Corporate Groups in Politics

This past week’s special senatorial election in Massachusetts has received a lot of national attention. Conservatives have heralded Scott Brown’s win as clear signs of the nation’s discontent with President Obama while liberals worry about what the repercussions will be not only for health care reform but also for climate change and the rest of their agenda. The added drama that the Kennedy seat was won by a Republican just 14 months after Obama carried the state by 26 points has helped this incident overshadow the far more important political news of the week. In a 5- 4 decision on Citizens United vs. FEC, the Supreme Court overturned over a century’s worth of precedent in allowing corporations and unions to spend from their own treasuries on political campaigns.

The reactions to this ruling have varied from cries of treason to the celebration of  “a great day for the First Amendment.” This broad range of responses comes as no surprise given the long history of government restrictions on corporate participation in campaigns starting with the Tillman Act of 1907 and as recently as McCain-Feingold Act of 2002. The rulings will allow special interest groups to use their deep pockets to run ads for or against candidates who support their agendas. Proponents of the first amendment rights of institutions see it as a big victory and have dressed it up as a great win for Americans. At the same time, the dissenting opinion of the court warned that the decision “threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation.” Complicating the matter even more is the group of supporters who argue that the ruling is both good and bad for our democracy because the potential for corruption is greater but it decreases the power of big media corporations, which were exclusively allowed to participate in campaigns.

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Colbert Report on Obama’s first year

Great piece from the Colbert Report about the criticism of President Obama’s first year:

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