Tag Archives: Citizens United

Sen. Grassley weighs in on Trump-Roberts ‘feud’

Donald J. Trump is continuing to beat the drum against U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who is likely to show needed restraint. I trust he’ll let the president continue his infantile tirade on matters on which he knows next to nothing.

Trump called some U.S. troops stationed overseas and continued his tirade over criticism the chief justice made about the president’s reference to an “Obama judge.” He sought to inform the president that that federal judges are “independent” and not partisan. That, of course, fell on Trump’s deaf ears.

So, then this happened: U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley defended Trump, saying that Roberts didn’t criticize President Obama when the president in 2010 “attacked” Justice Samuel Alito during a State of the Union speech.

Good job, Mr. Chairman, except you got quite wrong.

President Obama didn’t “attack” Alito; he criticized the Supreme Court’s decision on the Citizens United case that opened up campaign finance to corporations, allowing them to spend unlimited amounts of money on political races. He stated his view that the torrent of money would further corrupt the U.S. political system.

Justice Alito famously shook his head while sitting in front of the president and muttered “not true.” Obama, I repeat, did not single any justice out . . . which is quite different from what Trump has done with the chief justice.

To be fair, Obama was wrong to criticize the court in that setting. Most of the justices were sitting in a group in the audience on Capitol Hill. Democrats in the chamber cheered the president; the justices had to take it. I said at the time — and I’ll repeat it here — that President Obama’s criticism was done in the wrong place and in the wrong setting.

There is no equivalence to be found in what Donald Trump is doing now and what Barack Obama did then. As Chief Justice Roberts, I hope he’s done commenting on this ridiculous spat that the president initiated with his ill-informed and ill-tempered remark about an “Obama judge.”

Hey, Hillary … take a look at what these guys are saying


Hillary Rodham Clinton may be the inevitable Democratic Party presidential nominee.

It’s not a done deal just yet, given Sen. Bernie Sanders’s big wins this weekend in Washington, Alaska and Hawaii. Clinton, though,¬†still has the big lead in delegates and the primary campaign is heading into more Clinton-friendly territory.

But here’s the thing, according to Bill Moyers (yes, that Bill Moyers) and Michael Winship: She remains captive to the big-money interests that are poisoning the political system. It’s time for Clinton to stand up, spit into her palms and then do what she needs to do, they say, which is¬†call for the immediate resignation of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

They ask a valid question: Is she the candidate of the past or of the future?

If it’s the latter, then she needs to demonstrate it. Forcefully.

These two figures — Emmanuel and Schultz — represent what’s wrong with the Democratic Party, say Moyers and Winship.

Emmanuel’s tenure as mayor has been rocked by controversy. The shooting death of an African-American teenager, Laquan McDonald, went unreported for months. Laquan was shot to death by Chicago police while he was strolling down the street. He presented no weapon; his hands were in the air. A cop shot him multiple times dead in the street.

Emmanuel then took responsibility for the shooting, given that he’s the mayor and the chief of police answers to him.

But before he became mayor he was a three-term Illinois congressman and White House chief of staff for President Obama. He is soaked in corporate money. Emmanuel, Moyers and Winship write, “chaired the fundraising Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (calling on his Wall Street sources to get in on the gravy by electing so-called New Democrats over New Deal Democrats), and soon was back in the White House as¬†Obama‚Äôs chief of staff. There, he infamously told a strategy meeting of liberal groups and administration types that the liberals were ‘retarded’ for planning to run attack ads against conservative Democrats resisting Obamacare.¬†Classy.”

He’s a longtime ally of Hillary and Bill Clinton, which is why he continues to loom so large on the Democratic Party landscape.

Schultz is just as tainted by money, say Moyers and Winship, who write that “she embodies the tactics that have eroded the ability of Democrats to once again be the party of the working class. As Democratic National Committee chair she has opened the floodgates for Big Money, brought lobbyists into the inner circle and oiled all the moving parts of the revolving door that twirls between government service and cushy jobs in the world of corporate influence.”

Of the two essayists, Moyers — of course — is the better known. He’s an East Texan who came to prominence during the Lyndon Johnson administration, where he served his fellow Texan as White House press secretary. He then went on to become a fixture on public television.

The Sanders campaign has lit a fire all by itself with the candidate’s call for reform of the political financing system. His sole aim is to finance presidential campaigns solely with public funds, while seeking to overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling that unleashes corporate donors.

Moyers and Winship make the case fairly persuasively that Hillary Clinton is too wedded to the deep-pocketed donor class that they say has corrupted the political system.

She well might want to consider seriously what these men are suggesting, which is to cut her ties to the past and demonstrate that she’s the Democratic Party’s best hope for the future.


Will these justices stay away from SOTU?


Do you ever hear something from someone and think, “Damn! I wish I’d have thought of that”?

That happened to me today.

