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Today the Supreme Court, for a second time, passed judgment on political funding by invalidating a Montana law restricting campaign finance. This is referred to as the Citizens United case. Over the two years since the high court ruled on this issue, there have been countless articles, radio and television commentaries and comments on the internet (and in this paper) denouncing the contributions of corporations to political campaigns. I would like to point out that 95 percent of these commentaries fail to mention that the Supreme Court ruled that unions are just as free to contribute as corporations are. This aspect of the Supreme Court’s opinion is continually left out.
In another opinion last week, the high court overturned a ruling by the ninth circuit court of appeals relating to campaign finance. At issue was that the SEIU, Service Employees International Union Local 1000, who issued a notice of dues increase to some California state employees (apparently you can opt out of union membership, but you still must pay dues for employment) with the intent of the collected funds to be used for political contributions of the union’s choice. From the court’s ruling:
“In June 2005, a public-sector union (SEIU) sent to California employees its annual Hudson notice, setting and capping monthly dues and estimating that 56.35 percent of its total expenditures in the coming year would be chargeable expenses. A nonmember had 30 days to object to full payment of dues but would still have to pay the chargeable portion. The notice stated that the fee was subject to increase without further notice.”
To quote the intent of the funding from the Supreme Court’s opinion, the additional funds were being assessed as an “Emergency Temporary Assessment to Build a Political Fight-Back Fund.” Link provided to the entire Supreme Court’s ruling www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/11pdf/10-1121c4d6.pdf.
Carl Marx, the author of numerous 19th-century publications in support of socialist ideology, including co-authorship with Friedrich Engels of the Communist Manifesto, was a champion of the unionization of the working class. While the historical study of socialism is very interesting, and it’s hard to argue that the unionization of workers during the industrial revolution was not needed, it is my opinion that union contributions to political parties are no different than contributions from corporations. How about from now on including references to both contributors?
Steve Allen lives in Waitsfield.