Bernie Sanders Eviscerates the Supreme Court for Overturning Montana Citizens United Ban

bernie sanders buffett rule 1 Sen. Bernie Sanders issued a blistering criticism of the Supreme Court after they strengthened Citizens United by overturning Montana's campaign cash ban.

Sen. Bernie Sanders issued a blistering criticism of the Supreme Court after they strengthened Citizens United by overturning Montana’s campaign cash ban.

In response to the Supreme Court overturning a Montana Supreme Court decision that upheld a state law against corporate campaign contributions that stated, “corporation may not make . . . an expenditure in connection with a candidate or a political committee that supports or opposes a candidate or a political party,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) tore the court a new one.

In a statement Sanders said,

I am extremely disappointed but not surprised that the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Montana court ruling that would have allowed limits on campaign contributions.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s absurd 5-4 ruling two years ago in Citizens United was a major blow to American democratic traditions. Sadly, despite all of the evidence that Americans see every day, the court continues to believe that its decision makes sense.
In recent weeks, multi-billionaires such as the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson have made it clear that, as a result of the Citizens United decision, they intend to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to buy this election for candidates who support the super-wealthy. This is not democracy. This is plutocracy. And that is why we must overturn Citizens United if we are serious about maintaining the foundations of American democracy.

I intend to work as hard as I can for a constitutional amendment to overturn this disastrous Supreme Court decision.

In his famous speech at Gettysburg during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln talked about America as a country ‘of the people, by the people and for the people.’ Today, as a result of the Supreme Court’s refusal to reconsider its decision in Citizens United, we are rapidly moving toward a nation of the super-rich, by the super-rich and for the super-rich. That is not what America is supposed to be about. This Supreme Court decision must be overturned.

Due to the media frenzy created by the court’s immigration decision the campaign finance ruling has been largely ignored, but it can be argued that the Montana ruling is more important to the future of our democracy than the immigration case.

The Arizona immigration law decision was largely centered on an argument about federalism. The question before the court was, who had the right to make immigration policy?

In the larger context, the Montana ruling was more significant because the court found that states can’t do anything to limit corporate contributions to campaigns.

Our system of governance is just that, a system. How our government acts through the policies it pursues and the laws it passes depends on the people that the voters elect to represent them. The elected officials decide how the system operates, and what direction it goes in. By strengthening Citizens United, the Supreme Court has ensured that corporations who have a vested interest in anti-immigrant laws, like the private prison industry, will have an outsized influence on our elections.

While the court’s decision on an emotional issue like immigration gets all the headlines, the bigger story for our democracy is that the High Court has expanded the reach of Citizens United to the state level.

Today’s Supreme Court decision again demonstrated that until Citizens United is overturned the rights of all Americans, Latino and otherwise, will remain under attack.

64 Replies to “Bernie Sanders Eviscerates the Supreme Court for Overturning Montana Citizens United Ban”

  1. And as “people”, they can be sued.(How could you sue a thing?) Corporations are a group of people. What’s so bizarre about that?

  2. Citizen’s United was a terrible decision and this one is no better. Too much money in politics; it was true before and it’s more true now in the wake of CU. One of the WORST decisions ever issued by the SC. Honestly, they should be ashamed.

  3. Wait until thursday. They have outdone themselves in just three years. The most radical and politically motivated SC in history. and romney gets to add 2-3 more of these fetid pieces of waste if he wins.

  4. Corporations are not people nor are they a group of people (as noted above). A corporation is a financial construct organized to protect the personal assets of the investors.

  5. Are corporations any more or less people than unions?

    This article is extremely one-sided, deploring the ability of corporations to make political contributions but saying nothing about the ability of big labor to do the same thing.

    This decision allows BOTH, corporations and unions – the the PEOPLE that make them up – to express their voice in political matters.

    Yes, corporations ARE people in the same sense that unions are people.

    Interesting comment, Jason, that “a corporation is a financial construct organized to protect the personal assets of the investors.” Those investors you mention – those are PEOPLE.

  6. That’s all very chuckle-worthy, but, still, the fact is a corporation has a right to spend it’s money to voice a viewpoint. Because of Corporaphobia, you don’t like that viewpoint.

  7. Good point. neither should be able to give money. Even the fact that Corps give on 15 to 1 ratio over unions doesnt matter, neither are citizens.

  8. The question under debate here is whether or not it is appropriate for corporations to have the same free speech rights as actual people. You can’t just assert that they have this right and therefore they should have this right. Well, I guess you can, but you can’t do that and also expect to be taken seriously. This is a classic case of begging the question. See here:

  9. Brian,

    The question in the case was the Montana law centered on corporate donations. I am afraid you are attaching your own biases what you are reading.

  10. Really, the question is why should a corporation NOT have the right to use it’s money for political purposes. What makes it inelligible? A dislike of a profit-making entity? When is animosity a basis for denying rights?

