Shots of Common Sense

Noted Con-Law Prof Out of Order

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Washington, Jan 28, 2010 | comments
Last night, President Obama just couldn’t help himself and took advantage of his bully pulpit to engage in a little judicial bullying.
“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.” (President’s Address, 1/27/10)
First of all, the optics of a President using Chicago-style politics to publicly berate and intimidate the Supreme Court (our only non-political branch of government) aren’t so great.

But beyond embarrassing himself with an ugly attack on the Supreme Court, and “with all due deference to separation of powers,” President Obama’s characterization of the Citizens United decision is flat wrong. (Even The Huffington Post understands that.)

As a former professor of Constitutional Law, the President should know that corporations (both foreign and domestic) have long been prohibited from making direct contributions to political campaigns. The Citizens United case didn’t change that one bit. Furthermore, “foreign nationals” (including foreign governments, political parties, and corporations) are barred from participating in our elections. Citizens United didn’t change that either. Contrary to the President’s assertion, no floodgates have been opened for foreign corporations to throw money into our elections.

Perhaps he should get the facts straight before opening up his own floodgate.

The Citizens United case simply said that domestic corporations and labor unions have the First Amendment right to publicly communicate their views on political issues independent of any political campaign. American citizens, both as individuals and as groups, have the same right. It’s called freedom of speech. You’d think that’s something a noted former Con-Law professor would appreciate and understand.

For a more detailed overview of the Citizens United decision, click here.
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