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A Democrat and a Republican want the Supreme Court to revisit “Citizens United”

This Press Release went out from Senator Whitehouse’s office on Friday:

U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and John McCain (R-AZ) today filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court that details the explosion of anonymous political spending since the Citizens United decision.  The brief was filed in a case regarding a Montana law that bars corporations from funding election ads.  The case presents the opportunity for the Court to clarify the authority of Congress and state legislatures to address the threat of corruption posed by this spending.

“We are deeply concerned about the rise of unlimited, anonymous money now flooding our elections,” Whitehouse and McCain said in a joint statement.  “This unregulated and unaccountable spending invites corruption into our political process, and undermines our democracy.  We urge the Supreme Court to make clear that legislatures can take appropriate actions against corrupting influences in campaigns.”

The Senators’ brief, filed in American Tradition Partnership v. Bullock, asks the Court to deny a petition to review a Montana Supreme Court decision which held that the Montana legislature’s ban on corporate election spending was still constitutional following Citizens United.  Failing that, the brief asks the Court to give the Montana case a full review in light of the flood of anonymous money that has entered political campaigns since Citizens United.

The brief urges the court to “revisit Citizens United’s finding that vast independent expenditures do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption,” arguing that rules requiring donor disclosure and prohibiting outside groups from coordinating with campaigns have been evaded and manipulated by politically-active groups and individuals.  The brief chronicles the extensive coordination that takes place between campaigns and super PACs, and the means of “identity-laundering” that allow secret donors to hide their activity.  The legislators conclude that “the campaign finance system assumed by Citizens United is no longer a reality, if it ever was.”

The Senators have both been leading advocates on campaign finance issues.  McCain was a co-author of the landmark Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, or “McCain-Feingold,” which limited corporate expenditures on political ads, and which was partially struck down by Citizens United.  Whitehouse has introduced legislation this year that would require enhanced disclosure of spending on political ads.

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This is something all Americans from all political backgrounds should get behind… unless you want 8 or 9 rich guys putting out whatever crap they want to sway elections. The Supreme Court stuck us with this in “Citizens United” and it is their responsibility to bring back the basics of democracy (and let’s stop pretending Corporations are citizens.)

Watching the Senate Debate Health Care

It’s fascinating to watch two groups of thinking individuals switching back and forth at half hour intervals debating the Health Care Bill. When I did debate in prep school, the structure was somewhat different. Oh, we switched back and forth to argue our points, but we had to LISTEN to the other side so that the commenting that went back and forth was accurate and meaningful… we tried to convince the other side of our points based on tackling the items that they raised in the argument.

Debate in the Senate is a much different matter. Neither side listens to the other. What they do is make their statements, then wait while the other side makes their statements, then repeat the procedure over and over. I have no way of knowing if they have heard each other.

One exception is Sheldon Whitehouse, the Democratic Senator from RI who is trying to get an amendment in place which is, oddly enough, structured like a previous bill’s amendment by Republican (NH) Senator Judd Gregg. The fact that the two sides don’t come together on this… primarily because the Republican strategy, which was outlined two days ago by the same Senator Judd, is to disagree with EVERYTHING the Democrats bring up as a stalling measure.

Whitehouse is now on commenting directly on what is happening and I’m cheering him on from my living room.