Capitol Report – Sending the wrong signal

By State Representative, Leon D. Young

Last week, the United States Supreme Court rendered an important judicial determination that bitterly divided the justices and portends to have far-reaching political consequences for the future. In a 5-4 decision, the High Court ruled that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections.

Interestingly enough, the majority opinion opted to view this case through the prism of expanding First Amendment rights to corporations. Most would agree that this decision is likely to unleash a torrent of attack advertisements from outside groups aiming to sway voters, without candidates having to take the criticism for dirty campaigning.

The biggest beneficiaries might be well-placed incumbents whose favor companies and interest groups are eager to court. Moreover, state and local government elections will undoubtedly be impacted, where a few million dollars could influence the outcome in these contests.

Justices John Paul Stevens, siding with the three members of the court’s liberal wing, stated that “the majority had committed a grave error in treating corporate speech the same as that of human beings.” And President Obama has also weighed in by declaring it “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.”

We can all bear witness to the political gridlock which has ensued surrounding the health care debate and subsequent attempt to provide universal health care coverage to all Americans. Even with a super majority, 60 votes in the Senate, it was nearly impossible to reach consensus on comprehensive health care legislation, because of the enormous sums of special interest money being spent to thwart the legislative process.

For years we have been hearing complaints about the rampant stagnation and gridlock in American politics and much of the blame can be attributed to special interest groups with deep pockets. This recent Supreme Court decision clearly sends the wrong signal by making it that much easier to subvert the democratic process and silence the will of the people.