Friday, January 22, 2010

Buy and Large

I don’t know all the implications of the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling yesterday that removed most of the limits on corporations making donations to political ads and basically gutting the campaign finance laws, but one thing does stand out: the Court is saying that corporations and unions have the same rights as an individual citizen.

The ruling is being hailed as a victory by conservatives and the Republicans, but there’s some interesting ironies here. First, a lot of corporations that would like to get involved in our political process are based overseas or are largely owned and operated by people who are not U.S. citizens, yet suddenly they get to have a hand in our political process. So China or Japan or the Netherlands — home of Shell Oil — could through their corporations spend billions of dollars influencing the election of the next president or Congress. (I wonder if the birthers will hold up signs saying, “HEY SHELL OIL — WHERE’S YOUR BIRTH CERTIFICATE?”)

Second, the ruling came in a case that dealt with a narrow issue: was a hard-hitting “documentary” about Hillary Clinton for the 2008 presidential primaries a campaign contribution by a non-profit corporation, or was it just a movie? The Court majority of conservatives decided that it was just a movie, but in the process, much to the delight of George F. Will and other conservatives, also decided to sweep away campaign finance laws that have been in place for generations. And yet these are the same folks who talked about maintaining precedent and railed against “activist judges” who wrote laws and ruled from the bench. This sounds pretty much like that. But then, when it’s something the conservatives like, well, that’s okay.

Third, it seems that the Court is granting the rights of citizenship and First Amendment protection to entities that don’t really qualify as citizens. Isn’t it ironic that the same conservatives who say they believe in the idea of a strict interpretation of the Constitution — and who trashed Roe v. Wade as being outside of the scope of the rights enumerated therein — are applauding a ruling that will grant the rights of citizenship to entities that aren’t entitled to them — like Shell Oil — but deny them to gays and lesbians. Funny how that works.

No, not really funny at all.