In a 5-4 decision the U. S. Supreme Court on Monday chose to not reconsider it’s previous ruling in Citizens United vs. FEC and reverse the decision of the Montana Supreme Court which upheld a 100 year-old state law banning political expenditures by corporations. The Court held in it’s unsigned opinion:
“The question presented in this case is whether the holding of Citizens United applies to the Montana state law. There can be no serious doubt that it does.”
This decision, to overturn the judgment of all three branches of the Montana state government without agreeing to spend one hour next fall listening to oral argument from the state’s attorney general, makes a mockery of the court’s solicitude, expressed in many other cases, for the dignity and constitutional status of the “Sovereign States.”
In Citizens United, the court opined that “independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” Montana argues that in its state that is not the case. But the Supreme Court gives the back of its hand to the state’s argument about its own experience, and doesn’t even care to hear full argument on the point.
In addition to being annoyed at the Court’s failure to hear the case, Dellinger raises and interesting point about why the 4 dissenting “liberal” justices did not vote to hear the case. It only takes for votes to grant review by the court with oral arguments. Dellinger suggests that it is possible that they did not want to give the majority the opportunity to expand on their prior decision and make things worse.
“…they may have feared that the court would extend Citizens United even further if presented with another case. Even reaffirming Citizens United would have been unfortunate. (Justice Hugo Black told me during my clerkship that when there were only four liberals on the court in the 1940s, they would deliberately not grant review of some cases, to prevent the majority from freshly reaffirming precedents with which the four disagreed.)”
This could very well be the case, but the decision is still disappointing in light of the huge influx of unregulated corporate money into the political process that was not foreseen by Justice Kennedy in his majority opinion in Citizen’s United. The majority held that corporate money cannot corrupt elected officials; that influence over lawmakers is not corruption; and that the appearance of such influence will not undermine public faith in our democracy.
According to OpenSecrets.org, “as of June 27, 2012, 633 groups organized as Super PACs have reported total receipts of $240,214,583 and total independent expenditures of $133,373,766 in the 2012 cycle”.
With this much unregulated money being spent, it’s difficult to believe that our very democracy has been turned on its head.
Monday’s decision raises the same questions that I hope to find an answer to with the 99Voices Multimedia Documentary project I’m planning to work on this summer. We’d like to ask ordinary Americans just like you, from across our union: What do you think about the state of our democracy? What kind of impact is Citizens United, and the resulting increase in unregulated special interest spending, having on the national election and the political process in general? Is change needed? And if so, what would you change and how should we begin to make that change happen?
What do you think?
Find out more about the 99Voices Multimedia Documentary project HERE.