Only one year ago, the Supreme Court handed down it’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. But I wonder how Mr. Justice Scalia, whose concurrence outlined the most radical defense of Corporate speech, must be feeling as he surveys the wreckage of American Democracy in the wake of his decision?
Justice Stevens, in his eloquent dissent had stated that the court’s decision would be a disaster for our democracy.
At bottom, the Court’s opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.
But Scalia pushed back hard against Justice Stevens, writing, “to exclude or impede corporate speech is to muzzle the principal agents of the modern free economy. We should celebrate rather than condemn the addition of this speech to the public debate.” Defenders of corporate speech like Scalia say that full disclosure will solve any objections to the possibly corrupting influence of the Supreme Court decision. They note that on Friday the donors to Super Pacs will have to disclose. But don’t hold your breath.
Some donors will never be known because some super PACs have established not-for-profit arms that can shield contributors’ identities. Those arms can spend more than roughly half of their money on so-called advocacy, although campaign-finance reformers have urged the Internal Revenue Service to reduce that share.
Ironically, Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the majority justified overturning precedent (stare decisis) in the Citizens United case. He wrote, “Stare decisis is a doctrine of preservation, not transformation. It counsels deference to past mistakes, but provides no justification for making new ones.” He should heed his own words and make up for the egregious mistake of the January 2010 decision.