WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Monday reaffirmed its 2-year-old decision allowing corporations to spend freely to influence elections. The justices struck down a Montana law limiting corporate campaign spending.
By a 5-4 vote, the court’s conservative justices said the decision in the Citizens United case in 2010 applies to state campaign finance laws and guarantees corporate and labor union interests the right to spend freely to advocate for or against candidates for state and local offices.
The majority turned away pleas from the court’s liberal justices to give a full hearing to the case because massive campaign spending since the January 2010 ruling has called into question some of its underpinnings.
The same five justices said in 2010 that corporations have a constitutional right to be heard in election campaigns. The decision paved the way for unlimited spending by corporations and labor unions in elections for Congress and the president, as long as the dollars are independent of the campaigns they are intended to help. The decision, grounded in the freedom of speech, appeared to apply equally to state contests.
But Montana aggressively defended its 1912 law against a challenge from corporations seeking to be free of spending limits, and the state Supreme Court sided with the state. The state court said a history of corruption showed the need for the limits, even as Justice Anthony Kennedy declared in his Citizens United opinion that independent expenditures by corporations “do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.”
Matthew Deniston, the only independent candidate in Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District race, said he’ll refuse the customary $174,000 congressional salary and work for free if he wins.
Further excerpt from Chris Carroll’s report:
“I don’t need 175 grand,” the McDonald, Tenn., resident said. “I sell solar panels, so hopefully I’ll sell enough to support myself.”
Deniston also said that, if he reaches Capitol Hill, he’s not sure he’ll hire any help — not a legislative director, not a press secretary, maybe not even an administrative assistant.
“I can do everything myself,” said Deniston, who co-owns an organic farm in Ooltewah.
Deniston, 27, is a soft-spoken U.S. Army veteran who earned an honorable discharge after two tours in Afghanistan and two in Iraq. He considers himself a lifetime soldier who fixes problems, so he sees Congress as a natural next move. He said the military exemplified the “waste, fraud and abuse” he hopes to root out of government.
…Mostly, he’s about honesty in government. Deniston admitted he’s been in jail three times for misdemeanor charges — once for driving under the influence — but he doesn’t believe that should hold him back from being in Congress.
He said he doesn’t drink anymore.
“I realized I had a drinking problem,” he said, “and I’m sorry for getting in my car and driving that night.”\
Deniston said he hasn’t raised any money yet, but he plans door-to-door visits and a postcard mailer.
State Rep. Kent Williams, the Legislature’s only political independent after being banished from the Republican party in 2009, has picked up papers from the Carter County Election Commission for qualifying as both an independent and as a Republican in this year’s elections.
The state GOP declared that Williams could not run as a Republican after he joined with House Democrats to elect himself as House speaker. He was replaced as House speaker in 2011 by Beth Harwell after Republicans gained a bigger majority in the 2010 elections.
Williams, who calls himself a “Carter County Republican,” said he is exploring options. But Nickas said Wednesday that the Republican State Executive Committee would have to approve Williams readmission to the party and, “It would be my guess he would find the door still shut.”
The deadline for filing as a candidate for legislative office is April 5.
Frank Cagle thinks the Richard Baumgartner mess in Knoxville will have an impact on the Legislature’s Court of the Judiciary dealings in Nashville. And he’s got an idea on what could be done.
Judges are, essentially, sovereign. They are elected. They don’t have a boss. The idea that a board in Nashville can keep up with the daily schedules and foibles of state judges is laughable. There is a bill scheduled for this session to reform the Court of the Judiciary, which is charged with regulating ethical behavior. Baumgartner will be the poster boy for the need for reform. The test of the reform needs to be the prevention of something like this happening again.
…We don’t know if anyone reported Baumgartner’s problems to the Court of the Judiciary, because complaints about judges are kept confidential. But some states have a position, at least in major metropolitan areas, called a courts administrator. The administrator assigns cases, manages the court system, and files regular reports. Such a position could insure that judges come back to the office after lunch. That all the judges carry a full and fair load. The judges wouldn’t be able to pick and choose cases and grant continuances at will.
The judges would be independent in the courtroom and on matters of law. But the administrator would be able to file reports to the Court of the Judiciary if a judge is lazy, absent or impaired.
Yes, we have court clerks in Tennessee. But does anyone seriously think a court clerk could confront Baumgartner or any other judge? A court administrator would have to be protected by civil service and be subject to removal only by the state Supreme Court.
The suggestion that the state’s judges will allow a position to be created that infringes on their prerogatives in any way is not likely to go anywhere. But something has to be done. It would be better if the judges came up with a solution. If they don’t, legislators will likely do it for them. The judges might not like the outcome.
Proponents of charter schools in Tennessee will ask lawmakers next session to back an independent board with authority to approve new schools, saying they can no longer sit back and watch local school boards act on anti-charter prejudices, reports the Commercial Appeal.
“The biggest issue is quality,” said Matt Throckmorton, executive director of the Tennessee Charter School Association. “Memphis without a doubt has the best application process. They look at it very objectively. “That quality is something we want statewide.”
Local school boards in the state have sole authority to approve charter schools. Without an independent board, Throckmorton and other charter advocates say, local politics plays too large a role in where charters are permitted to open.
A local example is Shelby County Schools. In the last year, the school board twice rejected an application by Smart Schools Inc., which operates one charter in Memphis. Smart Schools appealed the decision to the state Board of Education, which ordered SCS to approve the application. The New Consortium of Law and Business, the first charter school in the county system, opened Aug. 20.
Gov. Bill Haslam is cool to the idea, as reported by Andrea Zelinski.
Haslam said he won’t give away powers now reserved for local school districts to anyone else — at least until he can gauge how successful his developing charter school reforms turn out.
“I’m comfortable with what we’ve put in place. Let’s see how this works for a year or two before we do anything else,” the governor said.