Disapointing SCOTUS Ruling on Campaign Finance Reform (Or Lack Thereof)

In the narrowly divided Citizens United v FEC decision announced this morning, the Supreme Court broke with a century of precedent and ruled to lift limits on corporate-funded political communications and electioneering expenditures. Justice Kennedy's opinion on behalf of the narrow 5-person majority ruled that a corporation's general treasury funds may be spent on electioneering communications and independent expenditures--effectively rejecting the historical distinction between the First Amendment's application to corporations and individuals. In short, the Court found that the First Amendment applies equally to corporations and individuals, and thus forbids the government from limiting political speech based on the identity of the speaker (the "speaker" being either an individual or corporation).

But thank goodness for Justice Stevens. At age 90, Stevens authored a 90 page dissent in which he takes issue with the majority's equal treatment of individuals and corporations in the "political sphere," and warns against the potentially harmful effects of corporate spending in local and national races. Stevens argues, and I couldn't agree more, that this decision "threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions around the nation."

President Obama issued a thoughtful response to the decision this afternoon, in which he warned against its dangerous practical effects and called upon Congress to prepare an immediate legislative response. President Obama argued that this decision threatens the influence of everyday Americans whose voices will be "drowned out" by "big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington." As Simon said this afternoon on live TV, "this ruling takes the power away from people and gives it to privilege."

Some links worth the read:

Citizens United Round Up on SCOTUS Blog: The ever-reliable and always-insightful aggregation of all things SCOTUS offers suggested readings and a live feed from this morning's announcement.

Corporate takeover: The Supreme Court's reckless conservative activism by EJ Dionne: Short, sweet, and sharp. Well said, EJ. Thanks for this.

The Senator from Exxon-Mobile? by Senator Bob Kerrey on Huffington Post: Former-Senator Kerrey calls on Congress to enact real reform now... or this title line will no longer be in-jest.

Twitter SCOTUS Feed: Check out what the rest of us are saying in 140 characters or less.