Court not at fault on campaign law

Monday May 21, 2012

With its editorial of May 9 ("Fight back to save free speech rights"), The Eagle adds its voice to the multitude of misguided and/or ignorant pronouncements on the meaning of the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

One need only observe the many lawn signs and bumper stickers which have sprouted up, more or less contemporaneously with the emergence of the Occupy movement, proclaiming that "corporations are not people" to realize that the extreme right wing has no monopoly on playing footloose and fancy free with the facts. The holding of the Court in Citizens is, by virtue of its five separate written opinions, quite complex. However, despite the shrillness of the partisans, you will search long and hard but not find any statement by the court that corporations are people or, to cite another common misstatement, that "money equals speech."

The calls for a constitutional amendment overturning the Citizens ruling are quixotic in the extreme. The passage of such an amendment is an extreme long-shot. The last amendment to the Consti tution, the 27th, a most innocuous piece of legislation, was passed in 1992, after having been first proposed 203 years earlier.

Since the passage of the 27th, there have been approximately 3,000 amendments offered and not one has succeeded. During the lengthy process to pass the proposed 28th, which even its most ardent proponents admit will take at least five years, the distortion to the political process caused by the continued influx of obscene amounts of untraceable corporate (and other) money will not only continue but will likely grow exponentially.

Rather than overruling Citi zens by amending the Consti tution, the quicker and less divisive solution to the degradation of the political process is for Congress to get to work on passing serious, bipartisan, and enforceable campaign finance reform legislation



The writer is an attorney, who served as a trial lawyer for the U.S. Dept. of Justice under three presidents.


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