Obama Blasts Court Over Campaign Financing

Friday, 22 Jan 2010 01:08 PM

By David Patten

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After a year of bashing greedy Wall Street firms, evil insurance companies, polluting energy firms, and profligate auto executives, President Obama celebrated his first anniversary in office by lambasting a Supreme Court ruling empowering those same firms to fight his big-government agenda.

The Supreme Court's decision to nix McCain-Feingold campaign-finance restrictions would lead to a "stampede of special-interest money in our politics," Obama said.

That stampede presumably could include tallies such as the $453 million Obama raised during his presidential campaign. (Most of that rolled in after he eschewed the public-campaign financing system he had promised earlier in the campaign to embrace.)

President Obama derided the January ruling as a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, and health-insurance companies "that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans."

Those are the same industries Obama targeted when they declined to kowtow to his "hope and change" agenda. Coincidence?

"I think this is ideological for the president," Brian Darling of the Heritage Foundation told Newsmax. "I think he and the left are intent on taking away the voice of corporate America.

"They feel like, if they can take away the voice of corporate America, it's much more easy to regulate, and to tax them out of existence," said Darling, who is the foundation's Senate relations director. "They don't like allowing a corporate voice during these elections. Left-leaning politicians are naturally more hostile to business interests.

"And they're fearful these business interests will take it out on them when they're deciding to run ads," Darling said.

One of the big winners in the ruling: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a prime target of the administration's wrath during the battle over healthcare. When the chamber ran ads opposing Obamacare, presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett suggested it really didn't represent the business community anymore.

"It’s happening with the deliberate hope and intention to weaken the influence of this institute and the business community in town,” R. Bruce Josten, executive vice president for government affairs at the chamber, told Politico in October. “When they launch a frontal assault against free enterprise and the Chamber of Commerce, I can guarantee it is not lost on any trade association executives or staff in this town.”

Before the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, corporations and unions could not pay directly for ads either supporting or criticizing a specific candidate.

They could produce and air commercials that, ostensibly at least, promoted issues rather than candidates. And companies have been able to donate to political action committees to support specific candidates.

Now, other than routine reporting of expenditures, there will be few restrictions on corporations producing ads supporting their favorite candidates. Corporations still are restricted when it comes to donating cash directly to campaigns.

The court's vote fell along straight conservative/liberal lines. Justice Anthony Kennedy, so often the swing vote on the high court, wrote: “The censorship we now confront is vast in its reach.”

Although unions will be equally free to spend money to support their preferred slate of candidates, most pundits see it as a clear plus for the GOP — if only because corporations have much deeper pockets than unions. Private-sector union membership fell 10 percent last year, which also could limit them.

Republicans lauded the decision as a protection of free speech. Author and conservative direct marketing icon Richard Viguerie, for example, said it "means that the anti-incumbent furor that has been growing is partly released from the shackles created by 'incumbent protection' election-and-campaign finance laws."

The burgeoning grass-roots conservative movement comes out a winner, too.
"Many of our tea party members are business owners," Everett Wilkinson, a Tea Party Patriots leader, told Newsmax. "This will let them get involved easier in the process. . . [it will be] much easier to operate."

After the decision, Obama promised to work with Congress to come up with a "forceful response" to the Supreme Court. Darling called that "an empty threat," considering the fact that the president hasn't been able to get Congress to agree on much of anything lately.

Opponents decried the ruling as judicial activism. But Citizens United President David Bossie dismissed those arguments in a Washington Times op-ed whose title served as a poignant reminder of a proviso McCain-Feingold somehow had overlooked.

It read: "Congress shall make no law. . ."

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