April 16, 2014
"

In other words: Political money and hence influence at the top levels is disproportionately white, male, and with almost no social context that includes significant numbers of African Americans and other people of color.

This is why money isn’t speech. Freedom of speech as a functional element in democratic life assumes that such freedom can be meaningfully deployed. But the unleashing of yet more money into politics allows a very limited class of people to drown out the money “speech” of everyone else—but especially those with a deep, overwhelmingly well documented history of being denied voice and presence in American political life.

"

Ta-Nehisi Coates, on John Roberts and the color of money.

April 4, 2014
Mega-Donors Are Now More Important Than Most Politicians

Quick: Name a senator who served between the Civil War and World War I. Struggling? Now name a tycoon who bought senators during the same period. J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller … it’s easier.
And for good reason. The tycoons mattered more. Gilded Age industrialists—who had amassed levels of wealth unseen in American history—frequently dominated the politicians who enjoyed putative power to write the laws. In 1896, when corporations could give directly to political candidates, pro-corporate Republican presidential candidate William McKinley raised $16 million to populist Democrat William Jennings Bryan’s $600,000. “All questions in a democracy,” declared McKinley’s campaign manager, Mark Hanna, are “questions of money.”  
The Roberts Court seems to agree. The astonishing concentration of wealth among America’s super-rich, combined with a Supreme Court determined to tear down the barriers between their millions and our elections, is once again shifting the balance of power between politicians and donors. You could see it during last weekend’s “Sheldon primary,” when four major presidential contenders flocked to Las Vegas to court one man. When Chris Christie, not known for backing down from a fight, used a phrase (“occupied territories”) that Adelson disliked, he quickly apologized. And with good reason. Adelson, who probably spent north of $100 million in the 2012 election, can single-handedly sustain a presidential candidacy, or wreck one. He’s certainly wields more influence over American politics than most members of the United States Senate.
Read more. [Image: Yuya Shino/Reuters]

Mega-Donors Are Now More Important Than Most Politicians

Quick: Name a senator who served between the Civil War and World War I. Struggling? Now name a tycoon who bought senators during the same period. J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller … it’s easier.

And for good reason. The tycoons mattered more. Gilded Age industrialists—who had amassed levels of wealth unseen in American history—frequently dominated the politicians who enjoyed putative power to write the laws. In 1896, when corporations could give directly to political candidates, pro-corporate Republican presidential candidate William McKinley raised $16 million to populist Democrat William Jennings Bryan’s $600,000. “All questions in a democracy,” declared McKinley’s campaign manager, Mark Hanna, are “questions of money.”  

The Roberts Court seems to agree. The astonishing concentration of wealth among America’s super-rich, combined with a Supreme Court determined to tear down the barriers between their millions and our elections, is once again shifting the balance of power between politicians and donors. You could see it during last weekend’s “Sheldon primary,” when four major presidential contenders flocked to Las Vegas to court one man. When Chris Christie, not known for backing down from a fight, used a phrase (“occupied territories”) that Adelson disliked, he quickly apologized. And with good reason. Adelson, who probably spent north of $100 million in the 2012 election, can single-handedly sustain a presidential candidacy, or wreck one. He’s certainly wields more influence over American politics than most members of the United States Senate.

Read more. [Image: Yuya Shino/Reuters]

April 2, 2014
Legalized Corruption and the Twilight of Campaign-Finance Law

In McCutcheon v. FEC , the Supreme Court finds that those whose lack of money stifles their voices are simply losers in a fair democratic system.
Read more. [Image: Gary Cameron/Reuters]

Legalized Corruption and the Twilight of Campaign-Finance Law

In McCutcheon v. FEC , the Supreme Court finds that those whose lack of money stifles their voices are simply losers in a fair democratic system.

Read more. [Image: Gary Cameron/Reuters]

April 2, 2014
The New Price of American Politics

February 28, 2014
Supreme Court Case May Stop States That Still Execute the Mentally Disabled

The justices banned execution of mentally disabled people in 2002. Now they are poised to tell death penalty states that they really meant it.
Read more. [Image: Serge Melki/Flickr]

Supreme Court Case May Stop States That Still Execute the Mentally Disabled

The justices banned execution of mentally disabled people in 2002. Now they are poised to tell death penalty states that they really meant it.

Read more. [Image: Serge Melki/Flickr]

February 19, 2014
Will the Roberts Court Follow Its Own Religious-Freedom Precedent?

The cases challenging the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate challenge the conservative majority on the Court: Will they respect precedent if it pushes them toward upholding the mandate, or brush by it in their eagerness to carve out a religious exception?” Last week, I pointed out a Burger-era precedent, United States v. Lee, that should dispose of the case entirely. But to today’s conservatives, the Burger Court is so, well, 20th century. My own sense of this Court is that the majority may be willing to junk its jurisprudence in their eagerness to gut the Affordable Care Act.
But here’s a tougher question: Will the majority abide by its own precedent?
If so, Hobby Lobby and the other challengers don’t even get out of the starting gate. The Burger, Rehnquist, and Roberts Courts have all been clear: These plaintiffs have not suffered any injury worthy of redress under the Constitution.
Read more. [Image: American Life League/Flickr]

Will the Roberts Court Follow Its Own Religious-Freedom Precedent?

