U.S. Supreme Court maneuvering in a case involving corporate money in political campaigns suggests that the right wing majority on the court is practicing judicial activism. The case involves a corporate documentary last year that was critical of Hilliary Clinton. According to an article today in the New York Times entitled “High Court Poised to Rewrite Spending Rules” the US Supreme Court appears to be setting up to overturn major provisions of the McCain Feingold law that it upheld just 2 years ago.
What has changed in those 2 years is that two more conservative justices have been appointed to the Court – Justices Roberts and Alito. As the New York Times notes “The Roberts court has struck down every campaign finance regulation to reach it, and it seems to have a majority prepared to do more. “
The issue involves “corporate money” in campaigns. The conservatives say that limiting the spending of corporate money is equal to limiting free speech. They argue limiting corporate money in elections violates the first amendment.
Of course there are several assumptions here that are questionable. One is that corporations should be accorded the same rights as citizens under the first amendment and second the assumption that equating the ability to spend money is somehow equivalent to a free speech right. The reality is that money buys access and exposure and corporations in general have more access to money that individuals.
The problem here is how you reconcile fairness in elections with lavish spending of money by special interests. Obviously the more money a corporation has, the more ability they have to get their message out to the voters. Thus the more money they have, the more “free” speech they have. At what point does corporate free spending of money overwhelm the ability of those with limited ability to raise money to have their voice heard?
The issue as the NY Times states is that “The court is poised to reverse longstanding precedents concerning the rights of corporations to participate in politics,” said Nathaniel Persily, a law professor at Columbia. “The only reason to ask for reargument on this is if they’re going to overturn Austin and McConnell.”
The issue is another that denotes the hypocrisy of conservatives. They argue against judicial activism, unless it is their own activism. Its just like conservative Republicans arguing for the sanctity of marriage except when its their marriage. Look not at what they say, but what they do. In this case it appears they are actively working to overturn a law they don’t agree with now, that two years ago a court without Roberts and Alito supported.
The current case as stated by the NY Times
“involves “Hillary: The Movie,” a slashing political documentary released last year while Mrs. Clinton, now the secretary of state, was seeking the democratic presidential nomination. The film was produced by Citizens United, a conservative advocacy group that is a nonprofit corporation.
The McCain-Feingold law bans the broadcast, cable or satellite transmission of “electioneering communications” paid for by corporations in the 30 days before a presidential primary and in the 60 days before a general election.
The law, as narrowed by a 2007 Supreme Court decision, applies to communications “susceptible to no reasonable interpretation other than as an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate.” It also requires spoken and written disclaimers in the film and ads for it, along with the disclosure of contributors’ names.”
A Supreme Court with several Obama appointees could very well reverse the negative climate against campaign finance restrictions. See related article e.g. on Sonja Sotomayor in NY Times entitled, “A Long Record on Campaign Finance, Often in Support of Regulations” which notes that “In 1996, Judge Sonia Sotomayor delivered a speech comparing campaign contributions to “bribes” and asking whether elected officials could credibly say they were “representing only the general public good, when private money plays such a large role” in helping them win office.”
This threat of new appointees to the US Supreme Court by Obama obviously seems behind this manoeuvring by the present court to reverse McCain Feingold and their two year old decision. This is the type of judicial activism we need to fear – a conservative US Supreme Court hell bent on attacking laws they don’t support. They are trying to act before the Court changes to a more mainstream philosophy that the American people support. This distorted right wing philosophy of judicial activists like Roberts and Alito intent on changing US laws they don’t like will remain a threat until the makeup of the US Supreme Court changes.
Give Barack Obama credit for the straight talk, not John McCain or Hillary Clinton. Obama has refused to climb aboard the crazy train of his opponents in both parties suggesting that cutting the Federal tax on gasoline this summer makes sense. It doesn’t.
Gasoline usage is price sensitive. Cutting the cost for the summer by suspending the Federal tax of 18.4 cents will not lower the price because the same fixed amount will be available and oil companies will merely raise the price to take advantage of customer demand. Any decrease in prices will be very short term.
