Friday, February 26, 2010

Feingold responds

First let me say the following. I am not sure whether or not this is his canned response (all elected officials have them) or not especially since it does address a lot of the points I made in my original letter to him. However, I still disagree with him on the very specific point that we need a Constitutional Amendment to go further on this. Senator Feingold is looking at this singularly in the context of this one case.

In this one case we're discussing, federal elections spending is at issue. So he narrows his focus to change the decision based on this one issue. However, my issue is larger than that. What the Supreme Court did was not a one-off out of character move. It was not relegated to this one case nor will their process affect just this one decision.

It was what enabled them to come to their conclusion, the obvious application of Corporate Personhood that allowed them to make the assumption that corporations, since they are viewed as people by the courts, have the same rights as people and hence this somehow impeded their free speech.

So while the good Senator and I agree completely on the disastrous ramifications of this court decision, our remedies couldn't be any more completely different. He discusses passing laws that will cripple aspects of the ruling however I see that as a futile choice. What is to stop conservatives from challenging the laws in court and having the conservative, pro-corporation Supreme Court make the same exact decision in their favor once again, thus striking the new laws down?

The only Supreme Court proof option is to eliminate Corporate Personhood all together with a Constitutional Amendment. There is no other way and no, this is not a kneejerk reaction to a single case. Ever since the initial court mistake that allowed this glitch become precedent we the people have had an ever shrinking voice in our democracy at the expense of corporate money. It's time to change this for once and for all.

Here's Senator Feingold's response. (Below is the Op-Ed he enclosed as a .doc file)

Dear Mr. Poole,

Thank you for contacting me about Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. I appreciate hearing your suggestions.

I agree that the U.S. Supreme Court made a terrible mistake in deciding this case. Presented with a relatively narrow legal issue, the Supreme Court chose to roll back laws that have limited the role of corporate money in federal elections since Teddy Roosevelt was president. Ignoring important principles of judicial restraint and respect for precedent, the Court has given corporate money a breathtaking new role in federal campaigns. Just six years ago, the Court said that the prohibition on corporations and unions dipping into their treasuries to influence campaigns was 'firmly embedded in our law,' yet this Court has just upended that prohibition, and a century's worth of campaign finance law designed to stem corruption in government.

The American people will pay dearly for this decision when, more than ever, their voices are drowned out by corporate spending in our federal elections. However, it is important to note that the decision does not affect the ban on unlimited "soft money" contributions, which was the central provision in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA) that Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and I authored. The ban will continue to prevent corporate contributions to the political parties. Knowing of your interest in this issue, I have attached a newspaper op-ed I wrote in response to the Supreme Court's decision.

In the coming weeks, I will work with my colleagues to pass legislation restoring as many of the critical restraints on corporate control of our elections as possible. Thank you again for contacting me about this important issue.


High court opens the floodgates
By Russ Feingold

In its ruling in the case of Citizens United v. FEC, the Supreme Court unraveled campaign-finance laws that stood for more than a century. The court was originally presented with a relatively narrow legal issue in the case, but chose instead to consider a much broader question: whether to roll back laws that have limited the role of corporate money in federal elections since Theodore Roosevelt was president. Now the court has handed down its ruling, and made a terrible mistake in giving corporate money a breathtaking new role in federal campaigns.

It is important to note that the decision does not affect the ban on "soft money" contributions, which was the core provision in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, also known as McCain-Feingold. That ban will continue to prevent corporate contributions to the political parties from corrupting the process. But the decision does significantly increase corporations' clout in campaigns.

For decades, corporations could only contribute to candidates and pay for political ads from funds collected from their administrative and executive employees and kept in special accounts called PACs. With the court's decision, corporations will now be able to dip into their huge general treasuries to pay for independent advertising. With their enormous resources, corporations can now vastly outspend the candidates and other outside parties in almost any race.

With the gates opened for a virtually unlimited amount of corporate money, I fear that our elections will become like NASCAR races — underwritten by companies. Only in this case, the corporate underwriters won't just be seeking publicity, they will be seeking laws and policies that the candidates have the power to provide.

During the 2008 election cycle, Fortune 500 companies alone had profits of $743 billion. By comparison, spending by candidates, outside groups, and political parties on the last presidential election totaled just over $2 billion. There's just no comparison; corporations and unions have the resources to effectively dominate federal campaigns.

Just six years ago, the state of campaign-finance law was quite different. When the Supreme Court ruled that the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act that Sen. John McCain and I championed was constitutional, it noted that the prohibition on corporations and unions dipping into their treasuries to influence campaigns was "firmly embedded in our law." Yet the court only a few years later has upended that prohibition.

