Constitutional principles

'Citizens United' Decision Further Weakens U.S. Democracy

Source:  OpEdNews
http://www.opednews.com/articles/The-Supreme-Court-decision-by-Ralph-Nader-100122-424.html


January 22, 2010

The Supreme Court Decision Further Weakens Our Democracy

By Ralph Nader

Yesterday's 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission shreds the fabric of our already weakened democracy by allowing corporations to more completely dominate our corrupted electoral process. It is outrageous that corporations already attempt to influence or bribe our political candidates through their political action committees (PACs), which solicit employees and shareholders for donations.

With this decision, corporations can now directly pour vast amounts of corporate money, through independent expenditures, into the electoral swamp already flooded with corporate campaign PAC contribution dollars. Without approval from their shareholders, corporations can reward or intimidate people running for office at the local, state, and national levels.

Much of this 183 page opinion requires readers to enter into a fantasy world and accept the twisted logic of Justice Kennedy, who delivered the opinion of the Court, joined by Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Scalia, Alito, and Thomas. Imagine the majority saying the "Government may not suppress political speech based on the speaker's corporate identity."

Perhaps Justice Kennedy didn't hear that the financial sector invested more than $5 billion in political influence purchasing in Washington over the past decade, with as many as 3,000 lobbyists winning deregulation and other policy decisions that led directly to the current financial collapse, according to a 231-page report titled: "Sold Out: How Wall Street and Washington Betrayed America" (See: WallStreetWatch.org).

The Center for Responsive Politics reported that last year the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent $144 million to influence Congress and state legislatures.

The Center also reported big lobbying expenditures by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) which spent $26 million in 2009. Drug companies like Pfizer, Amgen and Eli Lilly also poured tens of millions of dollars into federal lobbying in 2009. The health insurance industry trade group America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) also spent several million lobbying Congress. No wonder Single Payer Health insurance - supported by the majority of people, doctors, and nurses - isn't moving in Congress.

Energy companies like ExxonMobil and Chevron are also big spenders. No wonder we have a national energy policy that is pro-fossil fuel and that does little to advance renewable energy (See: OpenSecrets.Org).

No wonder we have the best Congress money can buy.

I suppose Justice Kennedy thinks corporations that overwhelm members of Congress with campaign contributions need to have still more influence in the electoral arena. Spending millions to lobby Congress and making substantial PAC contributions just isn't enough for a majority of the Supreme Court. The dictate by the five activist Justices was too much for even Republican Senator John McCain, who commented that he was troubled by their "extreme naivete."

There is a glimmer of hope and a touch of reality in yesterday's Supreme Court decision. Unfortunately it is the powerful 90 page dissent in this case by Justice Stevens joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor. Justice Stevens recognizes the power corporations wield in our political economy. Justice Stevens finds it "absurd to think that the First Amendment prohibits legislatures from taking into account the corporate identity of a sponsor of electoral advocacy." He flatly declares that, "The Court's ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation."

He notes that the, Framers of our Constitution "had little trouble distinguishing corporations from human beings, and when they constitutionalized the right to free speech in the First Amendment, it was the free speech of individual Americans that they had in mind." Right he is, for the words "corporation" or "company" do not exist in our Constitution.

Justice Stevens concludes his dissent as follows:

"At bottom, the Court's opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics."

Indeed, this corporatist, anti-voter majority decision is so extreme that it should galvanize a grassroots effort to enact a simple Constitutional amendment to once and for all end corporate personhood and curtail the corrosive impact of big money on politics. It is time to prevent corporate campaign contributions from commercializing our elections and drowning out the voices and values of citizens and voters. It is way overdue to overthrow "King Corporation" and restore the sovereignty of "We the People"! Remember that corporations, chartered by the state, are our servants, not our masters.

Legislation sponsored by Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Representative John Larson (D-CT) would encourage unlimited small-dollar donations from individuals and provide candidates with public funding in exchange for refusing corporate contributions or private contributions of more than $100.

It is also time for shareholder resolutions, company by company, directing the corporate boards of directors to pledge not to use company money to directly favor or oppose candidates for public office.

If you want to join the efforts to rollback the corporate concessions the Supreme Court made yesterday, visit Citizen.Org and freespeechforpeople.org.