The oil companies have no qualms about raising prices. They continue to rake in record profits at the expense of American car and truck users. Republicans in Congress, and President Bush with his threatened veto power, continue to support the oil companies making record profits at the expense of the American economy and American consumers.
And the bulk of the profits raked in don’t even go for producing more oil or alternative energy. For example, as Yahoo.news reports:
“Exxon posted record earnings of $40.6 billion in 2007, with revenue higher than the gross domestic profit of Turkey, the world’s 17th-largest economy….
The company has been criticized by some analysts and investors for laying back on capital spending while going full bore on share buybacks.
Exxon spent $31.8 billion to buy back shares in 2007 while shelling out $20.9 billion for capital expenditures.”
Exxon Mobil reported today that they raked in another $10.89 billion in first quarter profits this year.
So American consumers are shelling out their cash so that companies like Exxon can but back their stock. It’s absurd. At least Hillary Clinton proposes that the oil companies be hit with an excess profits tax to pay for her proposed summer tax cut. John McCain does not even support that and says he would cut elsewhere.
Democrats tried to pass legislation to end special subsidies to oil companies but Republicans held fast and stopped legislation passing. Democrats wanted the subsidies to go for funding alternative energy programs like wind and solar, which would help to reduce global warming impacts from carbon fuels. Instead we are left with no approval of existing incentives for solar and wind energy which expire at the end of this year.
And where was John McCain when votes were taking place to pass an energy policy to reduce dependence on carbon fuels and reduce global warming. AWOL – see excellent article by Grist on McCain’s missed votes in Congress, rightly pointing out McCain’s professed concern about climate change action is more hot air than anything else.
John McCain continues to get the soft touch by the media. As Frank Rich points out his Sunday New York Times piece entitled “The Republican Resurrection”
… As if to emulate Dick Cheney, who arrived in Baghdad a day behind him, he (McCain) embraced the vice president’s habit of manufacturing false links in the war on terror: Mr. McCain told reporters that Iran is training Al Qaeda operatives and sending them into Iraq.
His Sancho Panza, Joe Lieberman, whispered in his ear that a correction was in order. But this wasn’t a one-time slip, like Gerald Ford’s debate gaffe about Poland in 1976. Mr. McCain has said this repeatedly. Troubling as it is that he conflates Shiite Iran with Sunni terrorists, it’s even more bizarre that he doesn’t acknowledge the identity of Iran’s actual ally in Iraq — the American-sponsored Shiite government led by Nuri al-Maliki. Only two weeks before the Iraqi prime minister welcomed Mr. McCain to Baghdad, he played host to a bubbly state visit by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Whatever Mrs. Clinton’s or Mr. Obama’s inconsistencies about how to wind down the war, they are both models of coherence next to Mr. McCain. He keeps saying the surge is a “success,” but he can’t explain why that success keeps us trapped in Iraq indefinitely. He never says precisely what constitutes that “victory” he keeps seeing around the corner. His repeated declaration that he will only bring home the troops “with honor” is a Vietnam acid flashback recycled as a non sequitur. Our troops have already piled up more than enough honor in their five years of service under horrific circumstances. Meanwhile, as Al Qaeda proliferates in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a survey by Foreign Policy magazine of 3,400 active and retired American officers finds that 88 percent believe that the Iraq war has “stretched the U.S. military dangerously thin.”
So what’s the deal with the rest of the media? Not much was said critically of McCain. McCain doesn’t deserve special treatment – either he knows what he’s talking about or he doesn’t. And it appears he doesn’t. McCain is a recipe for disaster. We can’t afford a Bush clone in the White House after 8 years of Bush/Cheney.
Obama gained 2 more national delegates over Clinton as a result of the Wyoming caucuses. A total of 12 delegates were at stake.
Several places report the results as votes. The Green Papers reports that Obama received 5378 votes (61.43%) to Clinton’s 1313 (37.84%) to 64 (.73%) for others. If these are actual votes and not delegates as other states have reported at the precinct caucus level this would only represent a turnout of 13% of the 2006 registered Democratic voters.
