Should executives from Pepsi-Cola, Chevron and Pfizer be able to drop millions of company bucks into the campaign coffers of American political candidates whenever they feel like it?
Yes. At least, that’s how the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in its recent misguided 5-4 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The decision well may be one of the most profound, and most dangerous, examples of judicial overreach in American history. And it’s appalling to think that Sacramento’s own Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority and actually had the gall to justify this awful ruling in the name of the First Amendment.
The decision strikes down a century of federal laws—and those of 22 states—barring direct corporate expenditures on politicians’ campaigns. It gives corporations the same rights as individuals to spend freely on political advertising.
That includes foreign corporations with U.S. subsidiaries. The Saudi Arabian government, for example, which owns Houston’s Saudi Refining, could have as much influence on American elections as they’re willing to spend.
Damon Circosta of the Center for Voter Education put it aptly: The decision hands “an amplifier to the very folks who already have a megaphone.”
Let’s hope this ruling backfires, due to its extreme overreaching, and actually serves to spark a new movement for serious campaign-finance reform and, ultimately, public campaign financing.