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nellie On January - 21 - 2010

This morning, conservative activists on the Supreme Court dealt another blow to self governance by We the People. In a 5 to 4 decision, the court struck down limits on corporate and union spending in elections (including judicial elections) in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

What a lousy week this is turning out to be for our country.

The case

Majority Opinion (PDF)

Citizens United
Hillary the Movie

Although they make enormous contributions to our society, corporations are not actually members of it. They cannot vote or run for office. Because they may be managed and controlled by nonresidents, their interests may conflict in fundamental respects with the interests of eligible voters. The financial resources, legal structure,and instrumental orientation of corporations raise legitimate concerns about their role in the electoral process. Our lawmakers have a compelling constitutional basis, if not also a democratic duty, to take measures designed to guard against the potentially deleterious effects of corporate spending in local and national races.

—Justice Stevens, Dissenting


With its ruling today, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.

This ruling gives the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington — while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates.

That’s why I am instructing my Administration to get to work immediately with Congress on this issue. We are going to talk with bipartisan Congressional leaders to develop a forceful response to this decision. The public interest requires nothing less.

—President Barack Obama

Schumer calls for hearings on ‘un-American’ court decision
Grayson on High Court Ruling: ‘Worst Decision Since Dred Scott’
Democrats plan bill to limit impact of campaign finance decision

Ignoring important principles of judicial restraint and respect for precedent, the Court has given corporate money a breathtaking new role in federal campaigns. Just six years ago, the Court said that the prohibition on corporations and unions dipping into their treasuries to influence campaigns was ‘firmly embedded in our law.’ Yet this Court has just upended that prohibition, and a century’s worth of campaign finance law designed to stem corruption in government. The American people will pay dearly for this decision when, more than ever, their voices are drowned out by corporate spending in our federal elections. In the coming weeks, I will work with my colleagues to pass legislation restoring as many of the critical restraints on corporate control of our elections as possible.

—Senator Russ Feingold

Common Cause: Supreme Court Decision Creates Political Crisis


McClatchy: Supreme Court ends limits on corporate campaign spending
NPR: Supreme Court Ruling: No More Ban On Corporate Campaign Money
NPR: High Court Rolls Back Campaign Spending Limits
Washington Post: Supreme Court rolls back campaign spending limits

New York Times: Justices Overturn Key Campaign Limits
New York Times: Justices Block Key Part of Campaign Law


Washington Post: Campaign finance ruling reflects Supreme Court’s growing audacity
New York Times: How Corporate Money Will Reshape Politics
McClatchy: Who’s activist now? In election spending case, conservatives

Possible Remedies

Immediate Legislative redress
Alan Grayson is asking everyone to go to SaveDemocracy.net and sign the petition for immediate action.

Campaign Finance
Campaign Reform in the Networked Age: Fostering Participation through Small Donors and Volunteers, Brookings
Publicly funded elections

Legal restraints
Before corporate dollars are spent, must have majority vote of shareholders

End corporate personhood
Move to Amend
Reclaim Democracy
Free Speech for People

Voter Action
Move to Amend
Reclaim Democracy
Free Speech for People

Categories: Featured, News & Politics

164 Responses so far.

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  1. BigDogMom says:

    Thanks to all you for posting all the petitions links here tonight, have signed them all and will be forwarding these links to as many people as possible tomorrow.

  2. KevenSeven says:

    Hey. Let’s just impeach Thomas, Scalia and Kennedy for throwing the 2000 election.

    We would only need 67 senators to go for that…..

  3. Hopeington says:

    Barney Frank, on Rachel Maddow’s show tonight was hopeful about changing corporate law itself, to address this issue. If you missed it, check it out.
    It was a glimmer from a corner I hadn’t considered.

    • Hopeington says:

      I wanted to add, that while he said some hopeful things, I was hurling obscenities at the screen and my son was laughing and pointing out how pissed Rachel was, shaking her head at some of the wimpy ass blankedy blank shit that was coming out of his mouth about working with the Republicans.

      • BigDogMom says:

        Hey Hope, I’m with you, I think all this talk about trying to work with the Repugs is hog wash…we’ve been there and done that, didn’t work, will never work.

