In the subtitle of his Salon article “The Predictable Tsunami of Sewer Money,” Joe Conason asks the following: “Was the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United naively mistaken–or cynically partisan?” Good question.
In January, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote: “With the advent of the Internet, prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions. This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.”
Karl J. Sandstrom, a former FEC commissioner who provides advice to Democrats on election law has said: “The biggest change this year is that it is no longer possible to identify the individuals who are responsible for funding election communications.” Sandstrom believes that Justice Kennedy’s opinion was naïve and reflected a “very uninformed view of how disclosure works.”
Conason thinks Kennedy and the other conservative Justices on the Court never attempted “to inform themselves about the realities of donor disclosure before overturning the century-old restrictions on corporate cash.” He contends that the Justices could have easily discovered that under Section 501 c (4) of the IRS code nonprofit groups are permitted to register as “social welfare” organizations. This allows the groups to support “independent” campaign advertising without being required to disclose the names of donors—as long as political activity is not their “primary activity.”
Were Kennedy and the Justices who joined him in the majority wrong? David G. Savage thinks so. In a Los Angeles Times article, Savage writes the following:
“Because of loopholes in tax laws and a weak enforcement policy at the Federal Election Commission, corporations and wealthy donors have been able to spend huge sums on campaign ads, confident the public will not know who they are, election law experts say. Corporate donors have been able to hide their contributions despite the opposition of shareholders and customers—the very groups cited by Kennedy.”
Savage also points to the high court’s ruling as helping to fuel the rise of a number of nonprofit political actions groups—like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS.
Do you think The Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was
a) naïvely mistaken
b) cynically partisan
c) neither of the above
The Rise of Sewer Money by Joe Conason (The New York Observer, 10/27/2010)
Supreme Court Rules 5-4 Against Campaign Limitations in The Hillary The Movie Case (The Turley Blog, 1/21/2010)
- Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger