Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Citizens United' Category

Ex-Justice Stevens Takes Issue With Court on Campaign Finance Law

Retired-justice-Stevens-talks-ethics-Thomas-HMH8L4O-x-largeRetired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens displayed a flare of anger over the court’s campaign finance jurisprudence when he was interviewed recently by reporter Adam Liptak of the New York Times. 

According to Liptak, “He said the court had made a disastrous wrong turn in its recent string of campaign finance rulings. ‘The voter is less important than the man who provides money to the candidate,’ he said. ‘It’s really wrong.’”

The retired justice has written a book entitled “Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution.” One of his proposed amendments would deal with the court’s Citizens United ruling by altering the First Amendment landscape and allowing Congress and states to impose “reasonable limits on the amount of money that candidates for public office, or their supporters, may spend in election campaigns.” Read more

No comments

Controversy and Headlines Continue After McCutcheon Ruling

Since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling on McCutcheon v. FEC this past Wednesday, the decision has continued to make headlines.  On Fox News’s website, a blog discussed efforts by Democrats to tie the billionaire conservative Koch brothers to the result of the decision.  The blog mentioned that after the court’s 5-4 ruling had been announced, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York mused “I don’t think the Koch brothers lack for free speech.”

Dahlia Lithwick of Slate noted that the Citizens United ruling from five years ago had an 80 percent disapproval rate from the general public, and wondered if Chief Justice Roberts “doesn’t believe, or doesn’t care, that money corrupts politics.”  Meanwhile, the Anchorage Daily News asks if the decision will energize voters or do the opposite.  Describing American voters as “already angry at a distant, dysfunctional political system,” the piece calls into question how political leanings might affect reactions to the ruling.

No comments

Wisconsin Communities Join National Call to Overturn Citizens United

Numerous Wisconsin communities, including Gov. Scott Walker’s hometown and other Republican strongholds, have passed referendums opposing Citizens United.

The Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch reports that 41 Wisconsin communities have called for a Constitutional amendment to reverse the Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision and related cases that opened the floodgates to unlimited election spending.

“It puts good people in both parties in a difficult situation. I always thought that businesses did not have a significant voice and that their voices should be heard in the public square,” retiring Republican State Senator Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) said during a recent public forum. “Never, in my wildest dreams, did I think businesses would buy the public square.”

Nationwide, 16 states and over 500 municipalities have passed resolutions urging Congress to amend the constitution to limit money’s influence over politics.

Wednesday’s McCutcheon v. FEC ruling will allow more money into politics, enabling a small number of super-rich donors to give as much as $3.6 million to candidates and parties in a single election cycle.

No comments

JAS: Citizens United Anniversary ‘One to Regret’

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.

No comments

Commentator Challenges Roberts on Court Funding Plaint

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.

No comments

O’Connor Laments ‘Problems Raised by Citizens United’

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.

Read more

No comments

Obama Renews Criticism of Citizens United Ruling Amid Shutdown

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

No comments

Ex-Justice From Montana Sees Looming Threat to Fair Courts

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

No comments

Public Funding of Court Elections Weighed in Kentucky

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.

No comments

JAS to Participate in Panel on Citizens United, Effect on Courts

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.

No comments

Next Page »