        • Hopeington says:

          It was probably the first time I got Really Mad at Barney. Definitely seemed weak. I was glad to hear Obama come out and speak like he meant business. I think letters of encouragement to all our representatives is crucial right now, and the WH too.
          Grow some balls people!!

          • BigDogMom says:

            I was thinking of doing just that this morning by snail mail…Obama needs to come out strong on corporate/Banking reform, not this watered down bullshit that he’s presented in the past.

            This crap about being bipartisan is not working, he needs to make some enemies, (corps/banks/repugs), and have some clear proposals and I think the people will be behind him.

  4. KevenSeven says:

    I thank all the Puritans who insisted that there was no difference between Gore and Bush.

    • jan4insight says:

      Yeah, I once had a friend like that. Our friendship ended the night before the 2000 election, when I challenged his proposal to vote for Nader (!) because it was the same thing as voting for Bush. And he said he’d rather have Bush ,,, and this was gay man …. go figure!

  5. Kalima says:

    I’ve spent a few hours emailing with a friend in NC, he’s devastated and says that this could mean the end to the American way of life 15 to 20 years down the road. He also said that at some point this could be reversed but that these laws seem to linger on before anyone attempts that, still it seems like a small glimmer of hope.

  6. jan4insight says:

    Here’s another link to add our list of those fighting against the travesty of the day:


  7. bitohistory says:

    It’s fucking over! Hope you enjoyed your last vote!!!

    • nellie says:

      I think congress is going to have something to say about this. That balance of power idea motivates people to protect their turf.

      • bitohistory says:

        nellie, If it’s not passed by the midterms, it will be the last election that you can vote in!

        • nellie says:

          I don’t think so.

          This will be fixed, because this country eventually gets around to fixing whatever impedes civil rights.

          We fixed Dred Scott. We’ll fix this, too.

          We can pass laws to require public financing.

          We can institute Instant Runoff Voting to admit third and fourth parties.

          We can eliminate the electoral college.

          We can eliminate corporate personhood to say that corporations do not have civil rights.

          We can decide that money is not speech, money is commerce.

          We could use activism — for example we could start a national movement that whenever we see a campaign ad paid for by a corporate sponsor, we boycott that company for the next week.

          Alan Grayson is asking everyone to go to SaveDemocracy.net

          • Hopeington says:

            Now you’re talkin’
            These are all great ideas Nellie!
            Cher posted this earlier
            Thought I’d bring closer to the top.
            I signed Grayson’s petition yesterday along with 5 friends and am working on more.
            what I found, talking to people, is they are working so hard just trying to hang on to what they’ve got, they really don’t have the time to pay much attention to this. I actually got laughed at and shooed away today, by a friend who was stressing about the decline of her business, for bringing this up, she just didn’t want to know or hear that things could get worse. It was over load.

            • nellie says:

              The last section in the article is called “Possible Remedies” where those links are listed as well. I will add Grayson’s petition.

          • bitohistory says:

            nellie, I don’t know anymore. I am pissed, angry and depressed. I am not my optimistic self. Perhaps it is my illness speaking right now and I should just withhold my thoughts for now. I am going to watch KO’s comment and then go back to bed.

            good night, and take care.

            • kesmarn says:

              Good night, b’ito. And, for what it’s worth, I don’t think it’s necessarily your illness speaking tonight. There’s plenty to be bummed out about…

              Tomorrow is another day.

            • Hopeington says:

              I just watched KO’s comment, he really said it all, with no let up.
              The only real combat about this is going to have to come from the people. Information on who is being bought by the corps. should really have a prominent place in the media, to let people see and decide for themselves..???.
              Just trying to stay positive.
              Rest well Bito

            • nellie says:

              take care, bito.

              My reaction to a setback is to go into high gear right away. That’s just my chemistry.

              So I’ll just say — step back and take care of yourself first. Have a good night.

              And never feel you need to withhold your thoughts on my account. I’m always on your side.

          • KQuark says:

            The problem is I in this case your average American does not look at this as a civil rights issue.

            • nellie says:

              But the average American can be motivated by activism.

              I think we’ve forgotten how powerful grassroots activism can be. We’ve practically abandoned it as a political tool — but it’s probably the most powerful tool the public has.

