Court Weakens Campaign Finance Law

The Supreme Court gutted a key provision of a landmark campaign finance law. In a 5 to 4 decision, the court opened a huge loophole in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, better know as the McCain-Feingold law. Justices struck down a section of the law that banned companies and unions from mentioning the names of federal candidates in advertisements run during the 60 days before a general election or the 30 days before a primary. "The challenge we still face is to rein the influence and

The Supreme Court gutted a key provision of a landmark campaign finance law. In a 5 to 4 decision, the court opened a huge loophole in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, better know as the McCain-Feingold law. Justices struck down a section of the law that banned companies and unions from mentioning the names of federal candidates in advertisements run during the 60 days before a general election or the 30 days before a primary. "The challenge we still face is to rein the influence and power that corporations have over the Congress,' Sanders said.

"Despite what anyone may have heard, corporate interests are king. Corporate interests give ten times more money to candidates as labor unions," Sanders said. In the 2006 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, labor gave less than $50 million, while corporate interests gave well over $525 million.

"That disparity may well explain why the needs of working Americans all too often take a back seat to corporate interests in the Congress," Sanders said. "But more importantly that tells us why we need real campaign finance reform so that the needs of all Americans are heard rather than just those who make these kinds of contributions. We need a revival of grass-roots democracy that pressures Washington to represent the needs of the middle class and working families of our country, and not just the wealthy corporate interests."

Justice David H. Souter, writing for the four dissenters, stated the case clearly. "Contributions that underwrite elections are leverage for enormous political influence. Voters know this," he said.

"Campaign finance reform has been a series of reactions to documented threats to electoral integrity obvious to any voter, pose by large sums of money from corporate or union treasuries," Justice Souter added. "After today," he concluded, "the ban on contributions by corporations and unions and the limitation of their corrosive spending when they enter the political arena are open to easy circumvention, and the possibilities for regulating corporate and union campaign money are unclear.

The disappointing but not unexpected ruling was the latest in a string of corporation-friendly decisions by the increasingly conservative court. "As George W. Bush staggers toward the conclusion of his second term, he can point to at least one major and enduring project that has gone according to plan: the transformation of the Supreme Court," Jeffrey Toobin wrote in The New Yorker about the first full term in which Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., served together. "The changes on the Court, and their implications for the nation, have been profound."

To read the opinion and the dissent, click here: http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/06pdf/06-969.pdf