March 11, 2010
A Letter from Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont
Today we begin the process of undoing the great harm done by a narrow majority on the U.S. Supreme Court in its recent Citizens United v. FEC decision. I just returned from our first Senate Judiciary Committee hearing focused specifically on how, in light of the Court's misguided decision, we can protect our political process from excessive corporate spending.
The Founding Fathers crafted a Constitution and adopted a Bill of Rights to guarantee the fundamental rights of the American people, not corporations. After all, corporations are different from individual citizens. They do not have the same rights, morals, or motivations. They cannot vote. They are legal constructs designed to conduct commerce, nothing more.
The differences between people and corporations are obvious, and they were not lost on the great Chief Justice John Marshall when he wrote in 1819 that, "A corporation is an artificial being ... the mere creature of law, it possesses only those properties which the charter of its creation confers upon it..."
When the conservative activist majority on the Supreme Court ruled that corporations have the same rights as individual citizens to spend as much as they like to influence the political process, they ran roughshod over longstanding precedent and effectively redrafted our well-established campaign finance laws.
At the core of the First Amendment is the right of individual citizens to speak and to be heard in the political process. But if the Supreme Court's recent decision goes unchecked, it would not take much corporate money, relatively speaking, to outspend every candidate for every political party at every level of American government.
When the Citizens United decision was handed down, I said that it was the most partisan decision since Bush v. Gore. As in Bush v. Gore, the conservative activists on the Supreme Court unnecessarily went beyond the proper judicial role to substitute their preferences for the law. But Citizens United is broader and more damaging, because rather than intervening to decide a single election, the Court intervened to affect all future elections.
In the coming weeks and months I will call on you to help enact specific legislation aimed at restoring our democratic process in the wake of the Supreme Court's Citizens Uniteddecision. Until then, please forward this email to your friends and family to continue building awareness about the grave implications of this wrongly decided case and the importance of closing the floodgates of corporate spending in American elections.
Posted by mwblog at March 11, 2010 06:06 PM
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