You do have to feel for the big corporations who were being discriminated against before the Supreme Court decided they could spend unlimited amounts of money in elections, right? Jeff Sessions, for one, is standing up for corporate underdogs who have fallen victim to moral injustice. Talking Points Memo reports:
Last night, elaborating on his criticisms of former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, Sessions made the unusual comparison of Citizens United v. FEC to Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.
"[Marshall] was right on Brown v. Board of Education. It's akin in my view to the Citizen's United case. The court sat down and we went back to first principles--What does the Constitution say? Everybody should be equal protection of the laws," Sessions told me after a Senate vote last night.
"Is it treating people equally to say you can go to this school because of the color of your skin and you can't?" Sessions asked rhetorically. "We've now honestly concluded and fairly concluded that it violates the equal protection clause."
Let’s break this down into a few points that I guess we shouldn’t assume are obvious:
- Brown v. Board of Education ended the systematic segregation of the American school system. Citizens United v. FEC struck down a law that didn’t let corporations spend as much as they wanted to on electioneering communications.
- The GOP has spent a large part of the past two days attacking Justice Marshall for what they call his “activist” judicial philosophy. They define that philosophy as an insufficient reverence for the Constitution as originally written and intended.
- Brown v. Board of Ed (which Marshall argued) is a classic example of a case in which the Supreme Court interpreted part of the Constitution—the 14th Amendment—in a way at odds with the original intent of its writers, but in line with evolving social mores and values. Elena Kagan made that very point herself this morning, as did former Justice David Souter a few weeks ago.
- Sessions says that the same philosophy led to Brown v. Board and Citizens United, but continues to slam Thurgood Marshall, the architect of the Brown argument, while praising the results of Citizens United.
The confusing logic aside, the main point here is that Sessions just compared limits on corporate spending in elections with systematic racial segregation. This is the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. And abstract arguments about judicial philosophy aside, that’s just appalling.