Campaign finance ruling and the climate

By ruling that corporations are entitled to exercise unrestricted political speech, the U.S. Supreme Court has just made it much more difficult for Americans to make the transition from a fossil-fuel-based economy to a clean-energy economy.

Most democracies, including, until this morning, the U.S., recognize the danger of giving corporations free rein to influence the outcome of elections and so limit or ban political spending by corporations. But starting now, the $605 billion in profits available to the Fortune 100 can now be spent on advertising during American elections. This means those who are making the most money from the existing system are in a much greater position to help determine the future than those who are marginal players.

Fossil-fuel producers are among the richest corporations on the planet and in the U.S. They will now be able to outspend upstart solar, geothermal, wind-power, energy-efficiency and conservation-oriented businesses by several orders of magnitude. If you think it's tough to break into the energy market today, it just got a whole lot harder.

Other winners from today's ruling:

  • Carbon capture and sequestration researchers, as bringing down CCS costs (in both energy and money) will now almost certainly be needed in a world that is that even less likely to stop burning coal in time to prevent catastrophic climate change than it was yesterday.
  • The advertising industry.

More like this

The arguments against carbon capture and sequestration are legion and the list of reasons not to invest more resources in the technology just keeps getting longer. Here's a new analysis from Canadian journalist Graham Thomson. Some of his figures-- on global carbon emissions, for example -- are…
We all know we need to get off fossil fuels and replace them with carbon-neutral alternatives. The question is not IF we should choose this path, but how best to get where we need to go. There are those who, fairly enough, worry that those clean renewables aren't up to the job. This is a critical…
The word from Canada's most rectangular province is that Saskatchewan could soon be home to North American's first "commercial-scale, coal-fired power plants that would produce virtually no greenhouse gas emissions." The estimated $2 billion plant will capture its carbon dioxide and pump it into…
Barack Obama was the first to answer the questions put to the candidates by the Science Debate 2008 team, and now McCain has responded. As I did with Obama's, I will here deconstruct McCain's answers on climate and energy policy. My comments are italicized. 2. Climate Change. The Earth's climate is…

We are under attack!

Is there any way to force them to reverse this decision or to invalidate it?

Alex, one of the conservative justices needs to step down or kick the bucket while Obama (or some democrat) is president.

They'll overturn any attempt to limit spending as long as they have a majority. Remember, this case was originally a narrow case. It was broadened by the conservative justices themselves into a ruling on campaign spending in general.

You know all this stuff we hear about "liberal activist judges"? What can be more activist than taking a case heard in the lower courts on very narrow grounds and then blow it up into a ruling that forbids any limitation on campaign spending whatsoever?

OK, we're used to hypocritical conservatives but sheesh, this really takes the cake.

Dred Scott was once ruled a non-person by the Supreme Court, and now we have corporations with the full rights of humans once denied to blacks.

Some country.

Come on now, free speech is not the problem. The entire planet knows that the US government is the most corrupt political body in the western world. This decision merely formalises the existing corporate state.

So, if corporations have all the rights of human beings, that means they can vote. They cannot. So by extension, they cannot spend all their money to influence voters. Simple and logical.

So....what were those judges thinking??!?!

Newt Gingerich seems very happy about this ruling. Figures.

By Pierre Caron (not verified) on 22 Jan 2010 #permalink

as far as who else were winners in this, you forgot LAWYERS

This decision merely formalises the existing corporate state.

Well, yes, that's why reasonable people are so pissed off by it.

One suggestion I've heard is having politicians were gear with their sponsorship/corporate logos like NASCAR drivers.

Great line about Dred Scott, dhogaza.

Great line about Dred Scott, dhogaza.

Thanks! Though it's been pointed out elsewhere that, like Dred Scott, corporations aren't allowed to vote - yet. I'm sure that injustice will be changed at some point in the future, something like "one vote per customer".

This case is a great example of people being confused by a sometimes useful analogy.

By freelunch (not verified) on 22 Jan 2010 #permalink

The infamous Dred Scott decision declared that (some) people were property; the infamous Citizens United decision declares that (some) properties are people.

By Brian Brademeyer (not verified) on 22 Jan 2010 #permalink

The infamous Dred Scott decision declared that (some) people were property

Actually, it's right there in the Constitution, albeit a bit subtle. Because when counted for the purpose of allocating seats in the House, slaves were counted as ... 1/3? (I'd have to look, but for the principle the fraction is irrelevant) ... of a freeman.

Done to give southern slave-owning states representation in the House somewhat proportional to population, without them having to agree that one slave was equal to one white in the accounting ...

Dred Scott had more to do with upholding the property principle even if a slave moved to a free state, etc etc.

dhogaza -

Actually, it's simpler than the corporations getting the vote. The tactic has generally been to get all government services privatised, or tendered out to contract. That way they get to run everything (at a profit), without appearing to have political power. And when things go wrong, the interchangeable politicians get the blame.

By Andrew Dodds (not verified) on 24 Jan 2010 #permalink

Don't be ignorant. Read the Opinion of the Court.

http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/09pdf/08-205.pdf

It's only 187 pages or so.

Large corporations already had a free speech loophole through PACs and other corporations have never had restrictions at all (press/media). Corporations with media arms could circumvent the law while those without were forced to use other means if they were large enough to afford them. Corporations could spend money supporting issues, saying and spending anything they want, but not when it came to supporting or opposing an individual candidate. The law that was struck down existed as a de facto censor, requiring speech to be be submitted for approval to the FEC or face costly litigation. Most corporations, those not large enough to afford a PAC or a media arm, were prevented from engaging in the political process.