Friday, January 22, 2010

An Open Letter To Chief Justice Roberts

To: Chief Justice John Roberts

Re: Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission

Dear John,

I am a voter who takes his citizenship seriously. I am not a rich man. I have volunteered my time as an unpaid volunteer to work for various political causes and candidates. In your majority ruling Thursday, you reaffirm that corporations have the same rights as individuals.

You go on to rule that corporations are free to contribute as much money as they want to federal political races in support or against a candidate before an election. You call it a First Amendment issue.

Sir, I humbly suggest I am not equal to Exxon in terms of buying ad space for a candidate for the House of Representatives. Even if I secured a $1 donation from a million friends just like me would we be equal to match a Big Oil corporation fighting new energy regulations, for example.

May I remind you, sir, your majority decision overturned about 100 years of precedent limiting the wealth of large corporations influencing the outcome of elections. Specifically, during your Senate confirmation hearing in 2005 you stated your judicial belief as a strict constitutional constructionist and valued legal precedents as the holy grail of the law:

“Judges are like umpires,” you said back then. “Umpires don't make the rules; they apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to a ball game to see the umpire... I will remember that it's my job to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat.”

Again, may I humbly suggest, sir, you swung for the fences in Citizens United. You and your majority justices took a narrow issue from the political "documentary" of then presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and changed the entire complexion of campaign financing laws.

Sir, allow me to refer you to Friday's New York Times article in which your good friend Benjamin L. Ginsberg is quoted:


“It will put on steroids the trend that outside groups are increasingly dominating campaigns,” Mr. Ginsberg said. “Candidates lose control of their message. Some of these guys lose control of their whole personalities.”
“Parties will sort of shrink in the relative importance of things,” he added, “and outside groups will take over more of the functions — advertising support, get out the vote — that (political) parties do now.”

And, from one of your inquisitors during your Senate confirmation hearing, New York Sen. Charles Schumer:

"The Supreme Court just predetermined the winners of next November's elections. It won't be Republicans. It won't be Democrats. It will be corporate America."

Mr. Chief Justice, even Republican operatives have raised eyebrows from your ruling.

"I don't believe that the ruling will fundamentally change the outcome of the elections given the obscene amounts of money that was spent independently in the last two years by everyone," said Jim Innocenzi, a GOP strategist in Alexandria, Va. "You could argue that since everyone has figured out a way to get around the rules, we'd be better off with full disclosures of who is really paying for this stuff and let everyone just promote whatever cause they want."


"There is only so much advertising space available the last 30 to 60 days [before an election] anyway, so all the ruling does is jack up the cost of 30-second commercials at the end of the campaign," he said.

In all due respect, sir, I don't think your ruling will change democracy as we now know it as some of your critics are claiming.

Certainly, I would never dream of calling your decision the worst since Roger B. Taney who was chief justice in 1857 and wrote the Dred Scott decision.

Nor would I even hint that your ruling was an advert case of judicial activism in defense of First Amendment rights.

Come to think of it, you five men certainly contributed your fair share of improving one of our economic sector's downsides which is the lack of advertising revenue for newspapers, television and political websites. I read that $2.6 billion was spent during the 2008 presidential campaign. Potentially, you guys have raised that ceiling immeasurably. Ah, unintended consequences.

In closing, I have one tiny question for you, sir.

What makes me equal to Rex Tillerson, chairman of the board and CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp.? Of course we each have one vote. It's what each can do before the vote that diminishes my value compared to his. That, sir, is not fair.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Jerry K. Remmers

  

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