One of my Facebook pals wondered out loud if the only mystery surrounding President Obama’s upcoming State of the Union speech would be whether the three most conservative members of the Supreme Court would stay away, as they have done in recent years.

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia all have been absent during Obama’s recent speeches before¬†a joint session of Congress.

I’ve long wondered — as have others –whether it is because they detest the president’s politics so much that they’d rather do something else than sit in front of him while he makes policy statement with which they disagree?

Look, gentlemen, this is the last one of these speeches Barack Obama will give as president of the United States. Surely you can find the time — not to mention the courtesy — to attend this speech along with the rest of your colleagues. Chief Justice John Roberts usually attends, and he’s in the conservative camp right along with the three no-show justices.

It might have been a single event that ticked them off. That would be the time that Obama scolded the court for its Citizens United ruling that took the limits off of corporations and enabled them to give unlimited amounts of¬†money to political candidates. Justice Alito was seen mouthing the words “not true” when the president made his critical comments.

That was then. If the scolding is the reason, well, get over it, will you?

The president is entering his final full year in office. The Joint Chiefs of Staff will be there. Most of the Cabinet will be there; custom calls for one of them to stay away in case something catastrophic happens at the nation’s Capitol Building.

I hope all nine justices see fit to make an appearance. They don’t have to applaud. Just be there.


The court’s logic on gay marriage makes sense

I’ve never claimed to be — nor will I ever make such a claim to be — the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree.

At times I can be slow on the uptake. I occasionally lack intuition.

But the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalizing gay marriage makes crystal clear sense to me. It’s about the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. That is it — as near as I can tell.

Thus, the hysteria being expressed by Texas Republican leaders — along with other GOP honchos across this great country — is boggling my mind.


Of all the things I’ve heard from the opponents of the ruling, the most hysterical response belongs — and this is zero surprise to many of us — Sen. Ted Cruz, one of a thundering herd of candidates running for the GOP nomination in 2016.

As the Texas Tribune reports: “U.S.¬†Sen. Ted Cruz,¬†the first candidate for the GOP nomination for president, said¬†the gay marriage ruling puts religious liberty ‘front and center in the target of the federal government.’ He called it¬†the ‘very definition of lawlessness. It is naked and unadulterated judicial activism.'”

Sheesh. Judicial activism? I wonder how he ranks the Citizens United ruling of 2010, which declared that corporations and rich fat cats could give unlimited amounts of campaign money, tilting the political playing field to the distinct advantage of those with the most money. Oh, but that’s another story.

The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says this, in part: “… nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

You know what that means to me? It means that states cannot deny someone the ability to marry whomever they love. It means to me that the U.S. Constitution, the one that all politicians swear to “protect and defend” is the law of the land. It means that all citizens shall not be denied “equal protection of the laws.”

Can it be any clearer than that?

The Supreme Court upheld the U.S. Constitution in a tightly worded majority opinion. It said that states cannot bar people from marrying someone if that someone happens to be of the same gender.

Judicial activism?

If I can understand what the court said and meant, why can’t The Cruz Missile? He’s the one with the Harvard law degree.


President Barack Obama has chided the Supreme Court over its decision to hear a case involving the Affordable Care Act.

Some critics, of course, suggest the criticism is out of bounds, that the president is trying to “bully” the nine justices who could strike down a key provision in the ACA. Bully those men and women? I don’t think so.


Obama says the court was wrong to take up a case in the first place. The case, to be ruled on perhaps in just a matter of days, involves the legality of the federal subsidies used to help pay for Americans’ health care. An estimated 6.4 million Americans’ health insurance policies are at risk if the court strikes down the subsidy.

Now the president has declared the ACA to be a “reality,” it is law and it is part of the American fabric of providing health insurance to those who need it.

Is he right to challenge the court? Of course he is.

Just as critics chide the president for ignoring the separation of powers contained in the Constitution, they ignore the obvious notion that the separation argument goes the other direction. By that I mean that the judiciary, as a co-equal branch of government, isn’t immune from criticism from another branch of government. Indeed, the legislative branch — Congress — hardly is shy about criticizing the executive¬†and the judiciary when either of those branches of government steer in what lawmakers suggest is the “wrong direction.”

Where the president misfired, in my view, in his criticism of the Supreme Court was when he did so during his 2010 State of the Union speech. With several court members sitting in front of him, surrounded by other administration and military officials, not to mention a packed chamber full of lawmakers, the president said the court was wrong in its Citizens United ruling that took the shackles off of campaign contributors. Whatever criticism the court deserved, that was neither the time or the place to deliver it.

So, the fight goes on between Barack Obama the nine men and women who hold the fate of his signature domestic policy achievement in their hands.


Beware of big money, former Sen. Hart warns

Former Vice President Walter Mondale once asked famously of then-Sen. Gary Hart: Where’s the beef?

He sought to smoke out Hart’s position on the issues that were driving the 1984 Democratic Party primary presidential campaign.