SCOTUS: Corporate Purchase of Elections = 'Free Speech'

Source: http://freespeechforpeople.org/resources

Freespeech for People.org

"On January 21, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations are entitled to spend unlimited funds in our elections. The First Amendment was never intended to protect corporations.

This cannot stand. Join our campaign to protest this decision. Protect our democracy! Free speech is for people — not corporations."

freespeechforpeople.org is a campaign sponsored by Voter Action (voteraction.org), Public Citizen (citizen.org), the Center for Corporate Policy (corporatepolicy.org)  and American Independent Business Alliance (amiba.net) to restore the First Amendment's free speech guarantees for the people, and to preserve and promote democracy and self-government.  We are joined by a growing wave of people around the country.

http://freespeechforpeople.org/about

Responses to the  Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission  Supreme Court Ruling
 

Read the Freespeech for People.org  press release responding to the Supreme Court decision issued January 21, 2010.

Read the Freespeech for People constitutional  draft amendment.

Read the Supreme Court ruling.

Listen to press call on Supreme Court decision.

Read background articles  . . . Resources continue @ Read More
 

A Censored Headline and Why It Matters

A Censored Headline and Why It Matters:

German High Court Outlaws Electronic Voting

Justices of the German Federal Constitutional Court.  Image

Michael Collins

(DailyCensored.Com)  The justices above are clearly the most rational group of high level functionaries in the industrialized world.  They did what no other court would do in Europe or the United States.  They effectively outlawed electronic voting.  On March 3, 2009, the German Federal Constitutional Court declared that the electronic voting machines used in the 2005 Bundestag elections for the German national parliament were outside of the bounds of the German Constitution.

They reasoned that electronic voting is not verifiable because citizen votes are counted in secret.  It  obscured a technology inaccessible to all but a very few initiates.  Most importantly, the German high court noted, electronic voting machines don't allow citizens to "reliably examine, when the vote is cast, whether the vote has been recorded in an unadulterated manner" Mar. 3, 2009.

The written opinion effectively bars electronic voting in future elections based on the complexity of voting machines and the inability of voters to watch their vote being counted.  This raises the bar of acceptability well above the meaningless solutions offered by "paper trails" for touch screen voting or the so-called "paper ballots" for computerized optical scan voting machines, the most popular form of voting in the United States.

Germany's 2009 Bundestag elections were conducted with hand counted paper ballots.

Have you heard that one of the world's leading economic powers, the fourth largest economy in the world, banned electronic voting;  said it was undemocratic?  Given the multitude of problems encountered in the U.S. and the number of questionable election results, wouldn't it make sense that when Germany banned electronic voting and replaced it with paper ballots, there would be at least a days worth of national coverage in the United States?

Nothing like that occurred.  The Associated Press (Times of India) story on the verdict danced around the periphery of the world media market with coverage in Turkey, India, Australia, and Ireland.  But there were no major media takers for the AP story in the United States.

There was every reason to carry the story.  In a 2006 Zogby poll, 92% of the 1028 registered voters surveyed said they agreed with this statement:

Citizens have the right to view and obtain information about how election officials count votes - 92% agreeNew Zogby Poll On Electronic Voting Attitudes  Aug. 21, 2006

That's exactly the proposition that the German court upheld.  Surely there was an audience for the German decision but there was hardly a word from corporate media.

Why did this happen?

Germany's Federal Constitutional Court Rules E-Voting Unconstitutional

Copyright © 2009 BVerfG

 

 

 

Save New York's Lever Voting System

Prevent Secret Vote Counting on Theft-Enabling Computers From Becoming A Reality in New York

Tell the New York state judiciary to uphold our constitutional right to a transparent, secure, theft-deterring electoral system. New York voters do not consent to voting on undetectably mutable, software-driven voting machines.

Contribute to the Election Transparency Coalition legal fund

Want to do more?  Volunteer! Click here

To learn more go to Election Transparency Coalition blog.

See what you can do to prevent our birthright from being stolen.


Alternatives to Forced E-Voting Proposed in US Justice v. NY State HAVA Suit

Click here for 12.15.07 Press Release on Amicus Brief Click Here to Download the Amicus Brief

Scroll down for links to all amici declarations and exhibits filed in this case.

