Posts Tagged ‘scotus’

"Craig Holman"In yet another disappointing decision by a slim majority of the U.S. Supreme Court, the justices have invalidated the “trigger provision” of Arizona’s campaign finance law. The trigger provision provides qualified candidates with additional public funds to match excessive spending by wealthy opponents.

While Public Citizen is disappointed with the ruling in Arizona’s Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett, we are heartened by the fact that the court did not attack the concept of public financing of elections. Those who brought the case against Arizona’s public financing program had hoped the Supreme Court would invalidate public financing itself, but the justices refused.

That means public financing programs – without a trigger threshold – remain firmly intact. The Fair Elections Now Act, legislation that would enhance small contributions with a robust public financing matching program in federal elections, is now the model for reducing the potentially corrupting influence of big money in politics. We heartily endorse this model and again express our appreciation to its key sponsors, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Reps. John Larson (D-Conn.) and Walter Jones (R-N.C.).

Craig Holman is Public Citizens government reform lobbyist

Take action on Fair Elections Now Act!

 

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"Rachel Lewis" "CitVox"

Citizen Vox (voice), the official blog of Public Citizen. Keeping it real offline AND online.

Remember Citizens United v. the FEC? Well, it’s hard to imagine myself saying this but: it could have gotten even worse, and it didn’t. So while it’s a very short sigh of relief, it’s still a relief.  NPR’s Nina Totenberg, questioned Public Citizen lawyer Scott Nelson about a much talked about Nevada case that was appealed to and reviewed by the Supreme Court. Nelson said of the case,

It’s in some ways seemingly part of a coordinated strategy to use the First Amendment to dismantle protections against corruption in government

“The U.S. Supreme Court has unanimously upheld a broad state ethics law, ruling that legislators have no personal, First Amendment right to vote on a measure. The decision reverses a Nevada state court ruling that would have undermined conflict-of-interest laws across the country.”

The case ruling that was reversed by the Supreme Court on Monday involved a city council member whose campaign manager was a paid consultant (paid to the ring of $10,000) to a casino developer whose contract the council member was giving a thumbs up or down vote on.  When the council member got in trouble, he took it to court saying that voting was a “first amendment right” he was entitled to . . . (yeah, not joking here). AND, he won in Nevada (yeah, that explains a few things, right?).

Nelson applauded SCOTUS for their unanimous reversal of the Nevada decision.

Still, after a sigh of relief, Nelson and the rest of us at Public Citizen are expanding our lungs for another deep breath, as the fight must continue until we get a constitutional amendment passed that will overturn the court’s terrible Citizens United v. FEC decision. What to me seems nothing short of a case of cognitive dissonance, Nelson had this to say of to Totenberg:  ” . . . the court apparently sees a difference between campaign finance laws, [where] there is a majority that is very suspicious, and ethics laws, which seem backed by pretty much a unanimous court.”

To hear or read Totenberg’s full report please click here.

Understandably, many Brits are a bit frustrated with the expense of the royal wedding in what are tough economic times for the country and the world.  However, at least the royals over there are actually putting some money back into the economy with this big fancy wedding. Alas, the same cannot be said of the royal dynasty we are beginning to bear witness to right here in the good old US of A.

"corporate royalty"

These are not the royal elites we should be most concerned with. In America, the red carpet has been rolled out yet again for big corporations.

We fought for our independence for a reason, but in a relatively short period of time, have we forgotten what that reason was?

One can only wonder where we are headed upon examining two recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions that have handed over the democracy our forefathers fought so hard for to a corporate elite class, primed to undermine the very notions of rule for and by the people.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 Citizens United v.  Federal Election Commission ruling in January 2010, which gave corporations the green light to spend as much money as they want to sway elections based on the idea that corporations should have First Amendment rights, was a turning point. Corporations are NOT people. They are entities that, more often than not, lack a moral compass. Corporations exist only to make a profit, a profit that can now be spent influencing our elections in such a way that more profit can be made. Shareholders don’t have a say regarding which politicians that corporate profit is going to go toward bankrolling and neither do the employees that, as our recent hourly rates report shows, are not nearly as likely to see the payoff of that profit as are the CEOs they work under.

Currently, President Barack Obama is facing pressure from big business to not issue an executive order calling for companies vying for government contracts to disclose their political donations. As Public Citizen Robert Weissman explains in a piece titled, “Corporate America’s War on Political Transparency:”

While government corruption comes in many forms, nowhere is it more prevalent than in government contracting. “Pay-to-play” deals are a form of government contracting abuse in which a business entity makes campaign contributions or expenditures on behalf of a public official in order to obtain preferential treatment in receiving government contracts.

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If you don’t know anything about AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, you should. The case, which will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 9, has frightening implications for consumers.

Basically, the court will decide whether companies can deny consumers and employees the right to band together through class actions to fight fraud, discrimination and other illegal practices. AT&T argues that the courts must enforce the fine print of its contracts that ban class actions. Public Citizen attorney Deepak Gupta will argue before the court on behalf of consumers, claiming that the contracts are unconscionable and unenforceable.

When a large number of consumers have claims for small amounts, it is not feasible to pursue the claims without a class action. Concepcion is exactly that kind of case. The Concepcions allege that AT&T illegally charged them $30.11. Multiplied by the number of AT&T’s California customers alone, the allegations implicate ill-gotten gains in the millions of dollars. But if consumers can litigate the claims only one by one, no one will do so, and AT&T will keep the proceeds of its illegal activity.

In the video above, Public Citizen President Robert Weissman and Gupta give a telephone press briefing on the case.

If AT&T wins, not only will it be difficult for AT&T’s customers to hold that company accountable for its actions, but also for people with civil rights, labor, consumer and other kinds of claims that stem from corporate wrongdoing. Dozens of organizations, including leading civil rights and consumer groups, have filed briefs asking the court not to allow corporations to ban class actions. The briefs and other information about the case are available at the Consumer Law & Policy Blog.

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Two interviews with Public Citizen President Robert Weissman at last month’s Netroots Nation convention on the need to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s disastrous ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. That ruling opened the door for unlimited corporate spending on elections. Up top Weissman talks to The Uptake’s Jacob Wheeler about the need to overturn Citizens United and about Public Citizen’s and People For the American Way’s Pledge for Democracy campaign in which candidates for Congress are asked to take a pledge to support a constitutional amendment to undo Citizens United. And after the jump, an interview with Sum of Change that delves a little deeper into the legal issues behind the ruling.

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