Taughannock Falls

Taughannock Falls
from: althouse.blogspot.com

Monday, August 16, 2010

Supreme Court

Here's a news flash from the Supreme Court blog:

“Birther” lawyer rebuffed
$20,000 penalty stands

The Supreme Court on Monday put an end to a running battle between a California lawyer — a prominent figure in the movement to challenge the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s Presidency — and a federal judge in Georgia. The full Court refused, without comment, to block a $20,000 penalty that District Judge Clay D. Land of Columbus, Ga., had imposed last October on the attorney, Orly Taitz, of Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. Earlier this month, Judge Land’s Court put a lien on all of Taitz’s real property until the penalty is paid.

The denial of Taitz’s stay application (Taitz v. McDonald, 10A56), was by the Court after the issue had been referred by Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. In July, Justice Clarence Thomas similarly denied the application; it was then refiled with Alito. Now that the full Court has acted, Taitz is blocked from making the same plea to another Justice.

After Justice Thomas' denial, this outcome was predictable. Yet I must confess that I was holding my breath, unsure if the right-wing majority on the court still had any grip on reality. The loonies behind Taitz, who simply refuse to believe the well-documented fact that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, haven't managed to gain full acceptance in the conservative establishment. This is a relief. Yet we have already seen that Justices like Alito and Thomas are willing to abandon precedent and constitutional principles in order to further the radical agenda of big money interests. Through advertising, lobbyists, and the means to pursue expensive legal battles, corporations have always had tremendous power to advance their political agendas. Yet our legal system has for decades viewed that power with some mistrust. In cases where corporate power and money were used to influence the political process, there was an expectation that the people had the right to put some limits on corporate control over elections and lawmaking. At the least, it was considered that the public interest was best served when the spending of corporate money in politics was fully disclosed and not unlimited. Especially after the advent of expensive television advertising, the notion that it was unfair to allow big-money interests to easily "buy" elections was consistently upheld. That has all changed with the recent decision in Citizens United v. F.E.C. As Lyle Denniston observes:
The fact is that the decades-old image of American corporations as a destabilizing and perhaps even corrupting influence in politics has now been thoroughly re-examined by the Supreme Court, and the corporate “person” emerges from the process with — in the eyes of the majority — a burnished image of good citizen. There is a deep chasm of perception, between Thursday’s majority and the dissenters, about the nature of the corporate personality.

Ordinary people have few viable options in standing up to corporate interests. If someone willing to champion the people's interests must face unlimited and uncontrolled corporate spending, they will have little chance of being heard over the big-money noise machine. The only folks left in the arena to defend the people's interests will be liberals with great personal wealth. While I appreciate the contributions of Ted Kennedy and John Kerry, we cannot hope to find an adequate supply of well-meaning aristocrats willing to get their hands dirty in politics.

The DISCLOSE Act will come up soon for another attempt at a vote in the Senate. It is a fairly modest attempt to counter some of the most pernicious effects of the Citizens United ruling. In particular, the Act would require that large corporate political advertisers be clearly identified as sponsors of their ads. I hope this legislation passes, yet I fear that even if it does, corporations will figure out clever ways to evade its intent.

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