Crossposted with the Center for American Progress. With Mickey Ehrlich
You may have heard of the recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which has been widely understood to overturn virtually the entire body of law that preceded it and open the floodgates to a massive infusion of corporate cash into the U.S. electoral system. Reacting to the Court's decision in a recent speech, retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor--a Republican appointee--worried about its effect not only on legislative elections, but also on the judiciary. "We can anticipate that labor unions and trial lawyers...might have the financial means to win one particular state judicial election...And maybe tobacco firms and energy companies have enough to win the next one," she said, "and if both sides unleash their campaign monies without restrictions, then I think mutually assured destruction is the most likely outcome."
That day is here now that the court has decided in favor of Citizens United, a nonprofit corporation whose "major objectives include complete U.S. withdrawal from the United Nations." The organization produced "Hillary: The Movie," which they had attempted to release on cable during the primary season. The Federal Election Commission saw a clear violation of McCain-Feingold, which restricted corporations' public communications against a specific candidate within 30 days of an election. The Roberts court overturned two precedents with its decision, proclaiming the case a victory for free political speech.
And yet this story, which is likely to shape the contours of elections at every level of our federal system for the foreseeable future, has received barely a fraction of the attention of the special election in Massachusetts, whose outcome will affect one senate seat for two years. Nonetheless, Scott Brown's Senate victory remained the top story, even after the January 21 decision was handed down. The Supreme Court ruling was relegated to just another in a list of Democratic political misfortunes, on par with John Edwards's dreary paternity saga, according to Terry Moran of ABC News' "This Week." ...
Eric Alterman is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and a Distinguished Professor of English at Brooklyn College. He is also a Nation columnist and a professor of journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. His seventh book, Why We're Liberals: A Handbook for Restoring America's Most Important Ideals, was recently published in paperback. He occasionally blogs at http://www.thenation.com/blogs/altercation and is a regular contributor to The Daily Beast.
Mickey Ehrlich is a freelance writer based in New York.