U.S. Chamber Of Commerce To SCOTUS: Ignore The Evidence!

Late last year, the Montana high court defied the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and continued to enforce the state’s 100-year-old law banning corporate involvement in the state’s elections, citing Montana’s long history of the corrupting influence of corporate and labor union money into politics. SCOTUS blocked the Montana court’s decision, pending its own determination whether to formally hear the case this fall. If that happens, and there seems to be a good chance it will, given the pressure the court faces, it will allow the Court to reconsider its previous decision.

Last week, it was reported that Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) had jointly filed a brief with the Supreme Court asking that they take a second look at the Citizens United Decision. The brief stated: “Evidence from the 2010 and 2012 electoral cycles has demonstrated that so-called independent expenditures create a strong potential for corruption and the perception thereof…The news confirms, daily, that existing campaign finance rules purporting to provide for ‘independence’ and ‘disclosure’ in fact provide neither.”


Never to be outdone by the voice of reason, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a lobbying group that is funded 100% by corporate interests, is fighting to keep the law in place. Okay, that’s fine. They’re fighting for what will benefit them. I may not agree with them but I do recognize their right to go after what they want. However, I also expect, and think the rest of the country would expect them to back up their arguments with at least a shred of common sense. Not happening.

The issue is whether or not the Citizens United decision has increased corruption by opening the floodgates for independent expenditures by shadow groups that never have to reveal their funding sources. Obviously McCain and Whitehouse think so and have cited their reasoning in the brief filed last week.

In a joint statement the senators said, “This unregulated and unaccountable spending invites corruption into our political process and undermines our democracy. We urge the Supreme Court to make clear that legislatures can take appropriate actions against corrupting influences in campaigns.”

On the flip side, The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has submitted their own brief putting forward the argument that unlimited corporate spending in elections should continue. According to the Chamber, there is “no evidence” that the massive sums of money injected into the electoral process by corporate interests has resulted in corruption. Not only that, the Chamber asserts that even if there is “empirical evidence” that corruption has resulted from corporate involvement in state elections, the Court “should not” consider it. Here is a quote from the Chamber’s brief, which was filed with assistance from the law firm Wiley Rein:

“But even if the Court were inclined to reconsider Citizens United based on empirical data, which it should not, there is no evidence in the record of this case detailing the level of spending on political speech since Citizens United was decided. Pet. 27-28. The Montana Supreme Court only considered evidence of corruption in Montana ‘during the early twentieth century,’ Pet. App. 17a, and, even then, the evidence had nothing to do with independent expenditures, see supra p.11. Moreover, this Montana specific evidence offers no insight into the effect or scope of corporate speech in the rest of the country. As this Court is aware, a majority of states permitted corporations to speak freely long before Citizens United, yet there was no evidence then (and there is no evidence now) that elections in those states have been corrupted by immense corporate wealth. Citizens United, 130 S. Ct. at 909 (citing Supp. Brief for Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America as Amicus Curiae at 8 -9). In short, this case is not a suitable vehicle for addressing the question that Justice Ginsburg posed in the Stay Order.”

Overwhelming evidence shows that independent expenditures from corporate interests are linked to corruption. In 2002, Congress passed the bipartisan McCain/Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), which forbade corporations to engage in “electioneering communications” for 30 days prior to a federal primary election and 60 days prior to a general federal election. It was met with an immediate First Amendment challenge andin 2003 the Court upheld the decision in the McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, ruling that the BCRA was not unconstitutionally overreaching because corporations and unions could “finance genuine issue ads during [the run-up] timeframes by simply avoiding any specific reference to federal candidates, or in doubtful cases by paying for the ad from a segregated [PAC] fund.” One of the judges in the trial noted that:

-Corporations and labor unions routinely notify Members of Congress as soon as they air electioneering communications.

-Members of Congress express appreciation for those communications.

-Campaign organizations are aware of who runs advertisements on the candidate’s behalf and when and where they run.

-Members of Congress seek to have corporations and unions run such advertisements.

-After elections are over, corporations and unions often seek “credit” for their support.

There is a direct correlation between the influx of independent expenditures and voting patterns. During the 2010 midterms, the Chamber of Commerce used a $75 million war chest to elect big business friendly members of Congress. It is no secret how that election turned out.

Republic Report compared the Chamber’s key vote guide with the money spent on attack ads benefiting Senators Rubio, Johnson, Hoeven, Kirk, Scott Brown, Boozman, Coats, Moran, Paul, Blunt, Ayotte, Portman and Toomey. Every senator who received campaign ads courtesy of the Chamber has voted 70-100% of the time to forward the Chamber’s agenda. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who displaced Russ Feinold (D-WI) in a tight contest, actually paid a visit to the Chamber’s lead lobbyist, Tom Donahue, to thank him for the millions of dollars of independent expenditures that resulted in his election.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce would have the Court ignore the evidence so they can continue to hijack the American electoral process and line their pockets to the detriment of the American people. Some household names are among the corporate interests who contribute to the U.S. Chamber, which is not associated with your hometown Chamber of Commerce.

 

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