Snowe, McCain Pan Supreme Court Decision
Updated below with comments from Sen. McCain
Those Democrats who hope to fight back against a Supreme Court decision that allows unlimited corporate and union money to flood into federal campaigns have an ally in Sen. Olympia Snowe, a Maine Republican.
"That's regrettable, obviously, from where I stand and the positions I've taken and argued here," Snowe told HuffPost Thursday to describe her reaction to the decision.
"It's very disappointing, frankly," she said. Other prominent members of her party, including Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, have endorsed the decision.
The Thursday morning decision represents a rare moment of judicial activism from the conservative Supreme Court, which upends a century of law and replaces the current regime of campaign finance regulations with the opinions of five Supreme Court Justices. Four justices opposed the decision, with John Paul Stevens doing so in bitter terms, calling the court's activism a "dramatic break" from precedent, highlighted here by Mother Jones.
"Although they make enormous contributions to our society, corporations are not actually members of it. They cannot vote or run for office. Because they may be managed and controlled by nonresidents, their interests may conflict in fundamental respects with the interests of eligible voters," writes Stevens. "The financial resources, legal structure, and instrumental orientation of corporations raise legitimate concerns about their role in the electoral process. Our lawmakers have a compelling constitutional basis, if not also a democratic duty, to take measures designed to guard against the potentially deleterious effects of corporate spending in local and national races."
Stevens traces the court's longtime support of restrictions on corporate giving:
"The majority's approach to corporate electioneering marks a dramatic break from our past. Congress has placed special limitations on campaign spending by corporations ever since the passage of the Tillman Act in 1907... We have unanimously concluded [in 1982] that this 'reflects a permissible assessment of the dangers posed by those entities to the electoral process'... and have accepted the 'legislative judgment that the special characteristics of the corporate structure require particularly careful regulation... The Court today rejects a century of history when it treats the distinction between corporate and individual campaign spending as an invidious novelty born' in a 1990 opinion."
Snowe said that she would take a look at the decision. "I want to review their decision and the basis on which they made [it]," she said.
Leading Democrats, including Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), have pledged legislation to limit the impact of the decision.
UPDATE: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), whose campaign finance legislation (co-sponsored by Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisc.) was directly impacted by today's ruling, told a small group of reporters on Thursday, "I was disappointed but [it was] not unexpected. I went over to watch the arguments. You’re going to see a dramatic increase in corporate and union independent expenditures but also preserve the ban on soft money. It’s 116 pages. I haven’t had a chance to analyze it." Asked if he would favor public financing of political campaigns as a response to the ruling, McCain said, "I've never favored public financing."