  11. The difference being that union members have some degree of control over who receives donations, and how much. Union members can also opt out of having any of their money go to political spending. Employees of corporations cannot opt out of having any portion of the profit that they earn for said corporation going towards political spending.

    Therein lies the difference between the two.

  12. Corporate donations are made at the sole discretion of the executives and/or board members. There is no accountability to employees or shareholders as to what is done in that regard. Until such a time as the corporation gets unanimous support from shareholders and majority support from employees as to ALL donations, they should be banned. Unions are held to a majority rule standard and no one is forced to contribute to political causes.

  13. To anyone who voted for W. Bush either time–but especially the second time–this is your fault. Al Gore or John Kerry would not have put either of those two asshats who ruled in favor of CU on the court. The decision would have been 6-3 the other way. That is probably the most important part of your vote for president.

  14. Bernie is absolutely right that the media went on and on and on about “racial profiling” etc and relegated this SC decision to a few moment at the end. Folks, RISE UP AND DEFEAT ANY MEMBER OF CONGRESS WHO REFUSES TO GIVE A POSITIVE OPINION ON NEED FOR A CONSTOTUTIONAL AMENDMENT

  15. Shiva, your 15 to 1 ratio corp to union is incorrect. Unions spend 10 to 1 compared to corporations. There are also 10 to 1 number of groups that are liberal leaning compared to conservative groups. Many on the liberal side wouldn’t follow you on banning both union and corp spending. I’d go for it only on the condition that all taxes, regulations and laws were removed, because that would remove the conflict with “no taxation without representation”.

    Brad, the profits a corp make is mostly paid out in employee salaries. Employees don’t have any skin in the game unless they buy voting shares of the company and can then vote. Otherwise your union/corp comparison falls apart.

    The only way to change CU rule is to repeal the 1st amendment, and then have the politicians dole out who can speak or not. Mob rule here we come.

  16. Good thing for the supreme court. Politicans do not get to kick the shit out of companies than expect companies to sit in the corner and take it. Sorroy that in not the way it works in a free society. And to the person who said earlier that union member have some choice I’m still laughing. Also most big companies and groups spread the cash to who ever they think will win. I mena big insurance gave Obama millions becasue he promised them a monopoly on every US citizen.

  17. I’ll believe that “corporations are people” when a corporation can be tried, convicted and sentenced to execution for its misdeeds.

  18. Uh. . . It’s not going to so much destroy the two party system as much as render it moot. Bot parties will be catering to whoever writes the checks, even more so than in the past. There will be no true choice. Only corporatism vs more corporatism.

  19. Wrong. Corporations are 15-1. Lets remember unions are vastly smaller than corporations in terms of monetary sources. Unions have far smaller resources to draw on given that only 10-12% of Americans are in unions. The Superpacs outspend the unions by a great deal. Adelson(s) outspends unions

  20. I’ll take the Montana Copper King robber barons over the bought and paid for Supremes, any day. Thanks for your activist federal over-reach of a law that worked well for a century. Now our state elections can be purchased as well. Campaign finance reform, NOW. Hey hey ho ho, these five fascists have got to go.

  21. “It’s not going to so much destroy the two party system as much as render it moot.”

    Same thing

  22. Is a union “people”?
    What about a corporation?

    The problem with comments like those from Senator Sanders are that they
    complain about problems and offer unconstitutional solutions with unintended consequences as side effects.

  23. Each citizen in a corporation already has rights, and can donate to political campaigns given limits. Corporations funneling unlimited money into political campaigns effectively multiplies that personal political leverage many times over. This distortion of one person/one vote is exaggerated further through the use of Super PACs that allow virtually unlimited funding by billionaires and corporations to be further whitewashed beyond even the most minimal regulations already in place.

    Obviously. Duh.

    Really, aside from profit motives, these are grotesquely obvious differences that are easily discerned by anyone with a grain of sense….unless they’re being paid off as a professional comment board commenter, which is a very common PR practice nowadays.

    Corporate “personhood” is an absurd legal fiction. And this Supreme Court should have been impeached the moment they ruled in the Citizen’s United case, because many of them (Clarence Thomas being the most obvious are blatantly corrupt.

  24. If corporations are people and are afforded the same rights as US citizens, then why can’t I buy, sell and liquidate people?

  25. yeah that would be a bad thing, competition creates a basis for improvement. removing competition creates a stale environment with whoever is in power having a free reign to do whatever they want.

  26. People don’t realize how important this issue is! Corporate “personhood” is the modern day equivalent of the struggle between abolitionists and slave owners of the early 1860s. How a pure commercial/legal artifice can be defined as a person, is the equivalent of saying an inanimate object – such as a rock – is a person and must be afforded the same benefits and responsibility of a sentient being.

  27. That’s right in that the investors who put their money into a corporation are people. HOWEVER, that DOES NOT IN ANY WAY, SHAPE, OR FORM MAKE THE CORPORATION A PERSON. If we follow your logic then buying a corporation should be considered slavery.

