Supreme Court Opens A Can of Unintended Consequences

Common wisdom surrounding the recent supreme court decision striking down federal campaign limits on corporations and unions is that it was a win for conservatives and Republicans and another blow to liberals and the Democratic Party.   The case harkens back to an earlier decision, Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, a supreme court decision in 1886 dealing with taxation of railroad properties by the State of California, in which the court found that corporations are entitled to the same protection as individuals under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  Now the court has extended First Amendment rights to corporations and unions, including potentially, multinational corporations controlled by non-US citizens and foreign governments.  How that all sorts out is likely to be chaotic.  You can read the complex Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision yourself at

The 5-4 decision by the conservative members of the court suggests an overtly political decision, however, in the end, there are many unanswered questions.   Businesses will still likely support candidates of both parties to secure their interests.  And there are still a limited number of communications media outlets.  Major segments of our media today are already under the control of right wing ideologues – will they have to move over and share the airwaves and the internet with Exxon-Mobil, Walmart, and General Electric?  I think I’d rather hear from the likes of Exxon-Mobil, Walmart, and General Electric than Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.   Two unanswered questions that come to mind:  What say will shareholders have in aligning corporate contributions with corporate interests?  Will unions find ways to expand their influence and membership now that the limits have been taken off them as well.

About cykman

Jon Cykman works in Washington, DC as a consultant, and is long-time student of American Politics. He started out handing out campaign materials for Hubert Humphrey during the campaign of 1968, and later went on to earn a B.A. in Political Science from the State University of New York, College at Purchase in 1978, and an M.A. in Public Affairs from the University of Texas, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs in 1980. Jon retired from Federal Service after 31 years of service, and lives with his family in Catonsville, MD.
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7 Responses to Supreme Court Opens A Can of Unintended Consequences

  1. ArmchairQB says:

    Food for thought, and very well written. No one can know for sure how this will turn out, but count me among the conventional thinkers here. To me, campaign finance reform should lead to lots of contributions from real voters like you and me. This decision just affirms the absurd notion that a corporation legally possesses all the civil liberties of a person.

  2. Owen Teufel says:

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  4. Chiriqui says:

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