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Archive for the 'Citizens United' Category

‘Citizens United’ at 5: Protests, Stevens’s Criticism, JAS Cited

citizens-unitedA flurry of events around the fifth anniversary of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission included protestors disrupting the Supreme Court’s session and retired Justice John Paul Stevens, at 94, publicly voicing his continuing dissent.

“There is a greater public feeling that money is more important than votes, which I think is quite wrong,” Justice Stevens said at a Florida event, according to The Gainesville Sun.  In Washington, about half a dozen demonstrators rose individually during a session of the high court to yell such statements as  “Money is not speech” and “One person, one vote,” the Washington Post reported.

Justice at Stake said on Wednesday that the 2010 ruling has cast a long shadow over elected state courts (see Gavel Grab). A BillMoyers.com report quoted JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg as saying earlier:

“Judicial elections have become a playground for big money and hardball politics … Citizens United poured gasoline on this fire, and in turn, unleashed record amounts of spending by outside groups … Our judges are trapped in a crucible. They are in a system they did not sign up for. They are raising millions from people who have business before the courts.”

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JAS: Citizens United Casts a Long Shadow Over State Courts

JAS-LogoThe Supreme Court’s landmark campaign finance decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission continues to cast a shadow over elected state courts, Justice at Stake said on Wednesday, the fifth anniversary of the ruling. Here is the statement of JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg:

“Five years ago, the Supreme Court in Citizens United permitted unlimited outside spending on elections. Many Americans understand the impact of Citizens United on executive and legislative branch politics, but its impact on state judiciaries is enormous and often overlooked.

“Judges in 39 states face elections, and 85 percent of all state judges are elected. With state courts a forum for ruling on many of the most contentious issues in our nation, whether health care law, abortion rights, marriage equality or environmental degradation, elected judges are being subjected to torrents of campaign spending by partisan interests who want to influence these decisions that have a major impact on our lives. Read more

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Pariente, Jefferson: ‘Alarmed’ by Citizens United Fallout

Jefferson_Justice_Wallace_2008_pariente0807The legacy of Citizens United for elected state courts is damaging, former Texas Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson and Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente write in a Dallas Morning News op-ed.

“Although we were appointed to our states’ high courts by governors of opposing parties, we share a bipartisan concern: On the fifth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission decision, we are alarmed about the surge in interest group spending to influence state judicial elections. This has helped fuel a perception that justice is for sale, which undermines the public’s trust in impartial courts,” they assert.

Justice Jefferson was appointed initially by a Republican governor and Justice Pariente by a Democratic governor. Each has also run for the bench in elections. Their op-ed discusses specific examples of interest group spending to sway judicial elections and overall trends, and it concludes: Read more

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Report: Obama May Push to Curb ‘Secret Money’ in Politics

President Obama may announce in his State of the Union address on Tuesday a “major push to rein in the flood of secret money capturing our democracy,” the Daily Beast reported.

On the eve of the fifth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark campaign finance ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, Obama “may announce executive action … that would require businesses contracting with the government to disclose political contributions after contracts have been awarded,” the Daily Beast said. Read more

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Discussion: Money Obstructing Democracy in Wake of Citizens United

Bert podium

Bert Brandenburg

Every branch of government in every state has seen consequences in the five years since the Citizens United decision was handed down. 

Eight organizations presented research at today’s event – Five Years After Citizens United: What are the Costs for Democracy? Bert Brandenburg, Executive Director of Justice at Stake, explained that courts are being forced to bend to political pressure, turning them into “politicians in black robes.” He also noted that the upcoming Williams-Yulee v. The Florida Bar case will be an important hallmark, as the Supreme Court must decide if judges are permitted to directly solicit donations to finance their campaigns.

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Study: Judicial Decision-Making Affected by 'Soft-on-Crime' Ads

From Ad in Illinois Court Campaign

From Ad in Past Illinois Court Campaign

A new study by Emory Law School researchers and the American Constitution Society finds evidence that TV ads attacking state supreme court candidates for being “soft on crime” make judges less likely to side with criminal defendants, the New York Times reported.

The Times article noted regarding any individual justice’s response, “Since state supreme courts are multi-judge panels, it’s not clear how often the changes in their voting behavior would alter the overall ruling in specific cases.” Here are the two principal findings from the study:

  • “The more TV ads aired during state supreme court judicial elections in a state, the less likely justices are to vote in favor of criminal defendants. As the number of airings increases, the marginal effect of an increase in TV ads grows. In a state with 10,000 ads, a doubling of airings is associated on average with an 8 percent increase in justices’ voting against a criminal defendant’s appeal. Read more
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Veteran Analyst Ornstein Decries 'Auctioning of the Judicial System'

citizens-unitedTracing deep-pocketed special interest and partisan spending in state supreme court elections this year, veteran political analyst Norm Ornstein condemns what he labels dramatic changes to judicial elections in the post-Citizens United era.

At The Atlantic, Ornstein’s commentary has the headline, “Courting Corruption: The Auctioning of the Judicial System,” and a sub-headline, “Don’t believe the Citizens United pollyannas. Watching money flooding into elections for judges’ seat shows how dangerous unregulated campaigns can be.”

Ornstein focuses on an explosion of spending — especially from outside groups — in the North Carolina Supreme Court primary (see Gavel Grab) and Tennessee Supreme Court retention election (see Gavel Grab) in building an argument that  the “worst of the new world of campaign finance post-Citizens United” is emerging in judicial elections.

Ornstein writes that “the concerted efforts by activist James Bopp to go state by state and remove all restrictions on how judicial elections are run—making them just like political campaigns—combined with the effective elimination of boundaries on funding and the blockage of disclosure, have dramatically changed judicial elections.” Read more

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Senate Closer to Debating Measure to Reverse 'Citizens United'

The Senate voted on Monday to proceed to debate a proposed constitutional amendment that would reverse the Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United ruling. A Republican filibuster is expected soon, and the proposal is not likely to pass the Senate this session, Huffington Post reported.

While the proposal has almost universal support of Democrats and opposition from Republicans, a majority of Americans from both parties “support the rationale offered by amendment proponents as a reason to amend the Constitution,” according to a separate Huffington Post article. Read more

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Retired Judge Laments 'Worst Government That Money Can Buy'

jim-nelsonThe problem of money in politics has grown so big that it seems to be “on steroids” now, laments retired Montana Supreme Court Justice James Nelson in an outspoken Helena Independent Record op-ed.

Justice Nelson takes direct aim at a line of U.S. Supreme Court cases beginning with Citizens United, saying the problem of big money overwhelming actual voters has become so great that what once was unimaginable is almost possible.

“So, what’s next?” he writes. “Will corporations and special interest PACs eventually get the right to actually vote? Why not? They’re already funding the worst government that money can buy.” Read more

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Campaign Finance Measures Advance in California, Massachusetts

campaign_financeCalifornia Gov. Jerry Brown said he will allow citizens to vote this fall on an advisory measure asking Congress to revise the U.S. Constitution and overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.

Citizens United was “wrongly decided and grossly underestimated the corrupting influence of unchecked money on our democratic institutions,” the governor said in a message to legislators, according to the Los Angeles Times. However, he said the advisory measure would have no legal effect and he would not sign it.

In Massachusetts, meanwhile, the state House has passed legislation to require greater public disclosure by super PACs, and the Senate will consider it. Read more

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