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May 10, 2014

Americans think the Supreme Court is too political

By Khalid Saeed

A new poll, by Democracy Corps and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, finds the US Supreme Court too political. According to the poll released on May 7, 2014, Americans of all political affiliations support policies that would make the U.S. Supreme Court more accessible and its justices more accountable.

The poll was conducted from April 16–24, two weeks after the Supreme Court, in McCutcheon V. FEC, struck down limits in federal law on the overall campaign contributions the biggest individual donors may make to candidates, political parties and political action committees.

The Supreme Court majority led by Chief Justice John Roberts has overturned one of the few remaining barriers in American elections that seek to limit wealthy individuals from using vast amounts of their money for political power and influence.

It is a naked truth that spending large sums of money on someone’s agenda or election does not come without some strings attached or expectation of future benefit. 

According to the poll, Americans believe the Supreme Court justices are political, letting their personal views sway their decisions. And more than three-quarters of Americans oppose the Citizens United ruling four years after the Supreme Court handed down the landmark campaign finance decision.

In January 2010, in the Citizens United V. Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations and unions have the same political speech rights as individuals under the First Amendment. It found no compelling government interest for prohibiting corporations and unions from using their general treasury funds to make election-related independent expenditures. Thus, it struck down a federal law banning this practice.

Respondents were asked: A recent Supreme Court decision made it possible for outside groups, corporations, unions, and wealthy individuals to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence an election without disclosing the names of the individuals or groups spending the money.

71 percent respondents agreed that this decision has allowed big corporations and wealthy special interests from both sides to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in secret money to try to buy elections, taking power away from regular citizens.

In addition, 80 percent of respondents supported the requirement that the justices disclose any outside activities paid for by others – such as flights on private planes, speaking fees and gifts – in their annual financial disclosure reports, which justices do to a large extent, though their disclosure rules are a bit more lax than those of other top federal officials.

Huge majorities in the poll said that it is long past the time to end Supreme Court justices’ lifetime appointments, proceedings should be video-taped and televised, justices should disclose financial conflicts of interest, and be bound by the same U.S. Judicial Code of Conduct ethics rules as every other judge in America of which they have exempted themselves.

To borrow Rmuse of Politicus USA, what the poll respondents noted was that despite Chief Justice John Roberts oath before Congress during his confirmation that he had great respect for precedent, once confirmed he immediately embarked on a run of conservative judicial activism favoring the wealthy and undermining affirmative action, castrating voting rights protections, and most recently demolishing the Separation and Establishment clauses of the First Amendment.

Khalid Saeed is a member of the Ecumenical Ministries of Woodland, CA and Director of Woodland Islamic Center.