United States v. New York State Board of Elections

No. 06-CV-0262, U.S. District Court, Northern District of New York

. • Complaint:
This lawsuit, filed March 1, 2006, seeks declaratory and injunctive relief for the Defendants’ alleged failure to implement the voting system standards and statewide voter list provisions of HAVA. With respect to the voting system standards, the complaint supports its allegation by noting that the State Board failed to (1) approve any voting systems, (2) adopt any final rules or regulations related to voting systems, and (3) obtain any voting systems that comply with the requirements of HAVA.

With respect to statewide voter list, the complaint notes that, among other things, the has failed to (1) publish any rules or regulations governing the statewide voter list, (2) take the necessary steps to contract for the development of a statewide voter database, and (3) establish the necessary agreements with the Social Security Administration to match voter registration information.

• Status:
The U.S. Justice Department sought a preliminary injunction on March 6, which was granted by the court on 23, 2006. The court ordered the State Board of Elections to file a remedial HAVA implementation plan by April 10, 2006, and provided ten days to respond, later extended to eighteen days. State filed its HAVA plan with court on April 10, and Plaintiffs’ responded on April 18th agreeing to the plan. On June 2, the court ruled that the Board’s HAVA plan would bring the state, over time, into full compliance and set a series of deadlines for implementation and reporting. Currently before the court is a motion to intervene by a diverse coalition of civic organizations that is concerned about the adequacy of the state’s plan.

• Parties: This lawsuit was filed by the Voting Section of the Department of Justice against the New York State Board of Elections, its co-executive directors, and the State of York.


All amici declarations filed in this case are available for download from the links you see immediately below this text window.

Corporations Are Not the People: A PEN Action to Reverse 'Citizens United' Court Ruling

The following action has been prepared by PEN (People's E-mail Network) in response to the U.S. Supreme Court rulling in 'Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission' asserting that corporate money in politics is the equivalant of the right of free speech by individual citizens. 

Using the PEN action page, you can simultaneously send a letter to:

(1)  Your U.S. Representative in Congress
(2)  Both your U.S. Senators, and
(3)  The editorial letters page of your regional newspaper


Action Page: Corporations Are NOT The People
http://www.peaceteam.net/action/pnum1029.php

Congress must act swiftly to block and override this Court ruling by enacting legislation to reject the "Corporate Personhood" doctrine and reassert that governments regulate corporations, not the other way around.

Rep. Alan Grayson (D FL 8) has already assembled proposed legislation in the House to counter the Court's ruling.  Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) is doing the same in the Senate.
______________________________________________

VoterGA Considering U.S. Supreme Court Appeal

VoterGA, the Georgia election integrity coalition that carried a landmark, constitution-based challenge to computerized voting through the Georgia court system, only to have the Georgia Supreme Court dismiss the case in disregard of undisputed points of evidence, has issued the following public letter to outline case issues and prospects, and to gauge public support, as they consider whether to file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court. VoterGA is seeking pledges of financial commitment to see this case through. Initiating the appeal will cost $20,000 to $25,000.

U.S. Supreme Court Appeal Considerations

VoterGA Supporters,

We now are at the most significant crossroads in the history of our landmark voting rights case.  We must quickly make a decision whether or not to appeal the Constitutional arguments of the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. I have tried to assemble the facts with as little bias as possible for your consideration. Some major areas for your consideration are:

    ·    The Georgia Supreme Court Ruling
    ·    The Basis for a U.S. Supreme Court Appeal
    ·    Appeal Costs
    ·    Appeal Benefits
    ·    Appeal Risks
    ·    Other Federal Alternatives
GA Supreme Court Ruling:
In considering whether or not to appeal, it is important to have an understanding of the Georgia Supreme Court decision. The decision had no dissenters and was slightly more substantial than the state superior court ruling but it still had the same basic flaws:

    ·    The court denied our normal right to a trial on all 13 counts of the lawsuit although we factually disputed 41 assertions made to the court by the Attorney General’s office and cited 17 lower court conclusions that had no basis in case evidence;

    ·    The court defied all U.S. Supreme Court case law for ballot counting and recounting by refusing to apply strict scrutiny to our fundamental right of voting;

    ·    The court instead applied a minimal standard of scrutiny and ruled that the former Secretary had a rational basis for implementing the machines in spite of the evidence we presented showing:

    a.    The machines do not have an independent audit trail of each vote cast as the law required. That law was in effect when the machines were procured, evaluated, allegedly certified and purchased;

    b.    The office of the Secretary of State was warned in advance of the need for voter verification, recount retention and audit controls by numerous governmental and public sources including a State Senate Committee, the head of Fulton County Elections and the 21st Century Voting Commission Report;

    c.    There was no compelling need for the Secretary to commit $54 million of taxpayer funds to replace many auditable voting machines with a statewide implementation of voting machines that cannot be properly audited.

