Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Just what we needed--another set of floodgates

As if there wasn't already enough money in politics, this fall the Supreme Court will order a reargument of a case that would enlarge "free speech" rules for corporations, by possibly overruling previous decisions upholding limits on corporate spending in federal elections.

The case involved the corporate-funded group "Citizens United," which produced an anti-Hillary Clinton video which they proposed airing through "on-demand" cable prior to the 2008 primary season. produced an anti-Hillary Clinton documentary. McCain-Feingold bans certain corporate-funded broadcasts in the pre-election period, and requires corporate funders of such ads be disclosed. As part of their case, the lawyers for Citizens United argued in favor of overturning the 1990 case Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which upheld limits on corporate spending in candidate elections. Richard L. Hasen, writing on Slate.com, raises the question of whether postponing a decision on the case means that the court intends to overturn this 1990 decision, and others that control the inflow of corporate money into elections. He writes:

If after reargument in September, corporate limits fall—and limits on the money labor unions can spend on campaigns, with them—we may well look back on the 2008 election as a quaint time when the amounts spent on elections were relatively modest. Expect the floodgates to open, and the money to flow freely, as early as next year.

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