Talking About Activist Judges

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority re-wrote the Constitution to give corporations — never mentioned in the Constitution — the same right to influence the electoral process as ‘We the People.’ As the NYT’s Adam Liptak explains,

Sweeping aside a century-old understanding and overruling two important precedents, a bitterly divided Supreme Court … ruled that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections.

The justices did what many, on both sides of the aisle, feared for months it would do: hold that long-standing restrictions on corporate campaign spending violate the First Amendment.

The five opinions in Thursday’s decision ran to more than 180 pages, with Justice John Paul Stevens contributing a passionate 90-page dissent. In sometimes halting fashion, he summarized it for some 20 minutes from the bench on Thursday morning.

Joined by the other three members of the court’s liberal wing, Justice Stevens said the majority had committed a grave error in treating corporate speech the same as that of human beings.

The only (tiny) silver lining is that the ruling leaves the door open for legislative measures to push back against excessive influence of corporate funding:

Eight of the justices did agree that Congress can require corporations to disclose their spending and to run disclaimers with their advertisements, at least in the absence of proof of threats or reprisals. “Disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way,” Justice Kennedy wrote. Justice Clarence Thomas dissented on this point.

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