The cases challenging the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate challenge the conservative majority on the Court: Will they respect precedent if it pushes them toward upholding the mandate, or brush by it in their eagerness to carve out a religious exception?” Last week, I pointed out a Burger-era precedent, United States v. Lee, that should dispose of the case entirely. But to today’s conservatives, the Burger Court is so, well, 20th century. My own sense of this Court is that the majority may be willing to junk its jurisprudence in their eagerness to gut the Affordable Care Act.

But here’s a tougher question: Will the majority abide by its own precedent?

If so, Hobby Lobby and the other challengers don’t even get out of the starting gate. The Burger, Rehnquist, and Roberts Courts have all been clear: These plaintiffs have not suffered any injury worthy of redress under the Constitution.

Read more. [Image: American Life League/Flickr]

February 13, 2014
Thurgood Marshall: The Constitution Had to Be ‘Corrected’

Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall gave very, very few interviews in his lifetime. 
Marshall, biographer Charles Zelden explains, “felt that it was a conflict of interest for a sitting judge to speak out publicly on the issue that might come before the Court.” 
But in 1987, Marshall broke his silence in a candid, one-hour interview with journalist Carl Rowan of WHUT (Howard University Television) in Washington, D.C. It is perhaps one of only two televised interviews he gave while on the Court (the only other, to my knowledge, is a 1990 conversation with ABC’s Sam Donaldson, which does not seem to be available online).
The WHUT interview ran for an hour, and it has recently been digitized by the American Archive of Public Broadcasting. The digital files will be available on-site at WGBH in Boston and at the Library of Congress by the end of October of this year, and may someday be available online, if the legal rights can be cleared.
For now, the AAPB and WHUT have made a portion of it available to The Atlantic, a small hint of what must be a remarkable program in full.
Read more. [Image: AP]

Thurgood Marshall: The Constitution Had to Be ‘Corrected’

Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall gave very, very few interviews in his lifetime. 

Marshall, biographer Charles Zelden explains, “felt that it was a conflict of interest for a sitting judge to speak out publicly on the issue that might come before the Court.” 

But in 1987, Marshall broke his silence in a candid, one-hour interview with journalist Carl Rowan of WHUT (Howard University Television) in Washington, D.C. It is perhaps one of only two televised interviews he gave while on the Court (the only other, to my knowledge, is a 1990 conversation with ABC’s Sam Donaldson, which does not seem to be available online).

The WHUT interview ran for an hour, and it has recently been digitized by the American Archive of Public Broadcasting. The digital files will be available on-site at WGBH in Boston and at the Library of Congress by the end of October of this year, and may someday be available online, if the legal rights can be cleared.

For now, the AAPB and WHUT have made a portion of it available to The Atlantic, a small hint of what must be a remarkable program in full.

Read more. [Image: AP]

February 12, 2014
How the Case of the Amish Farmer Could Doom Hobby Lobby’s Claims

Edwin Lee was a Pennsylvania Amish farmer and carpenter. God smiled on his labors, and he hired fellow Amish to work on his farm and in his shop.  Naturally he paid them—after all, Scripture tells us that the laborer is worthy of his hire. But beginning in 1970, Lee refused to pay the Social Security payroll tax on his workers’ wages the government said he owed.  Amish do not believe in social insurance, based on language in Paul’s First Letter to Timothy: “If any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”
The Internal Revenue Service took a different view, and in 1981 Lee’s case ended up in front of the United States Supreme Court. 
If the current Court concerns itself with precedent (which I have come to doubt), United States v. Lee should play a large role in the deliberations over Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood v. Sebelius—the cases, to be argued March 25, that will decide whether for-profit corporations can exempt themselves on religious grounds from the contraceptive-coverage requirements of the Affordable Care Act.
Read more. [Image: Hansol/Flickr]

How the Case of the Amish Farmer Could Doom Hobby Lobby’s Claims

Edwin Lee was a Pennsylvania Amish farmer and carpenter. God smiled on his labors, and he hired fellow Amish to work on his farm and in his shop.  Naturally he paid them—after all, Scripture tells us that the laborer is worthy of his hire. But beginning in 1970, Lee refused to pay the Social Security payroll tax on his workers’ wages the government said he owed.  Amish do not believe in social insurance, based on language in Paul’s First Letter to Timothy: “If any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”

The Internal Revenue Service took a different view, and in 1981 Lee’s case ended up in front of the United States Supreme Court. 