    ·     The opinion written by Justice George Carley was cleverly worded to ignore nearly every shred of evidence that we presented, just as the lower court order did.

    ·    The opinion made conclusions with no basis in fact such as: “However, the undisputed evidence shows that the touch screen machines accurately record each vote when they are properly operated.” No such evidence was ever submitted in the case and it is technically impossible to produce the evidence without an independent audit trail.

    ·    The opinion made unsubstantiated conclusions that were in direct conflict with the facts in the case record such as:  “…uncontroverted evidence shows that the Secretary of State has properly certified the DRE voting system pursuant to O.C.G.A. 21-2-379-2.” That code section requires the Secretary of State to produce a “report."  We explained that the certification reports were never produced for the current equipment. Only certificates were provided for them.

In addition, no reports or certificates of any kind were produced for machines used in the 2001-2002 time period. Thus it is impossible for the evidence to be uncontroverted. Furthermore, we showed that the tabulation servers can never be certified according to federal guidelines, as secretary of state policy requires, because the servers cannot prevent fraudulent vote manipulation as the guidelines require.

 In summary, we did everything we needed to do to win this case in the Georgia Supreme Court:

·    Our briefs clearly presented the evidence and case law while refuting all material assertions made by the opposition;
·    Walker did what we believed to be a very good job at the GA Supreme Court oral arguments;
·    Todd followed up with a letter at the request of the Court that clearly applied all U.S. Supreme Court case law to our case and refuted the exact case law presented by the opposition because it was unrelated to ballot counting and recounting.

The court had everything it needed to make a decision based on the merits of the case but chose to ignore those merits. Since the case law and evidence we presented was never refuted by either court, I can only assume that the courts made a biased decision to protect state interests or those involved.

Why German High Court Ruled E-Voting Unconstitutional

Originally published at OpEdNews
October 15, 2009

E-Voting Ruled Unconstitutional in Germany: An Interview with Dr. Ulrich Wiesner

Dr. Wiesner Filed a Lawsuit in Germany Claiming E-Voting Unconstitutional, and Won

By Kathleen Wynne

The very word secrecy is repugnant in a free and open society;
and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies,
to secret oaths and to secret proceedings.
 
-- John F. Kennedy

No words were ever more relevant than these are when it comes to our elections and the counting of our votes. When did secrecy take precedence over transparency in the counting of our votes in America through the use of electronic voting systems and, more importantly, why? What the majority of Americans have NOT heard about, but most election reform advocates are already aware of, is the German Constitutional Court's recent decision to ban electronic voting in Germany by ruling it “unconstitutional.”

Let's think about this for a minute. By using a Constitution, similar to our own, and which had to be approved of by the U.S. after World War II, Germany has, through its High Court, determined that computerized, secret vote counting does not subscribe to the democratic standards of their country! Yet, still here in America, 95% of us are using some sort of computerized voting system to cast and/or count our ballots---completely government sanctioned, corporate controlled, using software protected from public scrutiny by trade secret laws. NO ONE can guarantee even a single voter that their vote is being counted as cast. What's wrong with this picture?

It is, indeed, encouraging that support is growing for a return to public hand-counts here in the U.S. and, as a result, we may someday soon reach a “critical mass” of support largeenough to put pressure on our courts to also recognize this fundamental right and “persuade” them to rule in a similar fashion as the German Court. When that day comes, we will be forever indebted to our German counterparts.

Obviously, the significance of the German Court's ruling is not only a sea change in how elections will be administered in Germany , which are now to be done by properly administered public hand-counts, but I see it as a powerful new tool that can be used by election reform advocates in achieving similar reform in the U.S.

Bev Harris, Founder of Black Box Voting.org, and Paul Lehto, an attorney from Washington State and election reform advocate, have both written excellent articles analyzing the Court's decision to ban electronic voting and are must reads.

Harris' article, Let's Get Off The Hampster Wheel, was featured in Democracy For New Hampshire (as well as on other websites). Lehto's article, Germany Bans Computerized Voting, Will Hand Count in 2009, was featured in OpEdNews (as well as on other websites).
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