Monday, June 25, 2012

States' Rights? – Conservatives on the Supreme Court Say ‘You Ain’t Got No Stinking States Rights’ in AMERICAN TRADITION PARTNERSHIP, INC., fka WESTERN TRADITION PARTNERSHIP, INC., et al. v. STEVE BULLOCK, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF MONTANA, et al.

For Conservatives the Rights of Corporations Have Priority Over All Others

When the Supreme Court decided in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that corporations had almost unlimited rights to spend for political campaigns, despite a long history of regulation of corporate spending in political campaigns, many people predicted the case would unleash a flood of uncontrolled corporate spending.  The supporters of the law, indeed the Court itself pooh-paahed this thought.  How did things turn out?

Now the Court has just decided whether or not the state of Montana, and by implication, all other states may regulate corporate campaign spending in state and local races.  Montana has had a long history of abuse by corporations involving politics and so the state had justifiable reasons for regulating corporate spending.  But the Supreme Court has said no, corporations have the right of free and unlimited spending.

Of note here is Justice Breyer’s eloquent dissent.  In a very short statement he obliterated the legal arguments of the majority, and while he does not say so, it is clear that the majority has ruled not on the basis of law, but on the basis of their own political beliefs, that corporations are people my friend and have the same rights as people.  Here is some of what Justice Breyer said.

Moreover, even if I were to accept Citizens United, this Court’s legal conclusion should not bar the Montana Supreme Court’s finding, made on the record before it, that independent expenditures by corporations did in fact lead to corruption or the appearance of corruption in Montana. Given the history and political landscape in Montana, that court concluded that the State had a compelling interest in limiting independent expenditures by corporations. 2011 MT 328, ¶¶ 36–37, 363 Mont. 220, 235–236, 271 P. 3d 1, 36–37. Thus, Montana’s experience, like considerable experience elsewhere since the Court’s decision in Citizens United, casts grave doubt on the Court’s supposition that independent expenditures do not corrupt or appear to do so.

The decision here was not unexpected.  For the Conservatives on the Court to support Montana’s right to regulate corporations, a right states have had for over a century would have meant the Court would have had to recognize its own folly in the Citizens United case.  No Conservative will ever, ever admit that he or she was wrong.

As for the position that Conservatives have about the supremacy of states' rights, well when that philosophy gets in the way of what they really want, which is for the Federal government to enact rules and regulations and laws which they prefer then states' rights be damned.

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