After the Supreme Court decision on Citizens United v FEC, Barack Obama asserted that the court had overturned “a century of campaign reform law”. He did it again last night in his State of the Union speech:
“Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign companies — to spend without limit in our elections,” Obama said tonight. “Well, I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, and worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.”
Actually, as HA reader Mark points out, the Citizens United decision changed less than a decade of law. The century of law prohibited corporations from contributing to candidates — and the Supreme Court decision didn’t change that at all. Spending limits on political speech, including a pre-emptive bar on advertising by corporations and special interests within a certain time range prior to the election, only came into being through McCain-Feingold. And that was in 2002, not 1910.
Bradley Smith at The Corner demolishes the rest of Obama’s argument on the danger of foreign corporations:
The Court held that 2 U.S.C. Section 441a, which prohibits all corporate political spending, is unconstitutional. Foreign nationals, specifically defined to include foreign corporations, are prohibiting from making “a contribution or donation of money or ather thing of value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a Federal, State or local election” under 2 U.S.C. Section 441e, which was not at issue in the case. Foreign corporations are also prohibited, under 2 U.S.C. 441e, from making any contribution or donation to any committee of any political party, and they prohibited from making any “expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement for an electioneering communication… .”
This is either blithering ignorance of the law, or demogoguery of the worst kind.
Maybe that’s why the cameras caught Justice Sam Alito shaking his head at the reference. The Constitutional law professor apparently needs a refresher course on legal research. Of course, for a man who thought the Constitution was written “20 centuries ago,” maybe eight years from McCain-Feingold seems like almost a century to him…
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