A majority of the court ignored several time-honored principles that have served for the past two centuries to preserve the public's respect for and acceptance of its decisions. One is the concept of "judicial restraint," the idea that a court should decide a case on constitutional grounds only if absolutely necessary, and should rule as narrowly as possible. Here, the court did just the opposite — decided the constitutionality of all restrictions on corporate spending in connection with elections in an obscure case in which many far more narrow rulings were possible.

The court also ignored stare decisis, the historic respect for precedent, which Chief Justice John Roberts termed "judicial modesty" during his 2005 confirmation hearing. It's hard to imagine a bigger blow to stare decisis than the court's decision to strike down laws in over 20 states and a federal law that has been the cornerstone of the nation's campaign-finance system for 100 years.

Finally, the court ignored the longstanding practice of deciding a case only after lower courts have fully examined the facts. Here, because the broad constitutional questions considered by the Supreme Court were not raised in the court below, there was no factual record at all on which the court could base its legal conclusions.

We now face the undoing of laws that have helped to prevent corruption in government for more than a century. Some will say that corporate interests already have too much power and that members of Congress listen to the wishes of corporations instead of their constituents. While the campaign-finance system certainly needs further reform, I can only imagine how much worse things will be in a system where the views and interests of American voters are completely drowned out by corporate spending.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Russ Feingold makes a horrible judgment call...

Sadly enough Russ Feingold who was right on The Patriot Act and right on The Iraq War and did so by using the logic that rushing to a judgment call out of response to something immediate is a major long term ramifications-having mistake applies the same logic to the horrific Supreme Court case ruling that basically allowed Corporations free reign over our elections.

That would be a rational point to make if the Supreme Court hadn't spent the last 30 years ruling for corporations over individuals and worse using the mistake of "Corporate Personhood" to trample the spirit of the Constitution.

I respect Russ as much as any Senator in that chamber however I will call him out if I disagree with him and sent the following letter to him today to plead for sanity on this issue.

Dear Senator Feingold,

I have been a supporter of yours since you first ran for office and have even volunteered on a local level for your campaign when I lived in the Oshkosh area. I have always thought you to be a voice for the people in a Senate Chamber that is too often a place where the voices of the people are drown out by the voice of Big Business Interests.

It's been your steady, independent judgments on serious issues like The Patriot Act and the Iraq War, unpopular as they may have been at the time but correct as they were long term that have made me stick with you even when my devotion to the party began to waver.

I understand that you have always called for calm and rational thought and not overreacting to a current situation in a way that would hurt us down the line. It was that line of thinking that made you so correct in the two aforementioned examples I cite here.

However your recent statement where you oppose a Constitutional Amendment that would prevent Corporations from having a direct voice in our election process and ultimately expands the original mistake of Corporate Personhood further than any court previous ever has, has me shocked and saddened.

In the cases I mentioned before, our choices were made on fear and were in fact irrational. Even though we had other terrorist attacks on US soil, the original WTC attacks in 1993, the Oklahoma City Bombing... we had never had an attack of such magnitude on US soil and it drove even the best Congressmen and Senators to make rash decisions based on their own fears and the fears of their constituents.

This is different altogether because this is not a one time blunt object type of shot from the bow from the Supreme Court. This is in fact, a repeated process where the more conservative Supreme Court has ruled consistently with the Corporation over the Person.

Over the course of 30 years the courts became more conservative and Supreme Court judges were specifically vetted by previous Administrations for their right wing ideology while Democratic Administrations chose Centrist/Moderate Judges that did not swing the balance back to a complete center.

In that ideology lie the principle that money equals power and that people do not overrule the almighty corporation.

I don't need to give you a history lesson of the mistake that created corporate personhood nor would I insult your intelligence by running down the plethora of cases that have proven that the Supreme Court is far from an independent impartial observer in these cases any longer. I know you already know these examples and are a very smart man.

It's for that very reason that I cannot fathom for the life of me why you would oppose such an important measure. Especially when the biggest beneficiary of such a move would be the strengthening of your pet cause, Campaign Finance Reform.

A few wealthy Corporations already own the media thanks to poor decisions by previous Administrations and their FCC appointments to deregulate/relax media ownership laws. In doing so they use their outlets to spout pro corporate propaganda and control the narrative on most of the issues you're attempting to pass. Jon Stewart pointed this out on The O'Reilly Factor just last night about how Fox News creates the narrative and people become hysterical about real issues.

The point of this is to drive panic so nobody regulates industry or changes how they are working internal scams to continue boosting profits through the roof. The news never covered war profiteering, much of which involved their parent company's other corporate holdings. Never bothers to cover much in the way of corporate scandal until it blows up so large that they can't avoid it (Enron). They protect the narrative that Big Business can do it better than the Government and that we should trust them no matter how corrupt they may be.

