Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ex-Justice Stevens Blasts Citizens United & Bush v. Gore


Yesterday, President Obama gave Retired Justice Stevens the Medal of Freedom Award in a group that included singer Bob Dylan, author Toni Morrison, astronaut John Glenn, Tennessee basketball coach Pat Summit, and the first woman Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright.

Then last night, Stevens rose to greatness again when he made a speech in Little Rock, Arkansas, pointing to "cracks" in the 2010 Supreme Court Ruling known as Citizens United, which gives corporations the same rights as individuals and has led to secret Super Pac money used in elections. Stevens was a dissenter in the decision, and said that when President Obama criticized the ruling during a State of the Union Address, he was right on. In fact, President Obama's quote was the first line of Steven's speech! PDF Here

President Obama said in 2010:
With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests "“- including foreign corporations "“- to spend without limit in our elections. (Applause.) I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. (Applause.) They should be decided by the American people. And I’d urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to correct some of these problems.’”
When the cameras panned over the Supreme Court Justices that night, Samuel Alito shook his head and mouthed the words "Not true." And Stevens made reference to that in his comments last night.

From American Bar Association Blog:
The majority opinion stated that the government may not restrict political speech simply because some speakers are disfavored. But “somewhat inconsistently,” Stevens said, the majority also said it was not reaching the question of whether foreign individuals or associations could be prevented from influencing the political process.

...“Justice Alito's reaction does persuade me that in due course it will be necessary for the court to issue an opinion explicitly crafting an exception that will create a crack in the foundation of the Citizens United majority opinion,” Stevens said. “For his statement that it is ‘not true’ that foreign entities will be among the beneficiaries of Citizens United offers good reason to predict there will not be five votes for such a result when a case arises. ...

“It will be necessary to' explain why the First Amendment provides greater protection to the campaign speech of some non-voters than to that of other non-voters.”
Story from USA Today:
Speaking to hundreds of people at a Wednesday night event in Little Rock, the retired justice said President Obama accurately criticized the ruling for reversing a century of law and allowing special interest groups to pump money into elections. He cited Justice Samuel Alito's reaction to Obama's criticism . . .

. . . He also pointed to televised debates when moderators try to allow candidates equal time to express their views. He said candidates and viewers wouldn't like it if there were an auction giving the most time to the highest bidder.

"Yet that is essentially what happens during actual campaigns in which rules equalizing campaign expenditures are forbidden," he said.
In answer to an audience question, Stevens also mentioned the Court's tainted legacy over the Bush v. Gore decision that essentially stopped vote recounts in Florida after the ill-fated 2000 presidential election and handed the victory to George W. Bush.
"I think you have to have confidence that the justices will do their best to not make that same mistake again," he said to laughter and applause.
Let's hope not, but thanks to Judge Stevens for reminding us that even the Surpreme Court isn't infallible and for giving us hope that some of these bad decisions might be overturned someday. Of course the only way to actually change the Supreme Court for the better is to keep Obama in the White House for four more years. We have no choice.

No comments:

Post a Comment