End-of-summer Reflection: Money, Politics, Corporations, and the Constitution

It’s been a busy summer for those of us fighting in the courts against constitutional challenges by big money interests and corporations seeking to strike down laws on everything from campaign contribution limits to the minimum wage. We’ve seen some important victories, such as the Supreme Court’s decision upholding restrictions on judicial candidates personally soliciting campaign donations, and the hotel industry’s withdrawing Equal Protection Clause and other constitutional challenges from its lawsuit against a Los Angeles minimum wage law.

We also were reminded that the fight continues when a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit sent a challenge to Montana’s campaign contribution limits back to a hostile trial court, and when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued a decision that could give corporate plaintiffs more leverage to raise First Amendment claims against disclosure laws designed to inform consumers, investors, and the public.

Meanwhile, we’re moving forward. We’ve filed an amicus brief in support of Montana’s request for the full Ninth Circuit to rehear its appeal. Next week we’ll file an amicus brief in a different federal court of appeals, helping Vermont fight back against a corporate First Amendment challenge to its consumer right-to-know law for genetically engineered food ingredients.

And more cases are in the pipeline. Next Tuesday, a federal court of appeals in Seattle will hear a corporate Equal Protection Clause challenge to that city’s minimum wage law. At the same time, we’re awaiting decisions in cases challenging limits on corporate contributions to candidates in Massachusetts, and “pay-to-play” practices among investment advisers for public funds. New cases—including corporate First Amendment challenges to laws requiring labels disclosing added sugars and cell phone radiation risks—keep pouring in.

But there’s no reason to be dispirited. We can, and will, help the public understand these problems. We can, and will, push back in the courts. We can, and will, help develop new scholarship that can provide a new jurisprudential foundation for a pro-democracy constitutional doctrine. We can, and will, develop new legislation that will limit the political and judicial power of wealthy and corporate interests and will re-emphasize public control over corporations. We can, and will, build grassroots and intellectual support for a constitutional amendment. And in the end, we can, and will, prevail.

 

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