Supreme Court makes landmark decision

A 5-4 conservative Supreme Court majority recently crafted a narrow overhaul of federal campaign spending that could have an immediate effect on this year’s congressional midterm elections, CNN reported. The justices eased long-standing restrictions on “independent spending” by corporations and unions in political campaigns.

The ruling gave businesses, unions and nonprofits more power to spend freely in federal elections, causing tensions between the Obama administration and the Supreme Court.

Corporations and unions had been prohibited for decades from spending money directly from their general treasuries on advertising aimed at electing or defeating candidates. The end of that ban means big changes, and some are bracing for a dramatic increase in political spending, CNN reported.

“First amendment rights connected to free speech in the political arena is the most protected speech under the constitution,” said Kyle Dell, associate professor of political science. “The Supreme Court is giving corporations the same free speech rights as individuals and saying that needs to be protected,” he said.

The ruling has sparked much debate.

“Once again the American people are screwed, average Americans do not have the spending power that big corporations have, that is not democracy,” Greg Palast, author of “Armed Madhouse” said in an e-mail interview.

The Obama administration issued a statement saying the ruling “opens the floodgates for an unlimited amount of special interest money into our democracy. It gives the special interest lobbyists new leverage to spend millions on advertising to persuade elected officials to vote their way or to punish those who don’t.”

Obama is the first president since Nixon to win an election without public money.

On the other hand, Kenneth Mayer, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison says there is nothing to confirm that corporate money affects the business of politics.

“There is no evidence that stricter campaign finance rules reduce corruption or raise positive assessments of government,” Mayer told The New York Times. “It seems like such an obvious relationship but it has proven impossible to prove.”

Other experts agree.

In The New York Times’ report, economist Jeff Milyo pointed to Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s opinion “that no evidence was marshaled in 100,000 pages of legal briefs to show that unrestricted campaign money ever bought a lawmaker’s vote.”

There are those like Dell who look to the Internet to investigate, where anyone can follow who is financially supporting politicians.

“If the Court’s decision gets average American people talking about the role of money in politics by going to Votesmart.org or Opensecrets.org, then this ruling has helped more than it’s harmed – even if that was not the original design,” said Dell.

With tensions rising between the White House and the Supreme Court, the impact of this legislation will be uncertain until the midterm elections.