The Commonwealth Blog

Free Speech for Organizations, or Purchasing Congress? Big Money in Big Campaigns

Oct 6, 2010 @ 12:27 PM by Anonymous with [0] comments
By Camille Koué

Yesterday, the first Monday in October, the Supreme Court started a new session. The court will be hearing an array of fascinating and controversial cases, and everyone will be interested to see how the most female Supreme Court of all time will vote on such heavy matters at lethal injection and lifetime prison sentences for juveniles.

But before such matters could even be considered, a letter was delivered to the United States Congress on Monday asking that one of the court's most controversial rulings of this year, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, be overturned with an amendment to the constitution.

The letter was submitted to Congress by FreeSpeechForPeople.org, a campaign devoted to the cause of reversing the ruling via a constitutional amendment.

The Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission 5-4 ruling permits corporations and unions to promote and finance the campaigns of electoral candidates up until election day. The ruling overturned longstanding campaign finance rules and regulations, and it elicited outrage in many and applause from many others, dividing the country largely along party lines.

The idea of “corporate personhood” was protested across the country by liberal think tanks and politicians. President Obama called the ruling “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.”

Conservative think tanks and politicians applauded the court for overturning what they saw as years of unconstitutional obstruction to free speech. Mitch McConnell, Senate minority leader at the time, stated, “For too long, some in this country have been deprived of full participation in the political process. With today's monumental decision, the Supreme Court took an important step in the direction of restoring the First Amendment rights of these groups...”

This was the first Supreme Court case heard by Justice Sonia Sotomayer and the first Supreme Court case argued by then-solicitor general and now Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan. So the issues of this ruling touch even the newest on the court.

On Monday, October 11 The Commonwealth Club will have its own debate on this topic. The superb panel of Bob Edgar, president and CEO of Common Cause, Lawrence McQuillan, director of business and economic studies at the Pacific Research Institute, and constitutional law expert Jesse Choper, Earl Warren Professor of Public Law at UC Berkeley, will take on the question of the constitutionality of the recent ruling and discuss what is really electing our political leaders, money or merit?