            • nellie says:

              I’ll give you one little example, K.

              During the BlackBox voting campaigns-- which we need to reinvigorate, btw — I wrote a piece targeting common cause and PFAW because they would not support paper ballots. I wish I could find it. But I sent it everywhere. And I sent it to PFAW and Common Cause.

              Somehow it must have stirred something up because it actually led to a fairly extended dialogue w one of the heads of PFAW.

              And then a few weeks later — they changed their stance.

              I’m not saying that my one editorial piece was responsible, but probably my one editorial — added to all the other flack they were getting — helped.

              Activism works. But it takes persistence. And a belief that eventually, it will have an impact. And if we’re persistent, eventually, it will.

            • KQuark says:

              Bless you nellie you are truly inspiring. I’ve only been what I call an activist for a few years and I’m feeling totally defeated by our system. I know you’ve been active much longer. I guess we just need to get off the ground, dust ourselves off and keep on trying.

  8. whatsthatsound says:

    Golden Rule:
    Them what has the gold makes the rules.

  9. choicelady says:

    On Olberman, the constitutional scholar whose name I never can remember -- Jonathan Turley? -- said that there are other ways to get at this issue such as opening up third party roles, etc. I think that is NOT the issue at all. We need to find ways to affirm the power of human beings, NOT “fictitious persons” who appear to have the same rights as we even though there is a fundamental flaw -- they don’t have to be citizens, and they cannot vote.

    Our entire history, especially starting a century ago, has been focused on limiting corporate power over our political life. The Progressive movement arose in direct response to the abuses of the railroads, etc., so where is the same outrage today? This is the second part of radical activism by the Supremes in response to corporate power, the first being the railroad case in 1886 (I believe that’s the year) using the 14th Amendment to confer fictitious personhood on corporations in the first place.

    I think the greatest impact we might have is indeed to revisit this issue of corporate personhood and then make very clear that only citizens who can actually vote may contribute to campaigns. Period. Multinational corporations, especially those with HQs in other nations, should be barred outright for a lack of citizenship, and those with HQs here should be curtailed unless they can show up at the polls with a registration card.

    The one thing I think might help immediately, however, is to take the fictitious personhood status at its face value and hold corporations to the $2500 limit each of us real persons faces with respect to direct limits on campaign donations.

    Then shining light on our donations to PACs, 527s, etc. might open up at least some public awareness, and assuring that direct donations be controlled for the ficitious folks just as they are for the real folks.

    Yes, this will affect unions and potentially even my organization (except we’re too broke to be of much use save for our moral persuasion on non-partisan issues. The idea of being a power broker makes most non-profits roll on the floor laughing.) So be it.

    If we believe in democracy, it has to come back to people -- real people, not paid shills like the bozos who collect signatures for money outside supermarkets.

    This is a very sad day, and I disagree with Turley -- this is not about free speech. This is about losing democracy outright.

    • escribacat says:

      Choicelady, you are always a comforting voice of reason — even amidst disappointment and confusion. Thank you.

    • Hopeington says:

      Excellent ideas and comment ChoiceLady, your first paragraph spelled out the fact of why they are not “persons” and should have no say. It’s so absurdly simple I can’t believe they could honestly make this decision.
      I see this as a direct attempt to put Republicans back in charge.

    • bitohistory says:

      C’Lady, Why did Turley just chuckle and gloss over on the “Santa Clara” case?

      What makes you think any law controlling the corporations will pass in the Senate before mid terms? The party of NO will block a vote!
      They won’t come to their senses realizing they are cutting their own throats! If Obama proposes, gNOP disposes.

      What makes you think Unions, 527’s, non-profits will exist in 8 years?

    • bitohistory says:

      C’lady, this is the case you mentioned:

      The stronger concept of corporate personhood is usually traced to the 1886 U.S. Supreme Court case Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company (118 U.S. 394). Corporations, being state charted entities, were and are regulated by the state in which they were created (incorporated) and the state(s) in which they operate and much of contract law is actually state law and English Common Law. This is why most legal agreements have a clause in them saying under which state's laws and jurisdiction will the agreement be litigated if such litigation should become necessary. With Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company, corporations gained some degree of protection from arbitrary state action.

