Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Supreme Corporations


By Gene Nichol

I am Texan by birth and Southern by acculturation. My family would attest I'm not beyond relating stories that mysteriously expand upon each re-telling. Given my trade, I read much of Madison, Hamilton, Story and Marshall. But, truth told, I prefer Mark Twain, Will Rogers, Woody Guthrie and Huey Long. I do not find hyperbole completely uncongenial.

That conceded, I find no words to convey adequate outrage over Friday's U.S. Supreme Court decision, in the Citizens United case, to radically untether corporate spending in our electoral politics. It is bizarrely anti-democratic. It overtly robs the American people of any conceivable tool to prevent a complete slide into mocking, cynical, purchased, cash-register politics. It marks the court as mere shill for the dominance of economic privilege. Unmolested, it will lead to both democratic and constitutional crises. It is a ruling that will come to reside, deservedly, in infamy.
By a slim majority, the court reached beyond the factual dispute before it to reshape the way elections are conducted. Justice Anthony Kennedy's stunning opinion overruled two recent, major precedents - one from 1990 and one from 2003. Giving the back of the hand to statutes like the Tillman Act that have placed limits on campaign spending by business entities for over a century, the justices determined corporations must be treated like human beings in the political sphere.