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Op-Ed: Are Supreme Court Justices Out Of touch? - The Clifton Journal

Op-Ed

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Date:
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It's hardly surprising that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court recently suggested that he and his associates should sit out future State of the Union speeches. The idea of members of the top court sitting out the President's annual address to Congress -- and the nation -- falls in line with what is evidently their guiding principle: putting obstacles between the American people and their government.

In the wake of the court's unfortunate 5-4 decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, is that what we can look forward to? This controversial ruling overturned over 100 years of precedent, and made it possible for foreign corporations -- as well as a host of other wealthy special interests -- to drown out the voice of the average citizen by lifting corporate limits on direct advertising expenditures in American elections. This, all under the camouflage of "free speech."

Citizens United, a nonprofit organization primarily funded by large corporations, argued that the FEC had no right to prohibit it from televising a film critical of Hillary Clinton the night before an election. The court agreed, and ruled that corporations and unions were entitled to the same First Amendment protections as any citizen.

The ruling prompted Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter to write, "We can't expect the judiciary to protect average citizens from the power of big money." I couldn't agree more. The nation's highest court has minimized our core principle of government by the people and for the people. One of the worst consequences of this ruling is that our elections at every level of government are vulnerable to foreign influence. Try that on for size. Foreign cash can easily be laundered through multinational corporations. I don't believe that this is desirable by either conservatives or liberals.

I have introduced legislation in Congress aimed at restoring power to the average American citizen. The Prohibiting Foreign Influence in American Elections Act, H.R. 4522, has garnered 43 bipartisan co-sponsors who share my belief in a zero-tolerance policy for foreign money influencing our elections.

It is shameful that members of Congress have been put in the position of salvaging all that was achieved in the McCain-Feingold Act. Though far from perfect, this bipartisan legislation that I strongly supported was this nation's greatest achievement in campaign finance reform. Senators McCain and Feingold had it right. According to the McCain-Feingold Act, corporations, nonprofits and unions were banned from electioneering in the 30 days prior to an election.

The First Amendment to our constitution grants all of us the right to free speech. That freedom comes with responsibility.

As a nation, we know that big tobacco, as an example, has a Constitutionally-protected right to advertise its products. Yet, the federal government prohibits cigarettes from being advertised on certain media and it prohibits ads that target children. Despite the restrictions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 46 million adults, 1 in 5 adult Americans, currently smoke.

Additionally, our government regulates what is broadcast on television and radio, and some acts of speech -- such as sedition -- are deemed criminal.

When it comes to applying the First Amendment, we Americans have usually been guided by a simple question: does one person's freedom of expression have the potential to harm another person's rights or well-being?

With regard to the Supreme Court's ruling, it's American registered voters who are the casualties. The average American simply cannot compete with the near infinite financial resources that today's multinational corporations would have at their disposal to influence our politics. Unfortunately, this Supreme Court ruling has put us in the position of reclaiming what never should have been denied us in the first place.

Fighting powerful, entrenched interests is nothing new in the United States. Disenfranchised Americans have fought for their voices in government ever since American colonists fought the British Empire.

So here we Americans are again. We're ready to fight and make our case -- even if the judges aren't in the room.

It's hardly surprising that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court recently suggested that he and his associates should sit out future State of the Union speeches. The idea of members of the top court sitting out the President's annual address to Congress -- and the nation -- falls in line with what is evidently their guiding principle: putting obstacles between the American people and their government.

In the wake of the court's unfortunate 5-4 decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, is that what we can look forward to? This controversial ruling overturned over 100 years of precedent, and made it possible for foreign corporations -- as well as a host of other wealthy special interests -- to drown out the voice of the average citizen by lifting corporate limits on direct advertising expenditures in American elections. This, all under the camouflage of "free speech."

Citizens United, a nonprofit organization primarily funded by large corporations, argued that the FEC had no right to prohibit it from televising a film critical of Hillary Clinton the night before an election. The court agreed, and ruled that corporations and unions were entitled to the same First Amendment protections as any citizen.

The ruling prompted Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter to write, "We can't expect the judiciary to protect average citizens from the power of big money." I couldn't agree more. The nation's highest court has minimized our core principle of government by the people and for the people. One of the worst consequences of this ruling is that our elections at every level of government are vulnerable to foreign influence. Try that on for size. Foreign cash can easily be laundered through multinational corporations. I don't believe that this is desirable by either conservatives or liberals.

I have introduced legislation in Congress aimed at restoring power to the average American citizen. The Prohibiting Foreign Influence in American Elections Act, H.R. 4522, has garnered 43 bipartisan co-sponsors who share my belief in a zero-tolerance policy for foreign money influencing our elections.

It is shameful that members of Congress have been put in the position of salvaging all that was achieved in the McCain-Feingold Act. Though far from perfect, this bipartisan legislation that I strongly supported was this nation's greatest achievement in campaign finance reform. Senators McCain and Feingold had it right. According to the McCain-Feingold Act, corporations, nonprofits and unions were banned from electioneering in the 30 days prior to an election.

The First Amendment to our constitution grants all of us the right to free speech. That freedom comes with responsibility.

As a nation, we know that big tobacco, as an example, has a Constitutionally-protected right to advertise its products. Yet, the federal government prohibits cigarettes from being advertised on certain media and it prohibits ads that target children. Despite the restrictions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 46 million adults, 1 in 5 adult Americans, currently smoke.

Additionally, our government regulates what is broadcast on television and radio, and some acts of speech -- such as sedition -- are deemed criminal.

When it comes to applying the First Amendment, we Americans have usually been guided by a simple question: does one person's freedom of expression have the potential to harm another person's rights or well-being?

With regard to the Supreme Court's ruling, it's American registered voters who are the casualties. The average American simply cannot compete with the near infinite financial resources that today's multinational corporations would have at their disposal to influence our politics. Unfortunately, this Supreme Court ruling has put us in the position of reclaiming what never should have been denied us in the first place.

Fighting powerful, entrenched interests is nothing new in the United States. Disenfranchised Americans have fought for their voices in government ever since American colonists fought the British Empire.

So here we Americans are again. We're ready to fight and make our case -- even if the judges aren't in the room.


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