    • KQuark says:

      I agree with you. Nobody funds losers and that’s why third parties never get the funding they need to be serious contenders. This ruling made the plight of third parties even worse. Turley I have found to be informative about the law but not politically savvy.

      The only way to change things is to change the makeup of the courts and finally get rid of the corporate personhood axiom.

      • escribacat says:

        Interestingly, I attended a victim rights training last night as part of my advocacy work. There are certain rights a victim of a personal crime possesses, including the right to be present and heard at all critical junctures of a case. According to victim rights laws, corporations or other entities are NOT considered persons and do NOT qualify for these rights.

        • nellie says:

          We really need to settle that law. With this court, though, I’d expect them to say human beings aren’t persons before they’d declare that corporations are not.

          • escribacat says:

            I can’t believe we’re going to be stuck with Chief Justice John Roberts for the next 50 years or so. Bush’s gift that keeps on giving.

            • AdLib says:

              Am I evil or alone in hoping each morning to hear in the news that one of seats of the SCOTUS conservatives will have to be filled by Obama?

            • Hopeington says:

              No sweat AdLib, you can see the support you have here from your fellow evil ones…we understand, no real harm meant but…if only…
              My mama always said
              If they slap you in the face turn the other cheek, I they slap the other cheek…punch ’em.
              nuff said!

            • BigDogMom says:

              AdLib, your not alone in your thinking…and your not evil.

            • AdLib says:

              Hopeington -- what makes me feel a little less evil is that I’m not wishing directly for anyone to die or get ill, I’m just hoping a Conservative Seat is vacated.

              If one of them won the lottery and quit, was taken up by aliens, woke up one day as The Incredible Shrinking Judge, whatever, I just want one of their seats vacated.

            • escribacat says:

              If so, then I’m evil too.

            • Hopeington says:

              Maybe evil, but certainly not alone.

            • nellie says:

              Lying SOS, pardon my French. I knew everything he said at his confirmation hearing was a lie. Stare decisis my a$$.

              And you’re right — he’s a young’un.

            • KQuark says:

              I can’t believe people like Feingold believed his lies.

              One thing I really like about Obama was he voted against Roberts. He wasn’t fooled.

  10. SanityNow says:

    so I guess radical judicial activism/legislating from the bench is suddenly en vogue? is there some right wing 2010 strategy being orchestrated here? surreal…

  11. Chernynkaya says:

    I wound up taking to my bed after all. Yesterday I thought that it was because of the Mass. election. Then this morning, after the INjustices ruled, I thought I was feeling worse because of it, but it’s just the flu. Now I have a good excuse to pull up the covers. Wake me when the revolution starts!

    Anyway, I have talked to my only child, my son. (My two daughters are from my husband’s first marriage.) I have told him to leave this country and try to find one where they value life, value their citizens. Where they have universal health care and a few social safety nets; someplace with a little more humanity. There must be a place like that-- UK? France? He’s got dual Israeli citizenship already, but that’s no place to go. Canada?

    I love him so much, and I will miss him more than I can imagine, but this is no country for him, or for my future grandchildren. How sad that my grandparents struggled so hard to get to America and only three generations later, I think he should leave. Me, I’m too old now, but he still has a chance.

    And as an aside: Poor president Obama-- just what he needs-- a constitutional crisis.

    • kesmarn says:

      Cher, first let me say I hope you feel better soon. Flu is so miserable. And it’s hard to keep a positive attitude when the TV is blaring bad news the whole live-long day.

      I’ve had the same feeling about my kids, too. But then I think--well, the country made it through the Civil War and the Great Depression… Maybe there’s some reason to hope. Some reason we haven’t even thought of, or hasn’t come along yet…

      The really scary new things about this crisis, though, are twofold, to me: first, the one citizen:one vote principle was still largely intact (obviously, not for slaves or women in the pertinent situations that involved them, but otherwise)during the earlier crises--not so much currently, especially with electronic voting, and second, people had access to information that was hard to come by (slow delivery of papers, etc.) but, I think, somewhat more objectively reported.

      Those things seem to be eroding daily now.

