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December 2009

President's Message
A Case Not to Miss
Adequate Funding of Elections is a Must (Jean Aoki)
Leaguers Came Through for ConCon Activities (Jean Aoki)
Local League Reports: Honolulu (Piilani Kaopuikiu)
Local League Reports: Hawaii (Helen Hemmes)

A Case Not to Miss

If you did not watch Bill Moyer's Journal on September 4 on PBS, I urge you to go to the PBS website and view the program or read the transcript. The case discussed, Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission (FEC), began as a case with a narrower focus, but in a troubling decision was widened by the Court, and now threatens campaign finance laws. Arguments in the case were heard by the US Supreme Court on September 9. Advocates of limiting the influence of corporations on elections await the decision anxiously.

A LWVUS press release states, “The Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC has the potential to be more important than Bush v. Gore to American democracy. This case will decide whether corporate wealth will be allowed to dominate our elections in years to come,.. Corruption fueled by huge election expenditures by corporations at the end of the Nineteenth Century led Congress to pass the Tillman Act in 1907, which prohibits corporate expenditures in candidate elections and which started the era of campaign finance regulation. The Supreme Court upheld similar restrictions in 1990 in Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce and again approved campaign finance regulations in 2003 in McConnell v. FEC. In the Citizens United case, the Court is considering whether to overturn the precedents established in Austin and McConnell.”

“This case and the resulting decision are not merely another set of run-of-the-mill technical, campaign finance regulations,” said League President Mary G. Wilson. “Basic principles that protect our democracy are at stake,” she concluded.

Corporate funding of election campaigns is the issue we have been battling for years with our own legislature. The New York Times, discussing Citizens United, reported that "Austin v Michigan Chamber of Commerce upheld a law prohibiting corporations from spending their money to elect particular candidates. The Supreme Court rightly pointed out that corporations, as opposed to individuals, benefit from special laws, including tax advantages, that assist them in accumulating large amounts of money. The ban on their spending is needed to prevent the political process from being overwhelmed and corrupted. The Supreme Court has upheld the restriction repeatedly.”

We can only hope that the US. Supreme Court does not overturn years of recognition of corporations’ unfair power to dominate elections unless their power is curbed.

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