Wyoming is not a state Democrats are likely to win. A look at the last 2 Presidential elections in Wyoming show that by more than 2 to 1, the state voted Republican.
2000 Bush 147,947 Gore 64,481 other 5298
2004 Bush 167,629 Kerry 70,778 other 4543
In 1992 Bill Clinton received 68,160 votes to 131,724 votes cast for the Republican and independent candidates. In 1996 Bill Clinton got 77,934 votes to 163,637 for his opponents.
In 2004 only 60,385 Wyoming voters were registered as Democrats, 162,952 were registered as Republicans and 32,885 were independent or other. In 2006 67,246 voters were registered as Democrats and 152,952 were Republicans. Wyoming does allow same day registration for voters. Current registration figures were not available on the Secretary of State’s website.
Caucuses are a reflection of enthusiasm for a candidate by hard core supporters more than any reflection of actual general election voter support. If you can not physically be present at the caucus site at the appointed time you have no vote in the process. Many potential voters wind up being excluded, weather for example was a factor in Wyoming.
If you are an active duty military person, or have to work, or are sick or are out of state, you have no vote in the caucus process. Primary voting with absentee ballots are the most democratic and inclusive. That is why the majority of states have primaries rather than caucuses. More people participate.
Senator Hillary Clinton decisively won Ohio’s primary 55% to 43% and has been declared the winner in Texas but by a smaller margin of 51% to 47% with 90% of the vote counted. As the Washington Post reports on Clinton’s comeback:
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) roared back into contention for the Democratic presidential primary race Tuesday night after claiming primary victories in Ohio, Texas and Rhode Island. These win ensure that her challenge to Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) will continue through Pennsylvania’s primary on April 22.
Clinton’s popular vote margin in Ohio was larger than expected, while she appeared to eke out a very narrow win in Texas. Earlier in the night, Obama won an easy victory in Vermont while Clinton cruised to a triumph in Rhode Island.
As the New York Times notes, voters are not yet ready to write Senator Clinton off:
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s victories in Ohio and Texas on Tuesday night not only shook off the vapors of impending defeat, but also showed that — in spite of his delegate lead — Senator Barack Obama was still losing to her in the big states.
Those two states were the battlegrounds where Mr. Obama was going to bury the last opponent to his history-making nomination, finally delivering on his message of hope while dashing the hopes of a Clinton presidential dynasty.
Yet then the excited, divided American electorate weighed in once more, throwing Mrs. Clinton the sort of political lifeline that New Hampshire did in early January after her third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses.
Barrack Obama still leads in delegate counts – some 1466 to 1376 by one estimate Votes in Mississippi and Wyoming are coming up in the next week which favor Obama. Even with the large number of delegates at stake in Pennyslvania, and Clinton being currently favored there, Clinton is in a difficult position trying to overtake Obama.
The battle now is going to shift to the undemocratic process of superdelegates committing and the question of what to do about Michigan and Florida whose delegates are not currently being counted because they broke party rules and moved their primaries to January.
The irony here is that Clinton won both of these states when the candidates agreed not to campaign there. With all their names on the ballot in Florida, Clinton won Florida. In Michigan Clinton’s name was on the ballot but Obama’s was not. People had to vote uncommitted if they didn’t want Clinton and wanted Obama. Clinton still won. Both Michigan and Florida are states the Democrats want and need to win in November.
While Clinton has not won as many states as Obama has, the delegate and vote count is close. Unlike the electoral college which is winner take all, the Democratic primaries and caucuses assign delegates to the Democratic National Convention based on the proportion of the vote each candidate won.
As the New York Times notes:
The nomination is not determined by the number of states won, but Mr. Obama’s inability to win major battleground states beyond Missouri, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and his home state, Illinois, is a concern of some Democrats — especially since Ohio and Florida have become must-wins in presidential elections.
