Corporate Personhood, G2 Bloc & The 5-4 Citizens United Decision

In Law on January 22, 2010 at 2:18 AM

U.S. Senators, John McCain (R) and Russell Feingold (D), are beside themselves tonight, due to a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling—Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission–that brashly strengthens the role of corporations and unions in their ability to condition election outcomes using money (Click here for McCain-Feingold reactions). In response, all hell is breaking loose in the popular realm of consumer advocacy, voter organizing and civic arousal. So, who are the 5? And, who are the 4? Given that Supreme Court justices are confirmed by the Senate, how have Georgian senators lent their collective judgement and input toward the ruling? Roll call votes are helpful.

Discouragingly, Georgia has enabled such a decision.

In lining up the 5-4 outcome, the so-called “conservative bloc” is composed of Justices Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, Alito and Thomas. According to official roll call votes available through the Senate website, Senators Saxby Chambliss (R) and Johnny Isakson (R) voted into lifetime seats both Chief Justice John Roberts, 78-22 in 2005, and Associate Justice Samuel Alito, 72-25 in 2006. Readers may recall the immovable G2 bloc celebrating the “Big Pharma” victory killing Lord Byron’s Amendment in December – read “Re: Lord Byron’s Amendment on Closing Prescription Drug Loophole.”

Below, access some footnotes on past voting records of Georgia senators having voted for/against current sitting Supreme Court justices:

Consistently, Senators Isakson and Chambliss voted against the confirmation of Justice Sotomayor recently in August 2009. Sotomayor, indeed, dissented on the crux of the Citizens United ruling. More generally, Georgia Senators Fowler, Mattingly, Chambliss and Isakson have collectively generated quite a stink in the particular sense of having confirmed justices in charge of birthing a very corporate-empowering, civic-embittering decision.

As one Atlanta observer has put it, “The scariest Supreme Court decision in my lifetime.”

For some background, the Syllabus on the ruling reads, “As amended by §203 of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), federal law prohibits corporations and unions from using their general treasury funds to make independent expenditures for speech that is an “electioneering communication” or for speech that expressly advocates the election or defeat of a candidate.” That McCain-Feingold Act of 2002 is now under attack as a result of the majority of justices moving to overturn that legislation. According to L.A. Times coverage, a century’s worth of such law in this tradition is now reneged upon — read “Supreme Court OKs unlimited corporate spending on elections.”

As for the pushback, Ralph Nader, the consumer advocate, is calling for a Constitutional Amendment renouncing “Corporate Personhood” – PRS Newswire article on Ralph Nader Statement. U.S. PIRG and The Center for Responsive Politics are criticizing the decision too, encouraging people to dig through their historical campaign funding datasets to critique candidates now and for future races – read CRP’s Capital Eye Blog and PIRG’s Consumer Blog.

President Obama is declaring, “A major victory for Big Oil, Wall Street banks, health-insurance companies and other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”


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