Does anybody else think it could be a problem to put the question of minority rights to a majority vote in state initiatives?
Six justices of the Court don’t—and three of them actually think we’d all be better off if we got courts out of this whole race business and let majority vote settle the whole thing.
The three-justice plurality—Justice Anthony Kennedy, Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justice Samuel Alito—made this strange suggestion Tuesday in their opinion on Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigration Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary. Schuette should have been an easy case, and I very much fear it will soon make very bad law.
Read more. [Image: Molly Riley/Reuters]
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."
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]
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]
Not since the Gilded Age has our politics been opened so wide to corporate contributions and donations from secret sources. And the new era of big money has just begun.
In light of today’s Supreme Court ruling on the McCutcheon v. FEC case, we thought we’d share this 2012 story on the rise of money in politics again.
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]
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]
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]
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 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]