It's sort of backfiring on them now as banks have become the scourge of America for their reaping huge profits at the expense of regular people who work hard and see similar corporations outsource their jobs and create massive layoffs all to make their CEOs and major shareholders more money.

Americans, despite what Fox or other corporate owned media might say, are mostly united on one thing. They are tired of being ripped off.

By giving in to this Supreme Court decision and in effect a huge swath of previous incorrect decisions and future slanted decisions you're saying, "Yes, I think corporations should have the same equal rights as the American People."

They already try to bounce around the McCain-Feingold laws and start "advocacy groups" to sell their issues to people in a confusing way and by saying that distribution of campaign ads and materials by ultra rich corporations should be allowed and basically uncapped, pretty much ends the democratic process as we know it.

Ask third party candidates who deserve as much as anyone to have their ideas heard, how not having a voice in the media or any money to put out a serious ad campaign works for them? Now think of it like this. Aside from the candidate they support running their own ads they will have corporate backers putting out endless ads in support of this person. They will have multiple PR firms putting out and coordinating messages that presents a completely unfair advantage.

For the major party candidate on the losing end of such a corporate war it's going to be an incredibly steep uphill climb to battle the amount of market saturation and name recognition that their opponent will have going for them. For the third party candidate, why even bother getting into the race? Unless you're Ross Perot and a billionaire, there's no chance at all you will be heard... and considering how often they are ignored now you just eliminated a major portion of the Democratic Process.

The reason for the amendment has nothing to do with free speech and everything to do with fair elections and upholding the forefathers' intent behind the concept of a Democracy. Thomas Jefferson, often wary of such meddling be it by businesses or clergymen, was strongly opposed to businesses having a large say in Government politics.

As a Democrat who often attends local Jefferson-Jackson dinners, I would plead with you to use his frame of mind on this issue for guidance.

The need for an Amendment is to provide clarity as to the place of the people in their government. Corporations often do not pay taxes, or avoid doing so with off shore shelters, yet we're willing to give them not so much equal but rather superior placement in the laws of society and the elections that decide who controls it?

This to me is an abomination of Constitutional purpose.

Aside from what political gains this would make for Democrats or your pet causes, since that is not the point of this, I want to appeal to your sense of history and Constitutional fairness.

We are at a tipping point in America in terms of how powerful we have allowed Corporations to become. The corporate elite have managed to use their unlimted lobbying resources to have practically every major law and regulation, most notably Glass-Stegall, overturned in their favor and what we see now is a stifled Democracy where in order to have a chance at any major office you need to be vetted at a pro-business advocate. We see now a country whose economic future is in dire straights. Where the top 1% own 3/4ths of the country's wealth and the rest of us grovel for a steady job that can just pay the bills while we drown in debt over house payments or overpriced health care costs.

The last thing we need is the Supreme Court to continue to advocate against our well being in their pro-corporation stances. And since Bush and Rove stacked the lower courts with like-minded judges, the judiciary as a whole can work against the rights of the individual versus the rights of the corporation.

Most certainly the makeup of the court can and will change from time to time but what should be a constant is that no court should be able to rule that corporations, who do not do their fair share to be a loyal American citizen, are in fact people in the eyes of the law.

An American citizen pays taxes here, has their jobs here and resides here, does not break the laws on a regular basis here and does not have the financial wherewithal to influence their representatives. And unfortunately because of this their individual voices are often ignored or responded to with a form letter that hardly does enough to address their very real concerns.

Preventing corporate personhood and preventing corporate tampering with elections prevents undue foreign influence on our elections. It prevents undue foreign influence on our laws, most notably the constant war to avoid regulatory measures that we purposely put in place to protect the American citizen.

Once you end Corporate Personhood you realize that they do not have the same right to free speech that the American people were granted via the blood of our ancestors fighting for such freedom over the years. Did corporations go to war? Or did they just profit from their involvement of it?

Please Senator Feingold, as one of your greatest supporters I plead with you to make the choice that supports the American citizen over the rights of the Corporation. This is not the rash judgment of one Court Decision this the result of an Avalanche of recent cases that proves that the defense of corporations in the Federal Court system has gone too far and needs to be written into law in a way that prevents future misinterpretation of law to give corporations an unfair leg up on the rest of us who pay the taxes that grease the skids and allow them tax breaks to build in new locations, buy more equipment, hire more workers, etc. We pay the taxes and corporations reap all the benefit including practically them owning most of Congress thanks to their constant lobbying and offering of post-Congressional opportunities.

The scales of justice are tilted. Please help us place the weight back on the side that is launched into the sky at the moment. It would be nice for America if all of us had a shot at equality for once.

Robert Poole, Jr.