With its ruling today, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is 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. This ruling gives the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington--while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates. That's why I am instructing my Administration to get to work immediately with Congress on this issue. We are going to talk with bipartisan Congressional leaders to develop a forceful response to this decision. The public interest requires nothing less.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Senate Rules Committee and third-ranking member of the Senate Democratic leadership, said he would hold hearings to explore ways to limit corporate spending on elections.
"The bottom line is this: The Supreme Court has just pre-determined the winners of next November's elections," Schumer said. "It won't be Republicans, it won't be Democrats, it will be corporate America."
Of course, he and his allies will likely gladly accept the unlimited spending by unions, for instance, on outside ads.
Ben Smith has the best run-down of how this ruling might change (perhaps drastically) the nuts and bolts of campaigns:
Corporations and Unions: Freed from their First Amendment shackles, corporations and unions can now engage fully in the political process. The reality of what this means is sure to be hotly debated depending on the speaker’s outlook. Republicans see a coordinated and extremely well-funded union effort that gives over 98 percent of its funds to Democrats, while corporations’ political giving tends to incumbent heavy and more evenly divided. Democrats see the size of corporate treasuries compared to unions and believe they are about to get swamped.
501c4s and 501c6s: Likely to emerge as the biggest players in the 2010 and 2012 elections, ideological groups and trade associations also have been granted the ability to engage much more robustly in the political process. Meager disclosure requirements of their donors will make them a favorite repository of funds for independent expenditures.
The Court upheld disclosure requirements for corporate and union donations, which would make pursuing legislation on that front much more fruitful than constructing another, giant, unconstitutional attempt to save us from money in politics:
He [Kennedy] writes “With the advent of the Internet, prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide … citizens with the information needed to hold … elected officials accountability for their positions and supporters.” It could; the law needs to be updated to require the prompt disclosure online in useful formats.
Lots of freedom and lots of disclosure. Sounds fine to me.
...Of the five most politically active industries (not counting "retired"), Schumer is the top recipient of campaign cash from three of those. You might say he's awash in "special interest money," and sniff some hypocrisy or political posturing here.
But Schumer does have a legitimate gripe. Until now, if corporations wanted to influence politics and policy, their ability to speak directly to politicians was limited by law. That meant they needed to make their case through indirect means, such as contributing to politicians -- mostly to Schumer, it seems. Or it meant paying big bucks to hire lobbyists...
Now, set free of from Congress's speech regulations, non-profits and corporations might not rely so much on these indirect means of political influence. That means less campaign cash coming into Schumer, fewer corporations courting Schumer's staff, and less sucking up to Schumer by lobbyists.