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Mon., Jan. 25, 2010

Outside Voices: Court ruling reaches far

Los Angeles Times, Jan. 22: According to one campaign reform group, the U.S. Supreme Court created “a disaster for the American people” by ruling Thursday that corporations could spend money out of their own corporate pocketbooks on independent advertisements endorsing or opposing candidates for public office.

We hope that’s an exaggeration. But the 5-4 decision certainly will complicate the effort to reduce the corrupting influence of special-interest money in campaigns. What’s most disturbing is that the court could have resolved the issue before it – whether Congress erred in 2002 when it restricted “issue advertising” in the weeks before an election – without going nearly so far.

Instead, the court took the unnecessary step of overruling a 1990 decision. This overreaching by the majority, including Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., belies Roberts’ assurances to the Senate during his confirmation that he believed in judicial modesty and decision-making by consensus. Instead, Thursday’s decision, with conservatives on one side and liberals on another, inevitably will encourage the impression that the court is just another political body.

Chicago Tribune, Jan. 22: You may soon be hearing a lot more from your favorite drugmaker or bank about which political candidates it favors and why.

That’s the upshot of a U.S. Supreme Court decision on Thursday.

We understand the deep concern about this ruling. Bank of America and Pfizer have a lot more money than you do, and that means they can speak more loudly than you can at campaign time. A corporation with the will and the deep pockets could overwhelm a candidate it doesn’t like with negative ads.

The bottom line, though: We’re not afraid of information. We trust voters to sift through political messages, consider the source, and vote their best judgment.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jan. 22: For decades, the court has recognized that corporations – at their core, simple legal constructs – are not human beings. This court, in an opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, essentially makes many of those distinctions go away when it comes to political speech.

Free speech? By ensuring vast amounts of spending, this ruling ensures that to be heard above the din, the most effective political speech will be anything but free.

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