These days, though, the former senator is giving us plenty to chew on as he warns of the influence of big money — as in really big money — on the upcoming 2016 campaign for president.


Hart’s target? Former Sen. and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who figures to raise as much as a billion bucks to run for president. Hart doesn’t like that kind of influence. While he expresses admiration and respect for Clinton, he sounds like he’s leaning toward a possible alternative candidate for president — say, Elizabeth Warren or Martin O’Malley.

As Politico reported: “The post-Citizens United campaign finance environment has sullied the presidential process, he said, benefiting establishment politicians who cater to financial backers. He pointed to his own experience, noting that he and his wife mortgaged their home for between $50,000 and $75,000 ‚ÄĒ an amount that made a significant difference in his first campaign in 1984.”

Ah, yes, Citizens United.

That was the infamous Supreme Court decision that ruled in 2010 that campaign contributors cannot be limited in the amount of money they give. Why, it’s a free speech issue, the court ruled. President Obama then stood in the lectern at a State of the Union speech and scolded the justices as they sat right in front of him for their decision. Although the setting was inappropriate for such a tongue-lashing, the guts of what the president said hold up today: It is that money wields too much influence in the modern political process.

Those who suggest that enabling corporations to give mountains of money to candidates is simply allowing “free speech” do not seem to grasp that some speech is heard more clearly than others. Politicians are going to listen to those who can give huge sums of money more than they’ll listen to you and me.

Is their voice more important than ours?

That’s the kind of influence Sen. Hart is warning us about.

Gary Hart has found the beef.


One more reason to detest Ted Cruz

That settles it: Ted Cruz is my least favorite of the 100 men and women who serve in the U.S. Senate.

Why the additional scorn? Well, the freshman Republican from Texas said this about the Supreme Court’s decision to refuse to review state laws banning same-sex marriage:

“This is judicial activism at its worst.”

OK, he said some other stuff too in criticizing the high court. He accused the justices of “abdicating its duty to uphold the Constitution.”


Judicial activism, eh?

I think I can come up with at least one greater example of judicial activism perpetrated on this nation by the Roberts Court, one of the more so-called “conservative” courts in the nation’s history. Let’s try the Citizens United case.

Remember that one, Ted? That’s the case that determined that corporations are people, too — to borrow Mitt Romney’s (in)famous phrase during the 2012 presidential campaign. The court decided to let corporations spend all the money they wanted on political campaigns, just like regular folks. It determined that multi-zillion-dollar business interests have as much say in determining who gets elected as poor schleps like me who might want to write a $20 check to the candidate of my choice.

So, if you’re a candidate who then gets elected, who are you going to listen to more intently: the mega corporation or the individual contributor?

That, Sen. Cruz, is how I would define judicial activism.

This label often is used by conservatives to rip apart liberal judicial rulings. These critics, such as Cruz, ignore at their peril their own brand of judicial activism.

The Roberts Court showed it can be as activist as, say, the Warren Court was in the 1950s.

Cruz surely knows this.

A dear friend of mine who visited¬†my wife and me¬†this past weekend¬†served in¬†government and journalism for more than 40 years. He said of Cruz, who he described as “smart as they come”:

“Intelligence is inherited. Wisdom must be earned.”

Money to speak even more loudly

You’ve heard the saying that “Money talks and bull—- walks.”

Hang on to your wallet and dial in your BS detector. Money is about to have a lot more say in who we elect to public office, thanks to the United States Supreme Court.

The court ruled 5-4 along ideological lines on a case that removes caps on all political donations. The five-member conservative wing of the court won the argument — of course.

The case involves McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, and it follows through on the landmark Citizens United case of 2010 that removed most limits on campaign donations by corporations. This latest ruling removes the rest of the restrictions involving caps on direct donations to candidates and political parties.

Is it a First Amendment issue, as Chief Justice John Roberts noted in his majority opinion? Sure … if you buy the argument that a billionaire’s monstrous bankroll has no more influence on political candidates than a middle-class blue-collar employee writing a $20 check to the candidate of his or her choice.

Billionaires, be they on the left or the right, have infinitely more influence on these matters than John Q. Citizen.

Justice Stephen Breyer’s dissent took note of the impact of today’s decision. ‚ÄúIf the court in Citizens United opened a door,‚ÄĚ he said, ‚Äútoday‚Äôs decision may well open a floodgate.‚ÄĚ

And money is going to pour through that floodgate.

I make no apologies in my defense of the First Amendment’s clause dealing with political expression. Still, there’s something quite unseemly about the burgeoning influence of money on political campaigns. Billionaire George Soros’s efforts to elect Democrats is troublesome only in that his voice can be heard so much more clearly than someone with a lot less money. The same can be said for the Koch Brothers, who are involved up to their armpits in electing Republican office seekers.

The greater the influence of money in these campaigns, the lesser the influence you and I are going to have in getting these candidates to listen to our concerns.

This ruling marks a bad moment in American political history.