Sen. Schumer Leads Opposition to Citizens United V. FEC With New Proposal

As most of you probably know by now, Citizens United V. FEC was the biggest SCOTUS decision this year, and arguably for awhile.  The 5-4 decision supposedly ended a limit on corporations first amendment rights, according to some of the advocates for the decision. 

I personally enjoyed Slate writer Dahlia Lithwick's take on the decision, saying that it creates a "Pinnochio Project" in which the Court transforms "a corporation into a real live boy."

McCain-Feingold advocates most likely wanted to beat their heads against a wall once they caught wind of this decision, because it was a proverbial slap in the face.  

Public opinion of what currently stands is overwhelmingly negative. A Washington Post poll taken after the ruling this February showed 8 of 10 respondents were opposed with 65% of polltakers being “strongly opposed” to the ruling. There isn’t even much of a partisan divide when it comes to opposition of this ruling. Bipartisan opposition of this ruling continues, and Congressional Democrats have a lot on their plates when they try curtail some of what the ruling set in place.  

Democrats plan to introduce legislation next week that would sharply limit the ability of foreign-connected companies to participate in U.S. politics and require greater transparency from corporations, unions and nonprofit groups that pay for political advertising, according to a confidential summary of the bill.

Source: Washington Post

The legislation being proposed wouldn’t fully negate the decision made by the Supreme Court by any means. The crux of the bill would address would require greater transparency from corporation, unions, etc. who finance political advertising while limiting non-domestic companies participation in American elections. Other facets of the bill would include executives or group leaders to include their names on ads that they fund, much like McCain-Feingold’s “Stand by your ad” provision

According to the summary, obtained by The Washington Post, the legislation would require corporate chief executives or group leaders to publicly attach their names to ads, much like political candidates are required to do. It would also mandate disclosure of major donors whose money is used for "campaign-related activity."

Many Republicans are in opposition to the plan constructed by Schumer and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). <Insert collective gasp of disbelief here>  

Campaign finance reform, has been a controversial issue in American politics for a long time and will continue to be. The McCain-Feingold Act (Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act) was the first type of legislation in any form to amend/change the Federal Election Act of 1971.  The law was passed in 2002, meaning for 30 years the same election standards were in place. Even at that, Russ Feingold and John McCain had been working on getting this through Congress for almost 8 years.

The act faced opposition by everyone's favorite Senator, Mitch McConnell, and eventually led to a Supreme Court case.  McConnell V. FEC challenged the Constitutionality of McCain-Feingold.  

Schumer and crew hope they can rally some support from Republicans to help pass legislation for this, but only time will tell if that plan comes to fruition.

Next step; a political World War III

When the Supreme Court empowered corporations to spend as much as they wish in the months leading up to elections, they did the equivalent of dropping duel hydrogen bombs on the Democratic Party and the American democracy.  The American People will NOT be able to meet and raise that corporate ante in ANY future election.  And so President Obama and the Democrats must do whatever it takes to neutralize the treasonous ruling. 

President Obama gave a prelude regarding the extent of what’s at stake when he recently told Diane Sawyer;

I'd rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president,

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A Broken United States Senate

While Paul Krugman writing in the New York Times believes that the healthcare reform legislation now on the verge of passage in the Senate is "an awesome achievement," I do not share those sentiments. Though there is certainly much of merit in the bill, overall it is a Frankenstein monster of bill whose sum of parts more reflects the narrow and profane interests that are overrepresented in the United States Senate. I do agree with Paul Krugman that the Senate has become "ominously dysfunctional." It is an institution that no longer works for the American people, one that produces flawed legislation no matter which party is in control and an institution that does not serve the national interest but instead caters to those who have access.

First let me state unequivocally that you can replace all one hundred of the Senators currently serving in the Senate and you would still have more or less the same inferior legislative product being delivered serving the same narrow interests. The problem is quite simply a mix of its composition that favors rural, more conservative sectors of the country over the more populous, urban and more progressive sectors of the country and the arcane rules that govern the body plus the insidious role that corporate lobbying and other monied interests now play in the nation's politics.

I have noted in previous posts that the 26 least populous states in the country who form a majority in the Senate represent just 17.8 percent of the nation's population according to the 2000 US Census. While these 26 include states like Vermont, Delaware and Rhode Island, of the 26 states 15 voted for McCain and 11 for Obama in 2008 but if we go back to 2004 then 19 of these 26 states voted for Bush versus just eight for Kerry (OR, CT, RI, ME, VT, HA, NH, DE). The most populous of these 26 states is Colorado and the least is Wyoming with the bulk of the states being a mixture of Southern, Prairie, Mountain West/Far West or New England states. Of these four regions, three are overwhelmingly rural and conservative and account for 20 of the 26 states. The United States is not the only country with a legislative body that overrepresents rural interests. Thailand and Japan have the same problem and not surprisingly suffer from many of the same problems that we do. The question of whether Thailand is a failed state or not is one that many Thai now discuss.

