Democratic leader criticizes Supreme Court rulings

Posted June 25, 2012, at 8:44 p.m.

CHICAGO — U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Monday it may take the appointment of new justices to overturn a Supreme Court ruling that paved the way for so-called super PACs after the court refused to revisit the issue in a Montana case.

Durbin, the No. 2 ranking Democrat in the Senate, also said the court’s ruling Monday to strike down most of a controversial Arizona immigration law was “puzzling” since justices let stand one portion of the law pending the possibility of further review.

Speaking at a Chicago news conference, Durbin called the court’s original 2010 ruling on campaign finance limits in a case known as Citizens United an “outrageous decision.”

That 5-4 ruling opened the door to political action committees that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money in elections, sometimes without having to disclose who donated. Recently, Las Vegas casino owner Sheldon Adelson disclosed that he and his wife gave $10 million to a super PAC backing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

On Monday, again on a 5-4 decision, the court rejected a Montana law that limited campaign activity by corporations.

“I wish one Supreme Court justice had run for political office before they issued the Citizens United decision,” Durbin said. “In the area of our political campaigning and political selection process, (Citizens United) is the worst decision that has been handed down by the court by far.”

Durbin said the court departed from decades of limiting corporate involvement in politics and regulation of individual donations with the result that justices have “opened wide the flood gates for Las Vegas casino magnates to dump millions of dollars into this (presidential) race.”

“These American oligarchs are trying to control the political system for their own purposes, either for their own philosophy or their own pocketbook,” Durbin said. “This Supreme Court just doesn’t get it.”

Durbin said a Constitutional amendment to re-impose limits on political involvement would be a “very long shot” and said future changes in the Supreme Court justices “might bring them to a different conclusion.”

On the Arizona immigration law, Durbin said the court’s decision “should be a wake-up call to Congress to get busy on immigration reform.” Still, he said, it was doubtful Washington would act in this presidential election year.

The court struck down some major parts of the law, but let stand a controversial provision that lets police check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws. Durbin said the court left in that provision, “but with a qualification that said (justices) reserve the right to review how this is going to be applied.”

“Still, some of the more egregious and punitive sections were eliminated and I hope that we don’t find other states trying to write their own version of an immigration law that is not consistent with a great nation,” he said. “We need one national policy when it comes to immigration.”

©2012 Chicago Tribune

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