U.S. Supreme Court

Foreign Contributions and the Supreme's Overdue Decision on Campaign Funding

Fat Cat

Michael Collins

The Supreme Court of the United States will soon announce a major decision on our lightly controlled system of campaign funding.  Will it retain some limitations on corporate influence or will the court blow the lid off and cause a perpetual flood of unrestricted corporate contributions?

An additional outcome may surprise and shock the public.

If the Supreme Court overturns the lower court's decision, foreign nationals, corporations, and governments with partial ownership of U.S. corporations will, in effect, end up contributing to and influencing U.S. candidates in federal elections.

The Supreme Court surprised many when it agreed to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling that enforced key sections of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (McCain-Feingold) -- Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission (FEC).

In January 2008, the Federal District Court, District of Columbia upheld an FEC action that barred Citizens United, a right wing nonprofit corporation, from airing an extended attack on Hillary Clinton called Hillary: The Movie. Citizens United is headed by David Bossie, a well known political enemy of the Clintons.  Citizens' lead counsel, Ted Olsen, is an alumnus of the infamous 1990's Clinton bashing Arkansas Project.

The lower court found The Movie violated provisions of McCain-Feingold since some funding for the movie came from the general treasury of Citizens United, rather than a segregated account for political action, e.g., a Political Action Committee (PAC).  The Movie had the sole purpose of convincing viewers that Clinton was unfit for office, making it an example of electioneering communications -- the overriding purpose of which are to advocate for the election or defeat of a candidate.  And The Movie was planned for broadcast both 30 days prior to Democratic primaries and 60 days prior to the general election (had Clinton won the nomination), blackout periods for electioneering communications.

In its appeal, Citizens argued that broadcast restrictions in McCain-Feingold should be overturned to allow unrestricted electioneering communications funded directly from corporate treasuries.

But the appeal also served as a vehicle for lifting virtually any ban on corporate giving.  In 1990, the Supreme Court ruled that corporate funding of campaigns from general funds could be restricted.  The heart of the decision is found here:

"they (the Michigan laws) are justified by a compelling state interest: preventing corruption or the appearance of corruption in the political arena by reducing the threat that huge corporate treasuries, which are amassed with the aid of favorable state laws and have little or no correlation to the public's support for the corporation's political ideas, will be used to influence unfairly election outcomesJustice Marshall, Austin v. Mich. Chamber of Comm., 1990

Lead counsel for Citizens United, Ted Olsen, argued that "Austin was wrongly decided and should be overruled."  He counters with another case that claimed,"First Amendment’s protection against governmental abridgment of free expression cannot properly be made to depend on a person’s financial ability to engage in public discussion.”  Ted Olsen, Merits Brief, p. 30, Sept. 9

This challenge to the Austin decision is the true threat within the Trojan horse argument over broadcast restrictions on political hit pieces.  The goal of this appeal is nothing less than the legal treatment of corporations as the equal of individual citizens and lesser groups in the political process resulting in an even greater advantage for corporations to control elections.

"We are the World"

During oral arguments before the court, Olson argued that McCain-Feingold unlawfully restricts the First Amendment rights of U.S. corporations.  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had this exchange with Olson:

MR. OLSON: What the Court has said in the First Amendment context, New York Times v. Sullivan, Rose Jean v. Associated Press, and over and over again, is that corporations are persons entitled to protection under the First Amendment.

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Would that include --

MR. OLSON: Now, Justice --

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Would that include today's mega-corporations, where many of the investors may be foreign individuals or entities?

MR. OLSON: The Court in the past has made no distinction based upon the nature of the entity that might own a share of a corporation.

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Own many shares?

MR. OLSON: Pardon?

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Nowadays there are foreign interests, even foreign governments that own not one share but a goodly number of shares.

Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, Oral Arguments, pp. 4, 5, Sept. 9, 2009

Justice Ginsburg created a poison pill by putting on notice any Supreme Court majority that overturns the lower court decision:  your actions will allow foreign funding for U.S. campaigns.  Any foreign entity could simply exercise an existing or newly acquired ownership position in a U.S. corporation to demand services from that corporation's latest wholly owned candidate.

The current bans on direct corporate contributions and contributions from foreign entities would become meaningless.  The influence of the "corrosive and distorting effects of immense aggregations of wealth" obtained through the control of puppet politicians would submit all of us to the vicissitudes of balance sheets and the salary and bonus demands of board chairmen all over the world (to an even greater degree than we now experience).

Supremes Green Light Foreign Money in U.S. Elections! How well will that fly with citizens in the current political climate?  Does the Supreme Court even care?

Class of 2000 Reunion

Two alumni of the Bush effort to stop the Florida 2000 recount, freeze in place various voting rights violations, and prevent any real judicial review of a flawed election are reunited in this case.  Chief Justice Roberts was recognized for his contributions to election chaos as then Florida Governor Jeb Bush's legal advisor.  His contributions were less than helpful.  Ted Olson represented George W. Bush in the Supreme Court case that stopped the recount.  He also served as a key strategist for George W. Bush's Florida 2000 recount efforts.

How coincidental that Chief Justice Roberts reached out to his Bush campaign 2000 alumnus Olson by agreeing to hear a case that surprised many when it was selected for the Supreme Court docket.

How ironic that the case presents the opportunity to bring corporate funding into U.S. politics in a way that would end any pretences of democracy as we know it.  History waited just nine years to repeat itself.

END

N.B.  Wouldn't a reasonable person conclude that Fox News violates the McCain-Feingold Act on a regular basis?  Link

This article may be reproduced in part or in whole with attribution of authorship and a link to this article.Foreign Contributions and the  Supreme's Overdue Decision on Campaign Funding

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?

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.
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