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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Supreme Court: "Say hi to Uncle Aetna"

Posted By on Thu, Jan 21, 2010 at 6:41 PM

When the four Republican conservatives on the Supreme Court — Thomas, Scalia, Alito and Roberts — were nominated, each one preached the gospel of judicial restraint. Remember all the talk about how we needed conservatives on the Court because those wacky liberal judges engage in "judicial activism," which is unconstitutional and evil? Well, I guess judicial activism is only unconstitutional when liberal judges do it, because today, the Supreme Court handed down one of the most radical, game-changing decisions in its history. In a 5-4 decision which the New York Times is rightly calling "a doctrinal earthquake," and the John Grooms Times calls "lacking even a semblance of common sense," the Court overturned the federal ban on corporate contributions to political campaigns, ruling that corporations should have the same First Amendment rights of free speech as citizens. Or, as Stephen Colbert said last year when the issue arose, "Corporations are people too."

The decision, unless Congress legislates to change it — and at this point, the only way to do so would be to pass a law nullifying the whole idea of "corporate personhood," first declared in an 1886 Supreme Court decision — could let loose a tidal wave of corporate money in U.S. politics that would swamp the system and destroy even the pretense of democracy.

Reaction from groups that document corruption in Congress, as well as from Democrats, and even some Republicans, has been swift and heated.

Pres. Obama said, "The Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans ... That's why I am instructing my Administration to get to work immediately with Congress ... We are going to talk with bipartisan Congressional leaders to develop a forceful response to this decision."

Melanie Sloan, director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, said, "We are moving to an age where we won't have the senator from Arkansas or the congressman from North Carolina, but the senator from Wal-Mart and the congressman from Bank of America."

Our favorite quip so far is from journalist Greg Palast, who said, "the Court ruled that corporations should be treated the same as "natural persons," i.e. humans. Well, in that case, expect the Supreme Court to next rule that Wal-Mart can run for President."

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