January 21, 2010

The case we've all been waiting for – and dreading – is finally here. Citizens United v. FEC started off as an insignificant case about an anti-Hillary film, but the Roberts Court turned it into a vehicle for radically expanding the influence of corporations.

Here's the bottom line to today's 5-4 ruling: giant corporations can spend as much as they please on elections to advance their agendas. The right-wing Roberts court ruled that Exxon has the same free speech rights as you and me. In other words, Exxon is a person too.

While companies still won't be able to give directly to federal candidates, they'll be able to spend billions on attack ads, robocalls, and direct mail. You know, just like you and I are free to do.

Chief Justice Roberts claimed over and over during his hearing that he would respect precedent, exercise restraint, and issue narrow rulings. Well, we got to see the real John Roberts today. He'll gladly set aside principle and precdent whenever it suits his ideology. He cares about equal rights, you see. It's just that some rights are more equal than others.

So now that the highest court in the land has privileged corporations over people in elections, what can be done? Well, we don't really have a choice. We need to fight the ruling in Congress, fight it in the courts, and fight it in campaigns this fall.

The backlash has already begun. Campaign finance champion Russ Feingold has vowed to "pass legislation restoring as many of the critical restraints on corporate control of our elections as possible." Alan Grayson will pursue legislation in the House. And a constitutional amendment could even be in the works. Stay tuned.

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