Democratic Party No Longer Against Citizens United

I concede the stage today to Glenn Greenwaldwho lays out the charge compactly:

FOR YEARS, THE Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Citizens United was depicted by Democrats as the root of all political evil. But now, the core argument embraced by the Court’s conservatives to justify their ruling has taken center stage in the Democratic primary between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders — because Clinton supporters, to defend the huge amount of corporate cash on which their candidate is relying, frequently invoke that very same reasoning.

and then proceeds to support it with a devastatingly detailed brief.

First note that,

[In Citizens United] A primary argument of the Obama Justice Department and Democrats…was that corporate expenditures are so corrupting of the political process that limits are justified even if they infringe free speech….[But] Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the five-judge conservative majority [argued]:

independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.

….That key argument of the right-wing justices in Citizens United has now become the key argument of the Clinton campaign….Clinton supporters in 2016 are denying the corrupting effect of direct campaign donations by large banks and corporations and…huge speaking fees paid to an individual politician shortly before and after that person holds massive political power.

As Greenwald notes, such a claim goes beyond even the Supreme Court’s contention that ‘independent expenditures…do not give rise to corruption.’ Moreover, depressingly enough,

Another critical aspect of the right-wing majority argument in Citizens United was that actual corruption requires proof of a “quid pro quo” arrangement…basically, bribery….That, too, has become a core Clinton-supporting argument….Conversely, the once-beloved Citizens United dissent…was emphatic in its key claim: that there are many other forms of corruption brought about by corporate campaign expenditures….large amounts of corporate cash are almost inevitably corrupting, and certainly undermine trust in the political system, because of the many different ways…that corporations convert their expenditures into undue influence and access:

Clearly, this election season has taken us  into fantasy land, where conventional liberal pieties have been dispensed with, age-old manifestos consigned to the flames:

….Clinton supporters insist, the mere fact that a candidate is receiving millions upon millions of dollars…from Wall Street banks, hedge funds, and large corporations is not remotely suggestive of corruption….[they] have resorted to denying what was once a core orthodoxy of Democratic politics: that big corporate donations (let alone being personally enriched by huge Wall Street speaking fees in between stints in public office) are corrupting.

One more merger point between ‘right’ and ‘left,’ conservative’ and ‘liberal.’ That’s a ‘bipartisan consensus’ to look forward to, especially when the Republican Party will gleefully point to this claim being made by Democrats. The most salutary effect of this abominably long election season has been the simultaneously gratifying and dismaying confirmation of the utter corruption of the political process, and the concomitant need for a radical–you may, if you prefer, call it ‘revolutionary’–transformation to be induced in it. What we have simply won’t do.

Big Business and its Friends on the US Supreme Court

An academic study conducted by Lee Epstein, William Landes and Richard Posner confirms something many of us have only intuited till now:

[T]he business docket reflects something truly distinctive about the court led by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. While the current court’s decisions, over all, are only slightly more conservative than those from the courts led by Chief Justices Warren E. Burger and William H. Rehnquist, according to political scientists who study the court, its business rulings are another matter. They have been, a new study finds, far friendlier to business than those of any court since at least World War II.

In the eight years since Chief Justice Roberts joined the court, it has allowed corporations to spend freely in elections in the Citizens United case, has shielded them from class actions and human rights suits, and has made arbitration the favored way to resolve many disputes. Business groups say the Roberts court’s decisions have helped combat frivolous lawsuits, while plaintiffs’ lawyers say the rulings have destroyed legitimate claims for harm from faulty products, discriminatory practices and fraud.

Whether the Roberts court is unusually friendly to business has been the subject of repeated discussion, much of it based on anecdotes and studies based on small slices of empirical evidence. The new study, by contrast, takes a careful and comprehensive look at some 2,000 decisions from 1946 to 2011.

Published last month in The Minnesota Law Review, the study ranked the 36 justices who served on the court over those 65 years by the proportion of their pro-business votes; all five of the current court’s more conservative members were in the top 10. But the study’s most striking finding was that the two justices most likely to vote in favor of business interests since 1946 are the most recent conservative additions to the court, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., both appointed by President George W. Bush.