If the current Court concerns itself with precedent (which I have come to doubt), United States v. Lee should play a large role in the deliberations over Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood v. Sebeliusthe cases, to be argued March 25, that will decide whether for-profit corporations can exempt themselves on religious grounds from the contraceptive-coverage requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

Read more. [Image: Hansol/Flickr]

February 11, 2014
How Much Money Is Hobby Lobby’s Morality Worth?

How much money is morality worth? This is one of the questions looming in the recent slew of court cases concerning birth control and the Affordable Care Act. As judges at the district, federal, and Supreme Court level decide whether religious groups and businesses can be exempt from new rules about contraceptive coverage, organizations are having to make a choice: Are moral objections to birth control and pregnancy prevention worth millions of dollars?
Under the health care law, big companies that have made recent changes to their insurance plans are required to cover 20 FDA-approved forms of birth control—or face significant fines if they refuse. Only companies with more than 50 employees have to provide insurance coverage; small businesses are exempt. Large companies can also choose to opt out of providing plans, but at a significant cost: $26 million in fines every year, plus any intangible losses that might come from not being able to offer insurance as an employee benefit.
One of the most prominent cases, Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, will be argued before the Supreme Court in late March. It concerns David and Barbara Green, the owners of the Hobby Lobby craft store chain. The couple have expressed moral objections to four of the 20 forms of contraception included in the mandate—specifically, types of birth control that keep a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.
Read more. [Image: tomo(+)/flickr]

How Much Money Is Hobby Lobby’s Morality Worth?

How much money is morality worth? This is one of the questions looming in the recent slew of court cases concerning birth control and the Affordable Care Act. As judges at the district, federal, and Supreme Court level decide whether religious groups and businesses can be exempt from new rules about contraceptive coverage, organizations are having to make a choice: Are moral objections to birth control and pregnancy prevention worth millions of dollars?

Under the health care law, big companies that have made recent changes to their insurance plans are required to cover 20 FDA-approved forms of birth control—or face significant fines if they refuse. Only companies with more than 50 employees have to provide insurance coverage; small businesses are exempt. Large companies can also choose to opt out of providing plans, but at a significant cost: $26 million in fines every year, plus any intangible losses that might come from not being able to offer insurance as an employee benefit.

One of the most prominent cases, Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, will be argued before the Supreme Court in late March. It concerns David and Barbara Green, the owners of the Hobby Lobby craft store chain. The couple have expressed moral objections to four of the 20 forms of contraception included in the mandate—specifically, types of birth control that keep a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.

Read more. [Image: tomo(+)/flickr]

January 30, 2014
The Missing Voices in the Contraception Mandate Cases

Lawyers should always listen to what judges say. Believing it, though, is often a mistake.
Take these words: “This order should not be construed as an expression of the Court’s views on the merits.” It’s the last sentence of the Court’s order, issued Friday, in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Sebelius, a religious order’s challenge to a portion of the Affordable Care Act dealing with contraception. 
Formally, the words are true. The Court hasn’t voted on the issue, and technically may not ever end up hearing it. So thing for a lawyer to say is, “Thank you, Your Honor.”
The correct thing to think, however, echoes George Orwell: “There are … about eighty ways in the English and American languages of expressing incredulity—for example, garn, come off it, you bet, sez you, oh yeah, not half, I don’t think, less of it or and the pudding! But I think and then you wake up is the exactly suitable answer.”
As Cornell Professor Michael Dorf explains, the Court’s grant of a stay to Little Sisters “suggests that, at least at this stage of the litigation, the plaintiffs have made out a colorable claim.” The nature of that claim offers a glimpse of some toxic ideas floating around in American law. 
Read more. [Image: James Lawler Duggan/Reuters]

The Missing Voices in the Contraception Mandate Cases

Lawyers should always listen to what judges say. Believing it, though, is often a mistake.

Take these words: “This order should not be construed as an expression of the Court’s views on the merits.” It’s the last sentence of the Court’s order, issued Friday, in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Sebelius, a religious order’s challenge to a portion of the Affordable Care Act dealing with contraception. 

Formally, the words are true. The Court hasn’t voted on the issue, and technically may not ever end up hearing it. So thing for a lawyer to say is, “Thank you, Your Honor.”

The correct thing to think, however, echoes George Orwell: “There are … about eighty ways in the English and American languages of expressing incredulity—for example, garn, come off it, you bet, sez you, oh yeah, not half, I don’t think, less of it or and the pudding! But I think and then you wake up is the exactly suitable answer.”

As Cornell Professor Michael Dorf explains, the Court’s grant of a stay to Little Sisters “suggests that, at least at this stage of the litigation, the plaintiffs have made out a colorable claim.” The nature of that claim offers a glimpse of some toxic ideas floating around in American law.

Read more. [Image: James Lawler Duggan/Reuters]

Liked posts on Tumblr: More liked posts »