that “turns back the clock on over 60 years of precedent.”
But leaders on the far right hailed the ruling. Officials of Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, Wisconsin Right to Life and other conservative activist groups were gleeful in their praise.
The right is rejoicing because its leaders know a tsunami of unrestricted dollars could now flow into the coffers of neo-cons who support the corporate agenda. Remember that for decades neo-con candidates have used the trifecta of “guns, God and gays” to spur uneducated voters into supporting politicians who oppose their economic interests.
The Court’s decision seems to effectively overturn laws in Wisconsin and 23 other states that restrict corporate involvement in campaigns. In Wisconsin, where Democrats hold a fragile majority, corporate involvement could turn the political tide toward conservatism in 2010.