Senator Mitch McConnell is looking to influence the Supreme Court when it reconsiders the Citizens’ United because we all know just how well Citizens United leveled the playing field for the oppressed corporations in America.
Yes, Citizens United, which reversed decades of precedent on spending limits for corporations and unions alike. McConnell is reacting to the SCOTUS decision to reconsider the ruling in light of a ruling by the Montana Supreme Court in American Tradition Partnership, et al, v. Bullock, et al.
In short, the Montana Supreme Court’s 5-2 ruling defies Citizens’ United and therefore set the stage for the SCOTUS to reconsider Citizens’ United. The Montana Supreme Court’s Chief Justice, Mike McGrath, wrote the Court’s opinion which makes the following observation about the implications of Citizens’ United:
”The truth is that corporations wield inordinate power in Congress and in state legislatures. It is hard to tell where government ends and corporate America begins; the transition is seamless and overlapping. In my view, Citizens United has turned the First Amendment’s “open marketplace” of ideas into an auction house for Friedmanian15 corporatists. Freedom of speech is now synonymous with freedom to spend. Speech equals money; money equals democracy. This decidedly was not the view of the constitutional founders, who favored the preeminence of individual interests over those of big business. Citizens United, 130″
Certainly, the court’s opinion coincides with reality and the views expressed by critics of Citizens United. In particular, it coincides with decades of precedent, that is before the Roberts Court ruled on Citizens’ United. But hey, why let a little precedent get between unfettered campaign financing by corporations? But the very reasons the court in Montana opposed Citizens United, in terms of state law, are the very reasons McConnell applauds that decision.
The fallout from this decision has included among other things, a war on unions by conservative governors (most notably Scott Walker of Wisconsin) and conservative controlled legislatures with the enthusiasm of a kid let loose in a candy shop.
It’s more than a little challenging to avoid seeing the quid quo pro in the room. With today’s call for a reaffirmation of Citizens’ United, Senator McConnell painted that quid quo pro candy apple red.
Reaffirmation of Citizens’ United combined with the assault on Unions would give the corporatist Republicans a structural financial advantage over Americans who work for a living.
Does anyone remember the GOP’s reaction to the President’s comments on Citizens United during his 2010 SOTU Address? There was this comment by Senator Orrin Hatch, as reported by The Salt Lake Tribune at the time:
“Taking on the Supreme Court like he did, I thought it was kind of rude,” said Hatch, a Utah Republican and former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “It’s one thing to say that he differed with the court but another thing to demagogue the issue while the court is sitting there out of respect for his position.”
Or this comment by Senator John Cornyn:
”I don’t think the president should have done what he did in trying to call out the Supreme Court for doing its job,” Cornyn said. “They are the final word on the meaning of the United States Constitution, even when we don’t like the outcome.”
Of course, Republican Presidents never did anything like that. Nope. Instead of making a speech, the Bush administration and conservatives used other means to convey their displeasure to judges. One notable example were the threatening letters Judge Reggie Walton received after sentencing Scooter Libby.
Then there is this comment made by Senator Cornyn in 2005:
“It causes a lot of people, including me, great distress to see judges use the authority that they have been given to make raw political or ideological decisions,” he said. Sometimes, he said, “the Supreme Court has taken on this role as a policymaker rather than an enforcer of political decisions made by elected representatives of the people.”
Cornyn continued: “I don’t know if there is a cause-and-effect connection, but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country. . . . And I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters, on some occasions, where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in, engage in violence. Certainly without any justification, but a concern that I have.”
More recently, Senator McConnell suggested that the President’s comments about judicial activism in reference to the Supreme Court’s anticipated ruling on Health care were an attempt to intimidate the Court. Here is what the President said:
I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress,
And I’d just remind conservative commentators that for years what we’ve heard is the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint, that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law. Well, this is a good example. And I’m pretty confident that this court will recognize that and not take that step.
Compare what the president said with Senator Cornyn’s comments above. Which, if any of these comments sounds intimidating to you?
Meanwhile, the good Senator from Kentucky joined with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in its Amicus brief seeking to uphold Citizens’ United.
While this is preferable to nodding and winking about death threats, it is an attempt by McConnell, as the Minority to leader, to influence the SCOTUS’ ruling. If it reaffirms Citizens United, by McConnell logic, as the final arbitrator of the law, the SCOTUS has spoken. Conversely, if he SCOTUS overturns Citizens’ United, he will react as he said he would if the Court rule that the Affordable Health Care Act is constitutional. According to Bloomberg.com :
“But McConnell doesn’t worry that a court decision to uphold the mandate will make the law more popular or help the Democrats. Most of the arguments Republicans made before the vote on the law concerned its unwisdom rather than its unconstitutionality, and no court decision can undermine those arguments, he says. If the court keeps the law and McConnell becomes Senate majority leader, he vows that “the first item up would be to try to repeal Obamacare.”
There’s nothing intimidating about that at all.
Image from Think Progress
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