KEEPING POLITICS SAFE FOR THE RICH
In a burst of judicial activism, the Supreme Court on Tuesday upended the gubernatorial race in Arizona, cutting off matching funds to candidates participating in the state’s public campaign finance system. Suddenly, three candidates, including Gov. Jan Brewer, can no longer receive public funds they had counted on to run against a free-spending wealthy opponent.
The court’s reckless order muscling into the race was terse and did not say whether there were any dissents, though it is hard to imagine there were not. An opinion explaining its reasoning will have to wait until the next term, assuming it takes the case, but by that time the state’s general election will be over and its model campaign finance system substantially demolished.
It seems likely that the Roberts court will use this case to continue its destruction of the laws and systems set up in recent decades to reduce the influence of big money in politics. By the time it is finished, millionaires and corporations will have regained an enormous voice in American politics, at the expense of candidates who have to raise money the old-fashioned way and, ultimately, at the expense of voters.
Arizona’s clean elections program was established by the state’s voters in 1998 after a series of scandals provided clear illustrations of money’s corrupting influence. In particular, the program was prompted by the AzScam scandal of 1991, in which many state legislators were recorded accepting contributions and bribes in exchange for approval of gambling legislation.
The system gives qualifying candidates a lump-sum grant for their primary or general election races in exchange for which the candidates agree not to raise large private contributions. If an opposing candidate is not participating in the system and spends more than the lump-sum grant, the participating candidate qualifies for additional matching funds.
It was those matching funds that produced a challenge from well-financed candidates, backed by the Goldwater Institute and other conservative interests. The candidates argued that the matching funds “chilled” their freedom of speech because they were afraid to spend more than the limit that triggered the funds. A lower court agreed with that pretzel logic, but last month a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit disagreed. It said the speech of the plaintiffs had not been chilled. “The essence of this claim is not that they have been silenced,” the panel said, “but that the speech of their opponents has been enabled.”
In 2008, the Supreme Court eliminated the Millionaires’ Amendment, which let Congressional candidates raise more money when running against candidates who pay for their own campaigns. In January, in the Citizens United case, the court eliminated limits to campaign spending by corporations. Both cases cited the First Amendment rights of the wealthy, and in that depressing sequence, state finance programs would be the court’s next conquest.
If the court pushes on with its chainsaw, cutting down programs that trigger matching funds, it would threaten systems in Connecticut and Maine, and judicial-race financing systems in Wisconsin, North Carolina and elsewhere. It might even shake New York City’s system, which provides higher matching funds when a well-financed opponent does not participate in the system. Candidates with no prospect of matching funds would be reluctant to join a system that limits their spending. Unless the court veers from its determined path, there will be no limit to the power of a big bankbook on politics.
A version of this editorial appeared in print on June 9, 2010, on page A24 of the New York edition.
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/09/opini … ef=opinion
Michigan newspapers push for greater campaign finance disclosure.
http://michiganmessenger.com/38620/news … disclosure
Doesn't the court usually reveal dissenting votes, or at least the yeas and nays?
This country is strangled by private business interests and money....
Then they cry intrusion when you want to use common money for the common good.
And of course cry socialism, liberalism blah blah blah.
What a crock of crapola.
"At the top of this corporate code of ethics is the sacredness of property rights, meaning that large corporations have complete control — outside the grasp of any government — to do what they want with their giant wealth and facilities, wherever and whenever they want.
To the U.S. government, this right pre-empts human rights, environmental rights, etc. Property rights are enshrined in every free-trade agreement the U.S. government signs, so that overseas corporate investments are strictly protected, prohibiting foreign nations from using U.S. corporate facilities for the social needs of their native populations. Although BP is a British corporation, the rules of this code are mutual and global.
Nowadays, the tiniest crack in the foundation of corporate property rights constitutes “communism” — a right wing accusation hurled at Obama after he partially nationalized General Motors and other institutions in response to the economic crisis. And although Obama intruded into the sanctity of property rights when the financial crisis exploded, it was with the general consent of the corporate establishment — who viewed those actions as necessary, short-term evils — meant to save the investments of the rich, while using taxpayer money to rehabilitate the companies before they were eventually handed back to shareholders.
The emergency in the Gulf of Mexico, on the other hand, is viewed by the corporate elite as a lesser crisis, demanding the government not set another precedent that would point to the necessity of public ownership."
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