The Supreme Court opinion in Citizens United, which gives corporations unfettered ability to pump millions into electioneering, is emblematic of a narrow high court majority that is actively advancing corporate interests, Sen. Sherrod Brown told a gathering of law students at the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.
In his speech, hosted by the law school's ACS law student chapter and the ACS Columbus Lawyer Chapter, Sen. Brown focused on progressive periods in the nation and how they produced lasting advancements for civil rights and economic justice. For instance, he lauded three years in the 1960s as "probably the best three years Congress has every had - 1964, 5 and 6, when Congress and a new president, President Johnson, passed Medicaid, Medicare, the Wilderness Act, and the Economic Opportunity Act, including Head Start; passed the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts." But Brown said that progressive era resulted in pushback from voters who apparently thought Congress moved too quickly, yet enjoyed the benefits of those laws for many years to come.
He said the current progressive era is receiving enormous pushback from corporate interests. The financial reform package that was recently passed did so over intense corporate interest lobbying - a million per day - Brown maintained. And in Citizens United v. FEC, a slim, but radical, majority of the Supreme Court issued a ruling that will further embolden corporate interests, the senator said.
Brown noted, "For years, all we've heard over and over again from conservatives is that the courts have taken an activist role; that thirty-year drumbeat ... from conservatives is that we shouldn't make laws from the bench, that liberal courts are making law from the bench, this activism from the judiciary is bad for the country." He said that refrain from conservatives has been heard often, "ad nauseam."
"But," Brown continued, "there was really no better example of an activist judiciary legislating from the bench than the Citizens United case. It was a narrow Supreme Court ruling from a radical majority; a majority that always, always, always puts corporate interests in front of everything else."
The Citizens United decision, "will clearly allow corporations to have an even larger influence in our political system," the senator said. Video of Brown's comments is available here or by clicking the picture (right). Video of the entire event, including a question-and-answer session with Brown, is here.