  28. Today, the Supreme Court sold the soul of America and they know it – they just don’t care because they all have nice retirement pkgs (and fat ‘perks’)waiting for them and thiers. They aren’t being raped, daily, by corporate America and her underhanded soul selling policies so, why not tow that generous corporate line as long as they don’t have to walk it? They’ll have to answer for thier sins but it won’t be in this world.

  29. A group of people don’t abdicate their rights just because they form a group (be it corporation/union/partnership/marriage/501(c)3 organization.

    You don’t like money in politics, fine. Attacking the First Amendment is NOT the way to fix it.

  30. No. Rendering moot is not the same as destruction. And not really accurate. It will render the two party system as both puppets of the corporations that pay for their election. Even more so than today there will be pro-corporate and pro-corporate choices only. It isn’t really about rendering the parties moot but rather turning them both into tools for corporate profits. If you really destroyed the system, there would be a gaping hole that could be filled with a new and better system. Rather, there will just a slow march towards corporatocracy. I’m too much of an optimist to say this has completely happened already, but certainly Citizen’s United makes sure it’ll stick.

  31. Brawny your comment is truly the most important of all here. We are now and probably forever doomed to be known as USA Inc..

  32. which direction do you think- America, this country will go in the next few years. i personally think Obama will be reelected, unfortunately, and the country will continue to be sold to the wealthiest groups worldwide. the liberty movement died when Ron Paul gave up the race for presidency. he should have continued campaigning and setting up political debates even though he had the minorty of delegates. Like Ron Paul recently said in an interview with Wolf Blitzer, its Mit does not have the public on his side. an election can be won on ideals, not money. it is people that vote, not the millions of dollars funding both the Democrips and Rebloodlicans, as Jesse Ventura phrases it.
    its unfortunate, but this country is doomed to collapse.

  33. Overlooked in all the hullabaloo over the AZ immigration case, yesterday, was another decision made by the Supremes on this subject. That decision was that unions, unlike corporations, must get consent of voting members before making political donations. No corresponding restriction has been placed on corporations to seek either shareholder or employee approval.

    Citizens United was, without doubt, the worst ruling by a Supreme Court since Dred Scott. On Thursday, we are about to see another travesty, where 5 justices, voting only their political agenda, and not the Constitution or legal precedent will strike down the ACA’s non-mandate mandate. I say, non-mandate mandate, because the law itself puts in place no enforcement mechanism and prohibits the IRS from placing liens or garnishments on non-compliers.

  34. No. They don’t. They still each *individually* retain their rights. Corporations, however, are not democracies. They are oligarchies. Very few people at the top make decisions as to where money in corporate coffers goes. This has the effect of quashing the speech of minority stakeholders and employees. It completely destroys the idea of one person one vote.

  35. It’s something odd because the higher ups who decide which campaign to finance is most likely not going to be in favour of its workforce. The workers might benefit greatly from a candidate who want to raise taxes on corporations instead of workers but the other guy would win cause he has the cash.

  36. That allows any corporation to donate. What if offshore corporations donated the most money? Essentially a corporation in Europe could buy the United States’ president.

  37. No, our two party system has destroyed itself. Plus how can 330 mil Americans be defined by only TWO parties?
    200 plus years of existence and two parties are all we have to show?

  38. I am not sure the definition “2 partys is all we have to show” is meaningful at this point. Are they our partys or the people who donate the most parties?

  39. The problem is that super wealthy corporate leaders get to double dip.

    They get to make their own personal contribution and submit their own personal opinions.

    Then they get to do it again as the heads of their corporations.

    And to make matters worse, with the income gap being what it is and politics being as financially driven as they are, one super wealthy corporate leader’s vote(s) are far more effective than the common American.

    Not everyone can be a Koch or Adleson. So as long as a Koch or an Adleson can outspend tens of thousands, or more, Americans, then the directing power of the nation is in their hands.

    And it is a rare rare thing to find people that wealthy that are truly interested in what is best for everyone.

    Dollars should not equal votes. Because you can steal dollars, you can buy dollars, and you can give dollars away to anyone. You can even make your own dollars with the right knowledge.

    None of those things should be true of votes that steer American policy. Each person should get one vote.

    And if the super wealthy don’t like the results, then they have the means and the options to find somewhere in the world more suitable to their needs. When we pleebs don’t like the results, we just get to STFU and deal with it.

    We don’t have the option to buy happiness. We have to cultivate it with what we have. And one tool we used to have to do that was a say in American policy. That died the day Citizen’s United passed. And it was on life support as it was…

  40. This decision strikes me as a huge step back in history, undoing one of the basic purposes of the American Constitution and what our nation has always stood for: recognizing the individual rights of the people. The reason we fought for our right to our own governance, and created this great country, was partly to stop the super wealthy from controlling every political decision (like being taxed by a monarch.)

    It does not matter if politics are controlled by kings and queens, by warlords, or by corporations – control of politics by ANY elite is anti-American. This is how we should frame the argument for a constitutional amendment, in a way that the majority our population can support.

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