Archive for the 'Citizens United' Category
On Tuesday’s fourth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United campaign finance ruling, JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg said the decision had “poured gasoline on the already burning fire of judicial election spending, further eroding public confidence in our courts.”
“In the first full election cycle since Citizens United, independent spending by special interest groups in judicial races surged by more than 50 percent over the previous record,” he said in a statement. “The deluge of special interest and political campaign cash signals a race to the bottom in judicial elections, and they are becoming barely distinguishable from mudslinging political contests for executive or legislative offices.
“Given Citizens United and subsequent court rulings, we’re on our way to creating a Wild West for elections generally. In judicial elections, this trend is of paramount concern because a relatively modest amount of money can tip the scales of justice.”
Justice at Stake called the anniversary one to regret. Its statement advocated an array of reforms in the wake of Citizens United.
U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. wrote recently, in a year-round report on the state of the federal judiciary, about threats to public safety and to users of the courts if adequate federal funding is not restored (see Gavel Grab).
Now a Washington Post opinion writer, Dana Milbank, has suggested that Chief Justice Roberts ought to take a look in the mirror. Especially with the high court’s Citizens United ruling, Milbank asserts, conservative justices have removed campaign finance limits in ways that have increased the clout of deep-pocketed political spenders who back lawmakers who in turn want to shrink the government, and the reach of the courts.
“Roberts may see his fellow jurists as victims of a Dickensian system,” Milbank writes. “But they are the authors of this Christmas carol.”
Citizens United was decided almost four years ago, on Jan. 21, 2010. The impact of Citizens United on judicial elections was addressed recently in “New Politics of Judicial Elections 2011-12,” co-authored by Justice at Stake.
Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor discussed in remarks on Wednesday her deep concerns over the challenges caused by Citizens United, the court’s blockbuster campaign finance ruling in 2010.
“Citizens United produced a decision that, over the years, is going to cause lots of issues for the public to resolve,’’ she told an audience at Roger Williams University School of Law in Rhode Island, according to the Associated Press.
‘‘I think it may have caused more problems than answers given,’’ she said. ‘‘I don’t know what we’re going to do with the problems raised by Citizens United.’’ Justice O’Connor retired well before the court’s 2010 ruling, which struck down key restrictions and allowed unlimited independent spending by unions and corporations to influence the election of federal candidates.
President Obama, in the midst of a partial government shutdown, has repeated his criticism of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. It “contributed to some of the problems we’re having in Washington right now,” in his opinion, he said.
Huffington Post reported the following remarks by the president about the blockbuster ruling that cleared the way for unlimited independent spending by corporations and unions to influence the election of federal candidates:
“I continue to believe that Citizens United contributed to some of the problems we’re having in Washington right now.”
“You have some ideological extremist who has a big bankroll, and they can entirely skew our politics. And there are a whole bunch of members of Congress right now who privately will tell you, ‘I know our Read more
The impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling will come to “dominate judicial elections” and destroy fair and impartial courts if citizens and leaders are not vigilant, retired Montana Supreme Court Justice James C. Nelson writes in a Missoulian commentary.
Justice Nelson bases much of his column on a recent report issued by the American Constitution Society entitled “Justice at Risk.” It documented a correlation between donations by business groups to judicial campaigns and state supreme court justices voting in favor of business interests (see Gavel Grab).
“Montanans demand a judicial system that is grounded in two bedrock principles – impartiality and independence. Those principles are threatened when corporate and special-interest money drive judicial elections. The proof is found in an objective, non-partisan report: ‘Justice at Risk: An Empirical Analysis of Campaign Contributions and Judicial Decisions,’” he writes.
Moreover, Justice Nelson says the report points to “significant impact on judicial impartiality” from a flood of expenditures following Citizens United. In the opinion, a 5-4 majority lifted key restraints on political spending by corporations and unions. Read more
For the third consecutive year, Kentucky lawmakers are considering a bill for public financing of judicial elections. On Tuesday, a House committee approved a bill permitting for optional public financing of state Supreme Court campaigns.
Common Cause of Kentucky Chair Richard Beliles told legislators that the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling “opened the door to a floodgate of money” for elections and fair and impartial courts may be harmed as a result, according to a Lexington Herald-Leader report.
Justice at Stake will participate on Monday, Feb. 11, in a panel discussion about the effect of Citizens United on state judicial elections.
Bert Brandenburg, JAS executive director, will be one of four panelists at the forum sponsored by the American Constitution Society’s chapter of the University of Toledo College of Law and the Federalist Society. The event will be held at the law school and is open to the public.
Also participating on the panel will be Bradley Smith, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission; Jeff Gamso, a criminal defense attorney with Gamso, Helmick and Hoolahan and former legal director of the Ohio ACLU; and Rick Kerger, a founder of the law firm now known as Kerger & Hartman LLC.
For recent Gavel Grab posts related to Citizens United, click here.
Last summer, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal ban on direct corporate contributions to federal candidates. Now, the Justice Department is asking the Supreme Court to let that ruling stand.
In June, the Fourth Circuit reversed Judge James Cacheris of Virginia’s ruling that, in the wake of Citizens United, had struck down the century-old ban (see Gavel Grab). Judge Cacheris said that under Citizens United, corporations and individuals have the same rights to give money to campaigns.
If upheld, Judge Cacheris’ ruling could have major implications for judicial elections, although the case at hand deals with corporate contributions to federal candidates. A broad ruling that the First Amendment prohibits any ban on direct corporate contributions to political candidates could trickle down to judicial elections at the state level.
Montana’s Initiative 166 related to campaign finance was overwhelmingly passed with 75% of the vote on Tuesday. Initiative 166 calls for the Montana congressional delegation to propose a constitutional amendment for overturning the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United Decision, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Initiative 166 came five months after the high court “threw out” Montana’s 1912 anti-corruption law that prohibited independent expenditures by corporations on state elections (see Gavel Grab).
The Citizens United decision equates political expenditures to political speech. According to the article, a proposed constitutional amendment would establish that “corporations are not human beings with constitutional rights.” Read more
The 2012 presidential election is the first to be held since the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial ruling in Citizens United. Since that decision in 2010, “an unprecedented influx of money has corrupted the electoral process” in thousands of races across the country, says Harvey Rosenfield in a Huffington Post blog.
Citizens United, along with a subsequent decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in Speechnow.org v. FEC, is widely blamed for many corrosive developments in electoral politics, including the rise of super PACs.
Rosenfield states that five “dangerous trends” have manifested in election politics since Citizens United. One of these trends is the high level of spending by outside groups. Nearly $2 billion has been raised and spent this presidential election, and almost half of that amount was raised by super PACs, Rosenfield says.
Another problem is business interests spending money on “issue advertising.” Rosenfield notes that this allows groups or super PACs to sponsor advertisements that discuss causes, and don’t explicitly urge a specific vote on a candidate. Read more