Corporate Accountability

Corporations are the Roberts Court’s favorite people, my friend

By Will Bunch


Thank God June is such a slow news month — OK, yes, that was sarcasm. Judges, juries, politicians, murderers — they all must have a hell of a July 4 vacation planned, because they can’t clear their in-boxes fast enough. They’re tossing out guilty verdicts and spending your tax dollars about as fast as it takes to fry an egg on a Philly sidewalk in summer.


No one is racing for the exit faster than the Supremes. What do we make of today’s fast and furious (heh) court action, in which the nine justices seemingly made one liberal ruling (barring mandatory life sentences for juvenile offenders), one conservative ruling (upholding the Citizens United big-money-in-politics decision) and one mixed ruling, tossing out much of Arizona’s loathesome anti immigrant law SB 1070 but not the most loathesome, “papers please” provision?


To me, it’s just the Roberts Court being the Roberts Court. On civil liberties issues for individuals — free speech, for example — this incarnation of the High Court has an OK record, and the youth imprisonment decision is part of that pattern. But when big corporations ask them how much can they give, ooh, they only answer more, more, more, more. So they strengthen Citizens United, which allows the kleptocracy to keep its stranglehold on the political system.


And don’t forget this: Most big corporations actually support what might be called liberal immigration laws, because they covet a source of cheap labor. No one remembers this, but the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was actually on the same side as the Obama administration in opposing an earlier Arizona anti-imigration law enacted in 2007.


Amazingly, the Chamber of Commerce did lose that case, but that was a rarity indeed:


A partial explanation for this shift could be that the justices have found a different team of elite lawyers they would rather take advice from — America’s top corporate lobbying group. So far this term, the Roberts Court sided with the United States Chamber of Commerce in every single one of the cases where the Chamber expressed a view. Moreover, the Chamber’s win rate for the duration of the Roberts Court closely matches the very high win rate once enjoyed by the Solicitor General. According to the Constitutional Accountability Center, the Chamber’s overall win rate before the Roberts Court is 68 percent, or 60 of 88 cases.


Something else — thie current Supreme Court is highly political. In three days, the Roberts Court is expected to toss out at least the individual mandate if not more of the President Obama-backed health care law — ignoring years of precedent and defying every expectation of legal scholars when the law was passed two years ago.


So today’s batch of moderate rulings really tees it up for one of most reactionary, political and wrong-headed rulings in American history (though not the worst — a Joe DiMaggio-like record that will never be broken). Because if you believe that corporations are people, my friend, then the Roberts Court is your kind of place. And John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy are the five best friends a corporation could possibly have.