Quoting Clinton according to the NY Times:
“If we want a Democratic president, we need a Democratic nominee who can win the battleground states, just like Ohio,” she said. “We’ve won Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Michigan, New Hampshire, Arkansas, California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Tennessee”
There is plenty for Democrats to think about. The hope is that a resolution can be reached and a nominee selected without splitting and losing the combined passions of the Clinton and Obama camps. The last thing the Democrats need is to enter the fall campaign split and angry at each other rather than united in working to defeat the Republicans and John McCain.
One thing for sure – the Democrats need to come up with a better plan and timing and spacing of primaries for the next party contested Presidential election. Reform of the process should include making the elections fairer by going to an all primary system where voters can see how their votes count and maximum voter participation is ensured – something the caucus system doesn’t do.
The Associated Press according to the Washington Post has projected Hillary Clinton as the winner in Rhode Island. Barack Obama has been declared the winner in Vermont where the Iraq War was listed in exit polls as the major issue.
Meanwhile polls in Ohio have closed. Clinton has a small lead in early results. Weather has been terrible in Ohio with snow in northern Ohio and rains and flooding in southern Ohio. Some polls in Cleveland were kept open later as they ran out of Democratic ballots. Ohio recently changed to all paper ballots that are then optically scanned after problems were assessed with their touch screen machines.
Ohio’s election results in 2004 were rife with problems. Robert Kennedy Jr, among others called into question the election results in Ohio in 2004.
Meanwhile Texas is also currently having some problems. Sixty-five percent of Texas 193 delegates are determined by a primary vote and 35% are determined by a separate caucus vote this evening. The Clinton campaign is reporting problems with being excluded from some of their supporters being excluded from the caucuses.
Because of the nature and complexity of the Texas voting process a final tally of delegate allocation may actually take several days.
Overall some 370 Democratic delegates are being determined today. Unfortunately for Hillary Clinton the results will probably not significantly change the delegate lead that Obama has. Unfortunately for Obama if the results are mixed it is likely that Hillary Clinton will continue her campaign which will make John McCain happy.
While some Democrats may lament the lack of a knockout punch, the Democrats continuing to battle will get the two candidates before more voters and allow a further Democratic organizational effort in more states including a key battle in the Pennsylvania primary.
Meanwhile John McCain is the projected winner of all four states – Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Vermont and has gained enough delegates to win the Republican nomination. Mike Huckabee has announced he is withdrawing from the race.
John McCain missed so many votes last year in Congress that he scored a zero on the League of Conservation Voters 2007 ratings. He was the only Senator to miss all of the key environmental votes used in the scoring.
As LCV noted in their recent press release:
“The presidential candidates’ scores all suffered from the occupational hazard of absenteeism. Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) missed four votes each in 2007, although both made a point of being on hand for the key vote that would have allowed a version of the energy bill to move forward that included a provision to repeal billions of dollars in tax breaks for big oil and put that money toward clean energy programs.
Clinton’s score in 2007 was 73 percent (87 percent lifetime); Obama’s was 67 percent (86 percent lifetime). * Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) scored 0 percent in 2007 (24 percent lifetime) due to missing all 15 votes scored, including the key vote on repealing tax giveaways to big oil – a measure that failed by only one vote.”
McCain’s LCV ratings:
0 (2007), 41 (2005-2006), 56 (2003-2004), 36 (2001-2002), 6 (1999-2000)
Obama’s LCV ratings:
67 (2007), 96 (2005-2006)
Clinton’s LCV ratings
73 (2007), 89 (2005-2006), 92 (2003-2004), 88 (2001-2002)
Of the other Presidential candidates who have dropped out of the race Joe Biden missed 4 of the environmental votes used in the rating in 2007 and received a score of 67. Christopher Dodd missed 6 of the environmental votes in 2007 and received a score of 60. Dennis Kucinich missed 3 of the environmental votes in the House and received a score of 80.
It’s worth taking a look. I stumbled across the U-Tube posting at the democraticunderground site.
