Wednesday, October 29, 2014


After affirming that corporations are people who can spend as much as they want to voice their opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court's decisions in the Citizens United (2010) and McCutcheon (2014) cases continues to assault the integrity of democracy in America. It's also reinforcing the claim that "money is the mother's milk of politics."

Only this time the damaging effects of the two decisions are now creeping into our judicial system.

A team of independent researchers from the Emory University School of Law has released a stunning report - "Skewed Justice" - that documents the role of money in state judicial elections since the Citizens United decision came out in 2010. It's not good. The research documents two things:

1. CAMPAIGN ADS AFFECT JUDICIAL DECISIONS: The study found the more TV ads that aired during a state's supreme court judicial election season, the less likely justices are to vote in favor of criminal defendants. 
2. POLITICAL MONEY IMPACTS CRIMINAL DECISIONS: In states that once banned corporate and union spending on elections - bans that were removed by Citizens United - now have justices who are less likely to decide in favor of criminal defendants after the Citizens United decision.

Put another way, state level jurists - whether they acknowledge the trend or not - are being cowed by the threat of political ads because of the money powerful political and corporate interests can bring to the table. The impact this is having on our civil liberties is slow, but cannot be understated. As the authors of "Skewed Justice" note, "the influence of money has spread from civil cases to criminal cases, in which the fundamental rights of all Americans can be at stake."

Unfortunately, because of the corporate leanings of the Roberts-led U.S. Supreme Court, things aren't much better at the next level.

Writing in the NY Times, Thomas B. Edsall argues that the Roberts-led court has become a powerful legal escort for corporate and moneyed interests - a corporate and elite avatar, of sorts.

Political cartoon after the McCutcheon v. FEC, 2014.

Specifically, the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United (and then in McCutcheon) has effectively created a two-tiered system of justice in America - one for the well off, and one for the poor. By reaffirming that corporations are people, who can spend as much as they want, our nation's highest court has given corporate and financial elite groups a megaphone to make their political case.

By protecting and enhancing the political power of the rich when it comes to campaign finance, and then restricting the political leverage of the poor and minorities in voting rights cases, one thing has become clear: Our Roberts led U.S. Supreme Court is now taking sides, and don't care who sees it.

- Mark

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