Supreme Court to Weigh Overturning Campaign Finance Laws Next Week
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on September 9 in a case which some say could result in unchecked corporate election and campaign contributions, increasing the influence of corporate interests on politicians and potentially rolling back progress on health care, the environment, energy and other consumer interests.
The case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, was brought by a right-wing group who intended to air a movie about Hillary Clinton that violated the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. However, the Supreme Court announced on June 29 that it will reconsider judicial precedents governing all checks on campaign financing during oral arguments on September 9, and a decision would likely come near the end of this year.
Consumer advocacy groups fear that if the right-leaning Supreme Court finds in favor of Citizens United, it could overturn virtually all controls on campaign contributions, meaning corporations and unions would be able to give unlimited contributions to favored candidates.
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At issue are decisions on whether to overturn earlier Supreme Court rulings in Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which allows the government to limit contributions from for-profit corporations to political action committees, and McConnell v. FEC, which used the Austin ruling to confirm the constitutionality of the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform law’s limits on electioneering communications.
The consumer advocacy group Public Citizen says a ruling that strikes down those precedents could also invalidate the 1907 Tillman Act prohibiting direct corporate contributions to candidates. Public Citizen has issued a “Pledge to Protest” in an attempt to inspire activists and concerned citizens nationwide to express displeasure with the possibility of an election finance law rollback.
Public Citizen indicated in its call to action that even the threat of corporate and union contributions unfettered by campaign law would have a tangible effect on policy and policymakers. The group says it believes such changes would result in a degradation of a number of pro-consumer causes, such as health care reform, consumer protection, and environmental issues.
Various protest activities have been suggested by activists, including mock street debates, e-mail campaigns, YouTube videos, news editorials and picketing.
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