/ Brian Snyder, Reuters
When the political history of the Obama years is written, one important element will be how conservative overreach led to the collapse of the Republican Party. And it all started with a Supreme Court case that proved to be poison Republicans eagerly swallowed, thinking it was cake.
That January 2010 ruling was the infamous Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which declared that associations of people (read: rich folk and businesses) have free speech rights, and that not-for-profit entities are constitutionally allowed to collect and spend as much money as they want for political purposes, so long as they don’t coordinate those efforts with their candidates. For a bunch of purported constitutional literalists, the decision was nonsense—the conservatives on the court granted First Amendment rights to corporations, a legal construct never mentioned by the Founding Fathers. In fact, the 200 or so U.S. corporations that existed by 1800 were chartered by the states and forbidden from participating in politics, and if they engaged in any activities deemed inappropriate, they could have been immediately dissolved.
But the conservative justices made up a different history, reading into the Constitution what they wanted to find rather than what the founders clearly intended. And what they “discovered” was that money is speech and corporations are people, with the same constitutional rights of free expression as any human.