This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
A past Supreme Court justice became famous for saying that he couldn't define pornography. But he would know it when he saw it.
Five justices of today's U.S. Supreme Court could probably define corruption. They just refuse to see it.
In only the last few months, voters across America and those who voted, or were repulsed from voting, in yesterday's Utah Republican primary have seen a mushrooming of the "independent" expenditures allowed by the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling. That's the one that claimed that unlimited amounts of money spent by corporations and the 1 percent to influence elections, and to make candidates beholden to donors' whims and desires, "do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption."
Yet, when the high court was handed an opportunity to revise that absurd conclusion, with the help of some very relevant historical research provided by the members of the Montana Supreme Court, the Citizens United majority Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice John Roberts effectively clapped their hands over their ears and started singing "Polly Wolly Doodle" loudly enough that they couldn't hear the plain truth of the situation.
Only a few months ago, the Montana supremes had boldly upheld their own state law banning corporate spending on campaigns. The Big Sky court noted that the century-old law was passed by initiative, an expression of the people's revulsion over how their courts, their Legislature and the selection of their U.S. senators (then chosen by the Legislature) had basically become commodities to be bought and sold by staggeringly rich people who were used to dealing in commodities, the Montana Copper Kings.
Big money in politics is inherently corrupting, the Montana court ruled, so limits on such spending are constitutional. The losers in that case, a free market lobbying group called the American Tradition Partnership (the American tradition in this case being the supremacy of the wealthy over democracy) appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Monday, the court not only agreed to accept the case. It ruled on it immediately, in two snippy, unsigned paragraphs, throwing out the Montana ruling without further briefs, oral arguments or giving any respect to the four justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan who issued their own, signed, opinion calling Citizens United out for the atrocity it is.
If this is what this court thinks the Constitution says, it is time to amend the Constitution.