In their book, The Growth of the American Republic, Samuel Eliot Morison and Henry Steele Commager, in examining the Gilded Age of late 19th C. America wrote:
“The nation was fabulously rich but its wealth was gravitating rapidly into the hands of a small portion of the population, and the power of wealth threatened to undermine the political integrity of the Republic.”
This movement of the nation’s wealth has once again been taken place during the past 20-25 years in America, with an ever smaller percentage of the population owning an ever growing percentage of the nation’s assets. Now with the decision in the Citizens United case, I fear we will see an accelerating move in this change toward an oligarchic republic where the richest have the loudest voices and the most votes.
That fear of a tiny minority controlling political discourse had provided the reasoning for a century’s worth of Congressional actions beginning with the Tillman Act of 1907 and subsequent Supreme Court decisions. A century’s worth of cases and precedent has now been overturned by the faction on the Court that in the past has been the most vocal in their supposed support of precedent and Constitutional originalism. Justice Antonin Scalia having been one of the most vocal proponents of relying on previous decisions, what is known as stare decisis from the Latin with a meaning of “Maintain what has been decided and do not alter that which has been established”, and also one who has often loudly denigrated those who speak of a “living Constitution”. This decision and Scalia’s concurrence continue his record of using ‘bad’ history and personal attacks against those justices who disagree with his interpretations of judicial reality.
In March of last year, the SCOTUS listened to the initial arguments in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission but for some reason, a majority of the justices decided to ask for re-argument on a broader scale than the plaintiffs had requested in the initial filing as it was presented to the Court. This is an obvious refutation of Justice Scalia’s claim:
JUSTICE SCALIA: I don’t understand what you are saying. I mean, we are not a self — self-starting institution here. We only disapprove of something when somebody asks us to.
quote from transcript
Not too surprising when one looks at Scalia’s record of throwing lots of words around with his own interpretations of history and his rather flexible personal definition of ‘originalism’. The original plaintiff in the case had not asked for the broad re-interpretation of law and prior decisions that the SCOTUS ruled on. It was the decision of the Court itself to expand this case – unlike Scalia’s claim regarding “self-starting institution”
My original posting as to the effect of this decision on American democracy is further amplified by the unanswered questions that guaranteeing personal rights to corporations will subsequently bring forth.
Number one has to be the evident belief of five Supreme Court Justices that money equals free speech, the more you have, the more you can ‘speak’ and the wider your audience.
Although much of the media has included labour unions, which have been regulated along with corporations in regards to political speech in the past, as also benefiting from the ruling, there was no explicit inclusory statement on the status of labour unions under this ruling. The court did not specifically state that unions would also be covered.
No statement was made as to whether foreign entities, nations or corporations, with legally incorporated companies in America, would also be covered. Think about it – under this decision, China, Saudi Arabia or any other nation which controls an American corporation may now inject as much money as they wish into American political campaigns, either directly or indirectly by creating and broadcasting “issue advertising” or by paying for robocall campaigns and thru the creation of astroturf groups.
The inclusion of corporations into the protections of the First Amendment may also open up a Pandora’s Box of new lawsuits asking for further rights being granted to corporate entities. Is a corporation covered under the Second Amendment? What about interstate commerce? – if a human can travel freely around the country and work in all of the states, why can’t corporations do the same? This is directly relevant to the present question about health care insurance. It may be argued that state regulations of corporations is precluded unless the regulations also apply to all adult, mentally-competent and breathing individuals.
for further reading, here is SCOTUS Wiki with all of the filings, transcripts and decision