The Supreme Court's Non-Violent Corporate Coup

Today, in a radical act of judicial activism, five Supreme Court Justices overthrew 103 years of American statutory and judicial law going back to the Presidency of Teddy Roosevelt by ruling that corporations have the Constitutional right to make unlimited campaign contributions.

This is in effect a bloodless judicial coup which turns the American government over to the biggest corporate interests, to the degree that hadn't happened already.

This is a two-part coup. In 2000, in the judicially unconscionable Bush v. Gore ruling, the Supreme Court handed the Presidency to George W. Bush. Bush, in turn, appointed John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, who, in their confirmation hearings, disingenuously promised the Senate and American people to be judicial moderates and avoid judicial activism. Now, in 2010, in perhaps the greatest act of judicial activism in American history, they overthrew 103 years of precedent to turn the US government over to the largest corporations.

According to the New York Times, during the last election cycled, the Fortune 100 companies alone had combined revenues of $13 trillion and profits of $605 billion. A third of the Senate is up for reelection every two years. Let's say the largest corporations give an average of $10 million to each Senatorial Candidate. (Of course, to sway an election, it would be more in big states like New York, Texas and California, and less in small states Wyoming, Montana and Rhode Island.) That would be $3.3-$3.4 billion every two years. Let's say they spent another $4 billion on the Presidential election every 4 years or an average of another $1 billion a year.

For less than 1% of their profits, the 100 largest corporations would likely be able to control the Senate and the Presidency, and through that, the Supreme Court. (This doesn't even count contributions from the next 400 companies in the Fortune 500, or from slightly smaller corporations.) Good luck passing legislation to limit greenhouse gases, regulate insurance companies, or to reign in the power of the big banks.

In the coming days, many legal experts will dissect the majority and dissenting opinions in the Supreme Court's decision Citizens United v Federal Election Commission. But we can already say that by a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court just staged a bloodless corporate coup and sold American democracy to the highest bidder.