The Supreme Court today overturned a century-old restriction on corporations using their money to sway federal elections and ruled that companies have a free-speech right to spend as much as they wish to persuade voters to elect or defeat candidates for Congress and the White House.Whatever was left of US democracy just officially went to the highest bidder.
In a 5-4 decision, the court's conservative bloc said corporations have the same 1st Amendment rights as individuals and, for that reason, the government may not stop corporations from spending freely to influence the outcome of federal elections.
The decision is probably the most sweeping and consequential handed down under Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. And the outcome may well have an immediate impact on this year's mid-term elections to Congress.
Until now, corporations and unions have been barred from spending their own treasury funds on broadcast ads or billboards that urge the election or defeat of a federal candidate. This restriction dates back to 1907, when President Theodore Roosevelt called on Congress to forbid corporations, railroads and national banks from using their money in federal election campaigns. After World War II, Congress extended this ban to labor unions.