The Populist Addiction
Make Corporations King: Lawyer who Pleaded Successfully to Give Corporations Unlimited Power to Influence Politicians with Money before the Corporate Supreme Court
One would think from all this that corporations and unions are now free to buy candidates on the open market. But what, if anything, will be different in our elections?
Will corporations and unions be able to give money to candidates or political parties? No. Federal law, which regulates campaigns for president, the Senate and the House, prohibits such contributions. The ban was left untouched by the Supreme Court.
Can corporations spend money in cahoots with candidates and political parties? No. The Supreme Court decision addressed only “independent expenditures,” which are, by definition, “not coordinated with a candidate.” Monies spent in collaboration with candidates or parties are treated as contributions — and are still banned.
Perhaps all of this corporate spending will be secret? Wrong again. The Supreme Court upheld the laws that require any corporate or union spender to file reports with the Federal Election Commission within 24 hours of spending the first dime.
What about the “stampede of special-interest money”? The president’s comment implies there must not have been any corporate or union spending before Citizens United. In fact, in the final days of the Massachusetts special election for senator, corporations and unions spent at least $2.7 million on television and radio advertising. How do we know? Those reports were filed with the F.E.C. And while this was a good deal of spending, it was not unusual.
So what will actually occur as a result of the Citizens United case? The answer is at once mundane and momentous.
Since the 1970s, Congress has passed an assortment of laws that banned anyone from spending money on independent ads — laws that were uniformly declared unconstitutional when they restricted spending by individuals, political action committees and political parties. But in a 1990 decision, Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the court upheld a ban on corporate spending to expressly advocate the election or defeat of a candidate.
Because of the 1990 ruling, corporations and unions have been limited to so-called issue ads, which usually end with statements like “call Candidate Jones and tell her” — take your choice — “to stop raising taxes/ support health care reform/ support alternative energy sources.” Now that Citizens United has overturned Austin, corporations and unions can run independent ads that contain words of express advocacy. So instead of “Call Candidate Jones and demand that she not raise taxes,” it can be: “Vote for Candidate Smith because Candidate Jones wants to raise taxes.” ... http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/26/opinion/26baran.html?ref=global