The spree of big-money political campaigning — and the corruption that comes with it — seemed guaranteed to worsen Thursday when a federal judge in Virginia ruled that corporations are now free to make direct donations to federal candidates.
District Court Judge James Cacheris claimed his decision was consistent with the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case. But his interpretation of corporate free speech rights goes much further — and strains all credibility. The Supreme Court specifically said that the Citizens United ruling was about allowing corporate expenditures through independent campaign groups.
A separate Supreme Court decision from 2003, Federal Election Commission v. Beaumont, still stands and leaves no doubt that the ban on corporate donations to candidates remains the law. Judge Cacheris would seem to twice overrule Supreme Court decisions — a hierarchical impossibility as any law student should know. (A federal judge in Minnesota previously ruled that the ban on corporate donations to candidates still stands.)
Of course, in politics there is the law of the land and there is the tireless frenzy for money. Whether Judge Cacheris — who issued his opinion, as he said, “for better or worse” — meant to blur the two remains to be seen. His decision deserves to be struck down on appeal for “equating apples and oranges,” as Mark Lytle, the prosecutor in the case, said of the judge’s overreach.
Judge Cacheris’s ruling struck down part of an indictment accusing two businessmen of illegally reimbursing employees for their donations to Hillary Clinton’s campaigns for president and the Senate. They are charged with paying more than $180,000 to 43 fake donors in an effort to evade donation limits. Most of the indictment still stands, with a trial scheduled in July.
Campaign money bundlers will keep pushing the limits wherever and however they can — and the integrity of our electoral system will pay the price. The courts need to do a far better job of pushing back.
By: Editorial, The New York Times Opinion Pages, May 28, 2011
Florida’s wildly-unpopular far-right governor, Rick Scott (R), traveled to a retirement community in Central Florida yesterday known for being the most Republican retirement community in the state. Scott was there to sign his new state budget, which helps demonstrate his priorities and commitment to looking out for his most vulnerable constituents.
In his speech Thursday, Scott omitted many of the serious-sounding programs he cut: homeless veterans, meals for poor seniors, a council for deafness, a children’s hospital, cancer research, public radio, whooping-cough vaccines for poor mothers, or aid for the paralyzed.
These are cuts, by the way, he made from an already-austere budget approved by a Florida legislature dominated by larger Republican majorities. Scott thought they were too generous, so he made sweeping changes though line-item vetoes, which is legal in the state.
All told, Scott’s budget throws 4,500 Floridians out of work as a way to help lower unemployment. No, I don’t understand it, either.
The ridiculous governor might have heard from some of his less-supportive constituents had he not banned Democrats from the bill-signing ceremony.
Members of The Villages Democratic Club were barred from the budget signing by Scott staffers who said the outdoor event in The Villages town square was “private.” Other staffers and Republican operatives scoured the crowd and had Sumter County sheriff’s deputies remove those with anti-Scott signs or liberal-looking pins and buttons. They escorted more than a dozen people off the property.
As Tanya Somanader put it, “Many in the community would likely not be pleased with Scott’s cuts, but those voices remained unheard — mainly because they were banned.”
Atrios added the other day, “I normally resist the temptation to blame “stupid voters” for their leaders, but man, Floridians, what were you thinking….”
By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly-Political Animal, May 27, 2011
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) appeared Friday on Fox News, and explained to Neil Cavuto that a judge’s ruling Thursday that struck down his controversial anti-public employee union law, based on a procedure involved in passing it, would not be a major issue — that the state is appealing the decision, and in any case they could simply re-pass the same law without the procedural defect.
“Governor, what do you do now?” asked Cavuto.
“Well, for us, the clear thing that was — we found out of that ruling is not that the law was not valid, but that the process was used, at least according to the circuit court, was not correct,” said Walker.
“So, either next week when the Supreme Court starts to hear this case, either by the time they’re done in June, or ultimately by the end of June, when we have to have the legislature passing a state budget — one way or the other, either through the Supreme Court or the legislature, these reforms will be put into place, and we’ll ultimately be able to protect middle-class jobs and middle-class taxpayers here in the state of Wisconsin.”
Walker also explained to Cavuto: “the process was not the vote itself, it was the timing of the vote, and how far in advance notice was given. They could take this same vote again, as part of the state budget process, or in separate legislation, and still have the same outcome.”
On Thursday, Dane County (Madison) Judge Maryann Sumi — who had previously blocked Wisconsin’s controversial anti-union law from taking effect, pending litigation — officially ruled that the manner in which the bill was passed violated the state’s Open Meetings law, and that the law itself is therefore not valid.
The matter revolves around a key conference committee used to advance the bill — and to get around the state Senate Dems’ walkout from the state — and whether it violated the state’s Open-Meetings law by failing to give enough prior notice. Therefore, it is ruling on procedural grounds, rather than on the substance of the bill itself, which was not addressed. And as such, it would be possible to pass the bill again, giving full notice for all the meetings involved.
Two months ago, Sumi blocked the law on these procedural grounds, issuing a temporary restraining order on the grounds the plaintiff, the Dane County District Attorney, had a likelihood of success in his complaint.
By: Eric Kleefeld, Talking Points Memo, May 27, 2011