The Supreme Courts’ pro-business orientation finds its most vivid expression in its ruling in an antitrust class action brought against Comcast by its subscribers who had charged that ‘the company had swapped territory with other cable companies to gain market power and raise prices.’ Justice Scalia ruled that plaintiff’s evidence did not permit them to proceed as a class; that they should pursue instead, individual litigation unlikely to be attractive to trial lawyers because of the smaller damages involved (thus effectively ensuring such litigation would not occur):

Plaintiffs’ lawyers…say class actions are the only way to vindicate small harms caused to many people. The victim of, say, a fraudulent charge for a few dollars on a billing statement will never sue. But a lawyer representing a million such people has an incentive to press the claim.

“Realistically,” Professor Miller wrote, “the choice for class members is between collective access to the judicial system or no access at all.”

So the Supreme Court’s rulings making it harder to cross the class-certification threshold have had profound consequences in the legal balance of power between businesses and people who say they have been harmed.

Furthermore, by reaffirming Wal-Mart v. Dukes, which had also thrown out a class-action suit, it further narrowed the scope of class-action suits and made them even more unlikely in the future.

All in all, a grand slam for big business.  Dubya is gone, but not forgotten.

Bosses Call For Mass Harakiri In Event of Obama Victory

In what some election observers are terming an ‘extreme, possibly misguided–and certainly un-American in its excessive Japaneseness–response’ to the US Supreme Court’s Citizens’ United decision freeing companies from restrictions on using corporate funds to endorse and campaign for political candidates, several large American employers have called for mass, public harakiri in the event that Barack Obama wins the US presidential election on November 6th.

Major companies–including Fox News, Coors Breweries, and various NASCAR sponsors–have sent detailed letters and information packets to their employees explicitly recommending that employees, as one letter put it, ‘not just off themselves but do it in a way that sends a message to future generations.’ Some employers have rejected criticisms of these letters as ‘unfair and imbalanced.’ A senior executive at Fox News said:

If Barack wins, the economy will crash, new taxes will be levied, our children will be forced into labor camps, we will be forced to grow beards and memorize the Koran. Life as we know it will be over and certainly not worth living anymore. Our employees have a choice between being forced into humiliating subjugation, or doing what a true warrior would do under the circumstances, namely, kill themselves before Death Panels decimate them and their families. We intend to facilitate and encourage such behavior. There is no coercion here.

A letter sent by Fox News to their employees included explicit instructions:

In event of Barack Obama being elected on November 6th, we call on our employees to gather in the company parking lot on the morning of November 7th (Pearl Harbor Day Minus Thirty) and disembowel themselves with stainless steel katana swords supplied by management. We will pair off employees–into samurai and kaishakunin–based on lots drawn by their group managers. After the ‘samurai’ has disemboweled himself, his kaishakunin will carry out the decapitation. The kaishakunins will be dispatched by special Corporate Disposition Matrix Squads. The parking lot will be cleaned up by groups of Hyatt Hotel housekeepers prior to their deportation.

While some employees found the call for mass seppuku ‘a little over the top’ and an ‘over-reaction,’ others were entirely unsurprised. A foreman at Coors Breweries said, ‘They get our Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and FourSquare passwords before hiring, make us piss in bottles and take hair samples to test for drugs, scan our emails, search our hard drives, regulate our toilet and meal breaks, tell us what clothes to wear, make us attend–and bring our children to–company picnics, specify when we have to come in to work, when we can leave, and how long we have to work on weekends and national holidays, so it makes eminent sense that they should be able to tell us when our time on this planet is up, when our lives aren’t worth living. A job  is a cradle to grave kind of thing, and the bosses knows best. People who don’t like it always have the option to exit the labor market.’

Gary Johnson, the US Libertarian Party candidate for president, said he was pleased the US government had not attempted to intervene in ‘what is essentially a workplace issue.’