02/11/2010 (10:52 pm)
About two weeks ago, the US Supreme Court published their decision in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, and the left went berserk. The Court declared that preventing corporations and unions from running ads on their own within two months of a national election or a month of a primary created an unconstitutional restriction on free speech. Henceforth, corporations and unions are free to run ads about candidates to their heart’s content. Leftists decried the demolition of barriers to “corruption,” the unconscionable bypassing of precedent, and the sheer, unnecessary activism of the conservatives on the Court, and predicted a flood of corrupt corporate money in elections (see here, here, and here for examples.) The President huffed,
…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…
You’d think the unions would have applauded the decision, since unions, like corporations, were restricted from running ads, but are now permitted. You’d also think the Democrats would have shrugged their shoulders and accepted the change, since unions, which have extraordinarily deep pockets and are nearly 100% in the Democrats’ camp, would offset whatever advantage Republicans might have in the corporate world. But they didn’t.
And if you had any doubt why they didn’t accept it, this week you got your answer. It seems that despite the law, unions have been pouring their vast sums into elections all along. What a surprise.
Joseph Abrams at FoxNews.com published an exposé about a web site called TheTeaPartyIsOver.org, which claims to be a grassroots organization aimed at countering the effects of the burgeoning Tea Party movement with legislation. Only, Abrams discovered that it’s not really a grassroots organization at all. The site is one of several created by a pair of Washington attorneys that funnel money from union bank accounts into local political races, bypassing campaign finance restrictions by laundering the money. The maneuver appears to be legal, but hardly ethical; it clearly utilizes a loophole in the campaign finance restrictions, allowing forbidden union funds to be spent in the guise of local, grassroots activism far from the source of the funds. Abrams uncovered donations from the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Union (AFSCME) numbering in the millions of dollars, and directed into state political campaigns.
We’ve known for years that unions have been engaging in similar actions. Apparently McCain-Feingold (formally know as BCRA, for “Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002″) did not really stop the flow of “corrupting” cash into elections, it just redirected it for those who were prepared to play the system. Democrats claiming that removing the restriction on corporate spending will ruin the election process are just posturing for the camera; what they really oppose is Republicans getting in on the act.
The President was particularly disingenuous on the topic during his State of the Union address. Recall the passage that had Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito mouthing “Not true” from his second-row seat:
With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that, I believe, will open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections. I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests or, worse, by foreign entities…
“Law Professor” Obama was talking out of his nether parts. The restriction overturned by the Court was less than 20 years old, not a century old, and the decision had no effect whatsoever on rules restricting foreign entities from participating in elections. Worse, though, was the irony of President Obama decrying foreign participation after Candidate Obama deliberately removed normal checks on credit card donations to permit a veritable flood of illegal foreign contributions into his own campaign.
The Citizens United decision was a significant blow to the Obama effort to stack future elections in favor of Democrats. If you recall, the case was the result of partisan activism on the part of the Federal Election Commission (FEC,) which stepped in to halt David Bossie’s group from advertising its documentary “Hillary: The Movie” during the 2008 primary campaign season. The FEC declared that “Hillary: The Movie” was “express advocacy,” which made it a violation of section 441b of the BCRA: there was no reasonable interpretation other than that the film was an appeal to vote against Hillary Clinton. The partisan nature of the action was clear to those of us who recalled Michael Moore’s release of “Fahrenheit 911″ during the 2004 election cycle, about which the FEC made not the slightest peep; there was no reasonable interpretation other than that the film was an appeal to vote against George W. Bush.
Citizens United appealed to the DC District Court but was not granted a stay, the DC Court noting that Citizens United used funds from corporate sponsors to market the movie. CU had to restrain its marketing effort pending appeal to the Supreme Court. The Court, in an opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, overturned the decision from a 1990 case called Austin v Michigan Chamber of Commerce, in which the Court had permitted an exception to the first amendment, granting the government power to restrict the speech of corporations in order to prevent “distortion” caused by amassed corporate wealth. Today’s court, finding no other acceptable reason to permit CU to market its film, declared the reasoning in the 1990 decision faulty, recalling Justice Scalia’s dissent from that case: “The government cannot be trusted to assure, through censorship, the ‘fairness’ of political debate.” The Court left in place restrictions on the amounts corporations can donate directly to candidates, and requirements that the sources of funds be exposed publicly.
While caterwauling over the end of their monopoly on the use of amassed funds, Democrats have commenced extorting funds from corporations for use in elections. That extortion also became evident this week, as the Obamateur President announced exceptions to his own administration’s purported outrage over “unconscionable” executive bonus payments, stupidly admitting to Bloomberg BusinessWeek that he “does not begrudge” huge bonuses for the CEOs of Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase. Those two investment banking firms, just by coincidence, are the firms from which employees contributed the most to his campaign of any corporations in America. Apparently the vicious assaults on ordinary corporate practice only apply to those firms that forgot to feather the Good President’s nest. He quickly backpedaled as the blogs took note, but too late.
Expect legislative action to restore the ban on corporate spending. Expect the legislation to neglect to include the ban on union spending. It hardly matters, though. Democrats decry the presence of money in politics — and then ignore the law. It’s their way.