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State Democrats Express Outrage Over Court's Ruling On Corporate Campaign Spending

CHRISTOPHER KEATING and DANIELA ALTIMARI

January 22, 2010

The U.S. Supreme Court's landmark elections ruling Thursday prompted strong reactions in Connecticut about the future flow of corporate cash to federal political campaigns.

Businesses and unions can now spend unlimited amounts of money on behalf of political candidates as a result of the decision. For example, a corporation would still be prevented from donating $2 million to a congressional candidate but could instead air $2 million worth of television commercials that urge viewers to vote for that candidate.

Many Democrats expressed outrage at potentially huge corporate contributions, and two who are members of Connecticut's federal delegation said they would work quickly to overturn the ruling by enacting a new law in Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon, a Republican running for the U.S. Senate, had no problem with the 5-4 ruling. McMahon has said she may spend as much as $50 million of her own money in this year's race for the U.S. Senate.

"Linda supports free speech," said Ed Patru, McMahon's campaign spokesman.

McMahon is a candidate for the Senate seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd, who is not running for re-election and who had a decidedly different reaction to Thursday's ruling.

"What a terrible day for American democracy," Dodd said in a statement. "With this 5-4 decision, a deeply divided Supreme Court has essentially given corporations free rein to drown out the voices of the American people, rejecting the sacred democratic principle of 'one person, one vote.'

"By overturning the century-old cornerstone of our campaign finance laws, they have opened the floodgates of direct corporate spending, allowing our political discourse and the legislative process to be further corrupted by huge corporations. I intend to pursue every legislative option including a constitutional amendment to allow Congress and the states to put appropriate limits on campaign spending to restore the trust and voice of the American people."

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a New Haven Democrat who is a veteran member of the U.S. House of Representatives, echoed Dodd's view.

"With this ill-advised spate of judicial activism, five Supreme Court justices have struck down the distinction between individuals and corporations in election law and opened the floodgates to a hostile corporate takeover of our democratic process," DeLauro said.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said the ruling would have no impact on the state campaign finance reform measure that was signed into law by Gov. M. Jodi Rell and is now being appealed in the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City.

"This split Supreme Court decision is sadly historic threatening to drown the voices of ordinary citizens during elections with a flood of unlimited corporate spending," Blumenthal said. "This decision will further entrench and empower special interests against reform and change in Washington that citizens deserve and demand."

Trinity College Professor Ned Cabot, the former national chairman of the citizens organization Common Cause, said that the landscape has changed because unions do not have as much money as major corporations like Goldman Sachs.

"We have a different system today than we had 24 hours ago," Cabot said. "This is a decision by a radically politicized court which has deeply troubling implications for American democracy. We've had self-funded millionaires in the system for quite some time, but these corporations, in their own interests, are going to calculate that it would be wise for them to spend what it takes to drive candidates they don't like out."

Cabot is a former corporate lawyer and former president of the New York Chamber of Commerce and Industry. "I'm not exactly anti-corporate," he said. But in his view, the court's ruling creates a system "in which staggeringly wealthy and powerful corporations have a constitutional right to dominate political campaigns."

He predicted that a business, particularly in a small market, could buy up air time in the days before a close election and shape the outcome.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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