      • Chernynkaya says:

        Kes, you kinda disappeared there at the end-- are you still there? :-)

        But I still get your drift. There have been tough times before, and terrible SCOTUS decisions-- Dred Scott comes to mind. It just seems that we are headed towards a future of a corporate state-- a fascist state in the literal sense. That is frightening and grim. Maybe things will change eventually-- think of the African Americans who lived through the nadir of race relations in the 1920s-1960’s and are alive to see a black President. Or, think 1984. I think we must do whatever we can to change this ruling.

        • kesmarn says:

          Cher, an evil spirit temporarily took control of my computer and prematurely hit the “submit” button, but thanks to my handy bottle of holy water, which I sprinkled on the keyboard, I have regained my power and finished the post.

          But--you’re right--the only thing that occurs to me of late is that this must be the way it felt to live in Germany in about 1934. A gathering storm. A very large, menacing one…

          • Chernynkaya says:

            I hate when those demons get near “submit”!

            • kesmarn says:

              I think there were actually two of them: one was a rotund, balding, cigar chomper with a radio microphone and the other was nasty-cherub faced and had vaseline smeared under his eyes. There might have been a third female in stiletto heels with a wolf-hunting rifle, but she got away in a helicopter before I got a good look.

            • Chernynkaya says:

              Whoa, Kes-- those are some demons. 😆

    • AlphaBitch says:

      Netherlands? We asked one of our favorite exchange students, Daan, to “adopt” us. Then we can move to St. Maarten, use all our retirement money, and be his “kids”. It was a joke, but not quite as funny today as it was last summer…….

      Cher, that is what every good parent wants -- a better world for their kids than they have/had. Even childless, I want the better scenario for my Afghan kids. So we don’t give up.

      After struggling with the situation in Afghanistan, and feeling like it’s an uphill battle, I look now at my own land and see a much more difficult struggle. I mean, after looking at Haiti, I wonder: How much damage can a non-nuclear terrorist do versus what good old Mother Nature can do all by herself? But now I see this shift to a corporatocracy and it just saddens me. How can we preach good governance when we don’t even have it????

      Hope you feel better -- I had somne flu-ey thing that lasted a good week and has left me weak as a kitten. Go to bed, pull the covers up, and wait it out. I’ll be thinking of you and hoping you get better QUICK. We need you!

    • nellie says:

      Cher, I wish I could say you should encourage your son to say, but at this point, the U.S. is becoming so abusive of its citizens, I can’t argue with you.

      On the bright side, at least we have a constitutional scholar in the White House to handle this constitutional crisis.

      Hope you feel better soon. Tea with honey. Lots of honey.

      • Chernynkaya says:

        Thanks Nellie-- I love lot’s of honey and lemon!

      • SueInCa says:

        Nellie Cher and Alpha

        I have to agree with all three of you today. If my grandson was not here and still so young, I would be moving to ST Thomas, St John or Cabo. I mean none of those places could be any worse, right? Canada would be too cold for me. I even thought about American Samoa, to live a real simple life which is harder and harder to do here.

        Cher, hope you get well(I too have the “cough due to cold” as Forrest would say.
        Alpha get stronger and Nellie just try to have a good day.

        • AlphaBitch says:

          Hey Sue: I’m a Caribbean type of gal myself. I would love to cash out ye old 401(K), and instead of needing it in the future for my healthcare needs, just head off to the islands and spend whatever time I have snorkeling. Of course, I have to convince The Blov that this makes sense. He’s the one who lives in denial…..

          I’d take Canada, though. When we lived in Seattle, I was lucky to spend time in Vancouver. It was a wonderous place -- the Sylvia Hotel by Jericho Beach (? if memory s correct) and Stanleey Park. Lovely!

        • Chernynkaya says:

          {{{{{ HUG }}}}

        • Mightywoof says:

          “Canada would be too cold for me.”

          It’s too cold for me -- and I live here :) -- why oh why couldn’t my hubby have chosen a warmer clime to emigrate to?

          Cher -- I’m so sorry you felt the need to tell your son to move out of the States -- it’s hard enough for a parent when the decision is made by the child (as my parents could tell you were they still alive). I don’t know you very well but I want to give you a hug -- you must be so distressed.

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