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Alito shakes head as Obama slams Citizens United

By The Associated Press
01.28.10

WASHINGTON — Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito didn't like what he was hearing from President Barack Obama.

The president had taken the unusual step of scolding the high court in his State of the Union address last night. "With all due deference to the separation of powers," Obama said in reference to Citizens United v. FEC, the Court last week "reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections."

Alito made a dismissive face, shook his head repeatedly and appeared to mouth the words "not true" or possibly "simply not true."

A reliable conservative appointed to the Supreme Court by Republican President George W. Bush, Alito was in the majority in the 5-4 ruling. Senate Democratic leaders sitting immediately behind Alito and other members of the high court rose and clapped loudly in their direction, with Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., leaning slightly forward with the most enthusiastic applause.

The Court did upend a 100-year trend that had imposed greater limitations on corporate political activity. Specifically, the majority said corporations and unions could spend independently and freely from their treasuries to run political ads for or against specific candidates. Obama said corporations could now "spend without limit in our elections." However, corporations and unions are still prohibited from contributing directly to politicians.

In his dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens said the Court majority "would appear to afford the same protection to multinational corporations controlled by foreigners as to individual Americans."

Appearing in an interview this morning on ABC's "Good Morning America," Vice President Joe Biden was asked whether it was appropriate for Obama to second-guess the Court's decision.

"The president didn't question the integrity of the Court. He questioned the judgment of it," Biden said. "A lot of these multinational corporations are owned as much by foreign interests as they are by domestic interests."

"I think it's an outrageous decision," the vice president added. "Not outrageous in the fact that these guys are bad guys, but outrageous in the way you read the Constitution." Biden called the ruling removing restrictions on spending by corporations and unions "the last thing we need" in American politics. These entities still are prohibited by law from making donations directly to candidates.

Biden said he thought it wrong that a major multinational company can now "with excessive amounts of money be able to influence the outcome of elections," saying that critical U.S. policymaking on issues like energy independence could be affected by the spending.

"I think it was dead wrong and we have to correct it," said Biden, inviting Congress to pass legislation negating the decision.


Update
Alito objected to Obama's history claim
On basis of justice's questions in Citizens United arguments, it seems clear he took issue with assertion that ruling 'reversed a century of law.' 02.08.10

Related

Court rolls back campaign-spending limits

In Citizens United v. FEC, justices also strike down part of law that barred union, corporate ads in closing days of campaigns. 01.21.10

A changed legal landscape in campaign finance

By David L. Hudson Jr. Justice Kennedy notes that, historically, direct corporate contributions to candidates have been restricted much more than corporate spending on behalf of candidates. 01.21.10

Obama lashes out at high court over campaign finance
Democrats trying to devise new restraints on corporate election spending in wake of Citizens United ruling. 01.25.10

D.C. Circuit skeptical of campaign-finance rules
Several judges say during hearing that outcome of current case is compelled by the reasoning in high court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC. 01.28.10

Lawmakers pledge action to limit election spending
Senators, representatives plan to introduce legislation — including constitutional amendment — to counter high court's ruling in Citizens United. 02.03.10

Current legislation & the First Amendment
By Gordon T. Belt Summary, status of bills being considered by Congress that involve First Amendment freedoms. 12.29.09

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