By Rachel Lutz, Columnist
In a partisan 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Citizens United v Federal Election Commission that it hereby recognizes corporations as having the protections that U.S. citizens have, as outlined in the First Amendment. This means that the future of the political system has been turned upside-down.
Justice Kennedy gave the opinion of the Court, and said specifically that "Federal law prohibits corporations and unions from using their general treasury funds to make independent expenditures for speech defined as an ‘electioneering communication' or for speech expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate." They are however, allowed to create a political action committee, or PAC, as their separate monetary branch of their organization. These PACs are responsible for donating funds to candidates they deem worthy, or candidates who are supportive of their cause. This case reversed its decision of the imposed donation restrictions, and now allows the companies themselves to do their own bidding.
In their concurrent statements, Chief Justice Roberts along with Justice Alito say "The First Amendment protects more than just the individual on a soapbox and the lonely pamphleteer." They disagree with Congress in their decree prohibiting some from publicly speaking within specified days prior to election time, they say, when their speeches are most valuable.
The dissenting side, consisting of Justices Stevens, Ginsburg, Breyer and Sotomayor state specifically that, "The Court today rejects a century of history when it treats the distinction between corporate and individual campaign spending as an invidious novelty." These justices say that the Court has made this decision blindly, without considering what the intent of the Founding Fathers was when they initially drafted the First Amendment. They also quoted President Roosevelt's 1905 annual message to Congress in their dissenting opinion paper, which essentially advocated a ban on corporate contributions and funding for political candidates.
Many people see this decision as a blow to the American political system, agreeing with the four democratic justices who say, "The Court has it exactly backwards." This decision will completely destroy what the country has worked for over the past century. The average American citizen who wants to send their local representative a 20 dollar bill to support their campaign fundraising for doing them favors or for a general approval of that candidate will no longer matter in the grand scheme of their next campaign.
Jonathon Turley, Constitutional law expert of George Washington University, stated when he appeared on Countdown with Keith Olbermann a couple weeks ago that he has never seen the liberals split the way that this decision has created a chasm. "Many free speech advocates supported the Conservatives in this case, and many good government advocates went and supported the regulation… But for those of us who put greater emphasis on the free speech aspects, we don‘t like the line drawing… between Michael Moore‘s ‘Fahrenheit 9/11' film and ‘Hillary the Movie.'" Democrats that would have traditionally also disagreed with decisions have trouble with the government playing the role of the ultimate decider of what media gets distributed to the public.
Another problem with this decision is that not only will politicians be rewarded for favors they do for the corporate world, but also their resistance to this will hurt their careers. The media will now be flooded with commercials that state which companies support what political candidates and all the great things that they have done for each other. Even more painful is the fact that now these same companies can put out hate-ads for the incumbent that has tried to refuse to give in to this change in the system.
In the future, I predict that the US Supreme Court will be presented with many other cases that challenge this decision. More corrupt politicians will emerge and their lives will be made easier due to the legality of corporate funding.