As the Republican Party is favored by rural and conservative interests, it too is overrepresented in the Senate though not to the extreme shown above. The GOP has 40 Senators at the moment but those seats represent just a fraction above 35 percent of the US population. Still that's an over-representation of 5 Senate seats, not an insignificant number in a 100 member body.

The composition of the body has subtle effects in perhaps unexpected ways. Since 1961 the Majority leaders in the body have come from Nevada (Reid), Tennessee (Frist), South Dakota (Daschle), Mississippi (Lott), Kansas (Dole), Maine (Mitchell), West Virginia (Byrd), Kansas (Dole), Tennessee (Baker), Montana (Mansfield). All but Tennessee (16th in population thanks to Nashville and Memphis but otherwise culturally similar) form part of these 26 least populated states. And if I include Minority leaders, I'd be adding Kentucky (McConnell) and would have to extend back until 1977 before I could find a Minority leader that came from one of the top 15 populated states, Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania.

There's a reason for this. It's reflective of the fact the Senators from the larger states are more burdened by serving in leadership roles. Senators from the more populated states have to cater to the needs of a much larger, broader and heterogenous constituency that they are effectively prevented from holding leadership positions. As the Senate's own website notes Senators "from small and large states alike all have comparable committee and floor responsibilities, Senators from the more populous states, such as California, face a broader array of representational pressures than do Senators from the smaller states, such as Wyoming. An indirect effect of Senate apportionment is that contemporary floor leaders of either party tend to come from the smaller rather than larger states because they can better accommodate the additional leadership workload."

The repercussions are that it further limits the interests of more diverse urban America from gaining currency. The last majority leader to come from one of the more populous state was Lyndon Johnson when the country was a vastly different place. This is in marked contrast to the House where members serve more or less the same size constituency and where the leadership tends to come from the more populated states. Speaker Pelosi hails from San Francisco and her predecessor was Dennis Hastert who represented Chicago. The last Speaker of the House who came from one of the least populated states was Carl Albert of Oklahoma in the 1970s.

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Ike Skelton Pushes For More War in Afghanistan

Cross-posted at Daily Kos, Docudharma, OpenLeft, Show Me Progress, and FDL.
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In today's WaPo, Ike Skelton, Chair of the House Armed Forces Committee, teamed up with everyone's favorite former Democrat, Joe Lieberman, on an op-ed for more war in Afghanistan called Don't Settle for Stalemate in Afghanistan.

The president was right to call the war in Afghanistan "a war of necessity." Now it is time to treat it as such and commit the decisive force that will allow Gen. McChrystal to break the Taliban's momentum as quickly as possible.

And

Here at home, we must stabilize public support by convincing an increasingly skeptical American people that the Afghan war is in fact winnable.

.     .

It comes as no surprise that Ike and Joe are in favor of treating our Armed Forces to more $#!t sandwiches and crap burgers in Afghanistan.  Ike and Joe have been talking it up for quite a while.

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Overshadowed by health care reform media frenzy...

Today, September 9th 2009, the people of this nation eagerly await Obama's address to Congress on health care reform.  For weeks now there has been fierce debate on the matter and many have speculated to what the President will propose for the future of our nation's health care system. But with health care receiving what seems like non-stop coverage, a critical issue has taken a back burner.

This morning the Supreme Court reopened Citizen United v. FEC.  When the case first came before the court, it looked primarily at Hillary: The Movie and whether the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 had overstepped constitutional boundaries with its ban on corporate financing of "electioneering communication".  The court found that BCRA's ban on corporate financing was not unconstitutional.  
http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2008 /2008_08_205

However, the court (in an act of the worst type of rightist judicial activism) decided to rehear the case but this time looked at the issue in a broader scope, focusing on corporate and union financing of campaigns.  The new argument essentially poses the question whether banning corporate and union campaign funding (thus express consent) imposes upon their First Amendment right to free speech.  

Those who argue for removing the restrictions that the BCRA and prior rulings have placed upon corporate campaign financing claim that corporations are entitled to the right of "express consent" that is offered to other nonprofit organizations and 527's.  

This argument has been countered, asserting that corporations are artificial entities concerned solely with monetary profit.  Corporations, which have funds much greater than any individual, wield fiscal power that can greatly influence campaigns and overwhelm the voices of individual people.  In an interview with Bill Moyer, Trevor Potter's argument reflected this sentiment:

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