Former Justice O’Connor Rejects Election Finance Ruling

In my previous post, detailing my frustration over the Supreme Court decision on election finance I related my diminishing trust of the Court’s decisions, and provided
two examples to explain my “adjusted” attitude.  In contrast, though, I
have trusted many of Justice O’Connor’s insights, generated,at least
partially by her early experience as an Arizona legislator.  I
suggested, however, that she must have been on vacation with the
decision over the Bush/Gore election fiasco in Florida.

However, O’Connor is not on vacation when it comes to the
latest ruling on election finances.  In a brief article, tucked away on
page 17 of today’s NYTimes, Adam Liptak says that she did not sound at
all happy about the big campaign finance decision last week.  It
repudiated a major part of a ruling she’d helped write prior to
retirement, and complicated her campaign to do away with judicial

“Gosh,” she said, “I step away for a couple of years and there’s no telling what’s going to happen.”  In a Georgetown conference on law, she put the issue directly, adding that the ruling might create an “increasing problem for maintaining an independent judiciary.”

She sketched out potential scenarios from the election finance ruling: 

can anticipate that labor unions and trial lawyers, for instance, might
have the financial means to win one particular state judicial
election. . . . And maybe tobacco firms and energy companies have
enough to win the next one.  And if both sides unleash their campaign
spending monies without restrictions, then I think mutually-assured
destruction is the most likely outcome.

E. J. Dionne’s remarks in the Washington Post were expected, they are
so pointed and colorful that I decided to share them with you: 

The only proper response to this distortion of our political system
by ideologically driven justices is a popular revolt. It would be a
revolt of a sort deeply rooted in the American political tradition. The
most vibrant reform alliances in our history have involved coalitions
between populists (who stand up for the interests and values of average
citizens) and progressives (who fight against corruption in government
and for institutional changes to improve the workings of our
democracy). It’s time for a new populist-progressive alliance.

This is a messy, messy issue
that’s going to take a long time to resolve.  At this point in time,
I’m not yet too philosophical about the issue.  And though a number of
my Libertarian friends suggest that my views are over-stated, only time
will tell.  Sunday’s Times had an interesting piece of “research-based
advocacy” supporting the ruling, but I’m still skeptical.  In other
words, I hope that I’m wrong about the consequences of the ruling, but
I doubt it. 

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