You can view the clip by clicking on “Clinton Heartfelt Answer at TX Debate – only standing ovation of the night”
You can catch other segments of the debate by going to CNN which has 20 different clips of
the debate between Hillary and Barack.
Whether or not Hillary Clinton ultimately wins the nomination, Democrats are lucky to have both her and Barack Obama as our frontrunners. There is really not a lot of difference between the two candidates as far as the issues go.
When I listened to both of them when they were in Seattle just before the Washington state caucuses, their positions on the issues they talked about were almost identical.
Senator Clinton was not able to turn around Wisconsin and stop voters going to Obama. It seems that mistakes made by the Clinton campaign are getting harder to turn around as Obama’s organizing effort is paying off. He has now won contests in 9 states in a row.
As reported by the NY Times, “With 83 percent of the electoral precincts in Wisconsin reporting, Mr. Obama had 58 percent of the vote to Mrs. Clinton’s 41 percent.”
Obama is using skills drawn from community organizing to win. He has invested in working the grassroots which can be effective particularly in caucus states.
When Clinton came to Seattle to speak, her campaign had a few people in the back trying half heartedly to get people to sign up. They did not work the crowd which waited for over an hour for Hillary to come to speak.
Obama’s people worked the crowd and someone told me that they got an email from the campaign the next day. Now that’s turn around and obviously builds the mailing and contributor base aggressively.
A number of years ago when Senator Bill Bradley came to the Pike Place Market to speak I noticed the same half hearted effort by his supporters to get people signed up. It was a tell tale sign that he did not know how to build a campaign at the grassroots level and his campaign did not build momentum.
The word is that the Clinton campaign took too much for granted and besides ignoring grassroots efforts to build a campaign in caucus and other states, they thought it would all be over on Feb 5, 2008 and did not put into place aggressive campaigns for states after Feb 5, 2008.
It’s kind of funny, people are criticizing Hillary for her attempts to confront Obama head on. Actually she is still throwing him softballs. McCain and the Republicans are not going to be so nice and it remains to be seen if Senator Obama, if he emerges victorious from Ohio and Texas, will be up for hardball with McCain.
It would be a tactical mistake for either him or Clinton to not be emotionally prepared for a vigorous onslaught from the Republicans. The Republicans are not going to quietly leave the stage. Republican have a knack even when they disagree of eventually seeing the value of closing ranks and working as one voice.
The Republicans in Congress, when they were in power did that. And even in the minority now, they have closed ranks, particularly in the US Senate, to limit the legislation Democrats have been able to pass so far.
You can expect McCain to accuse the Democrats of abandoning our soldiers and American honor with the Democrat’s plans to pull out of Iraq if they take over the Presidency.
We need to remember that the real battle is not between Hillary and Barack, but between McCain and the Democratic nominee. Whoever wins the Democratic nomination is going to have to bring the Democratic Party together and remind them that the difference between Hillary and Barack is minuscule compared to that with McCain.
Supporters of both candidates are passionate and will be tempted to be bitter if their candidate loses. The first task of the eventual nominee will be to bring Democrats together reminding them of their common goals.
Democrats are making history in their choosing a nominee, but the real prize is the Presidency, not the Democratic nomination. There’s still a long ways to go before we can change America for the better.
Obama gained 67.5% of the delegate vote in the Washington State caucuses on Saturday to Clinton’s 31.2% and 1.2% uncommitted. Individual delegate counts by county can be seen on the Washington State Democratic website. The caucus system will ultimately select 78 delegates to the national convention with an additional 19 Super Delegates of party officials and elected Democrats.
Obama also won 67.5% of the delegates in Nebraska’s caucuses to Clinton’s 32.2%. Nebraska will select 24 pledged delegates from the caucus system plus 7 Super Delegates will also go to the National Convention.
Obama won the Louisiana Presidential Primary with 57% of the vote to Clinton’s 36%. Louisiana has 56 pledged delegates and 10 Super Delegates.
Obama received 90% of the vote in the Virgin Islands. The Virgin Islands have 3 pledged delegates and 6 Super Delegates.
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