ScissorTales: Dan Boren overstates effects of Citizens United decision

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: June 23, 2012
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We've been fans of U.S. Rep. Dan Boren for a long time. Bright and dedicated, Boren, D-Muskogee, has served our state with distinction during his four terms in the House of Representatives. His moderate voice will be missed when he steps aside in November.

But Boren's assessment of the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision is a head-scratcher. Speaking in Tulsa this week, he said the ruling is “one of the worst decisions in the history of the Supreme Court. Absolutely devastating to democracy.”

Devastating to democracy? The ruling allowed corporations and unions to spend as much as they want on the political process, provided they don't coordinate with candidates or campaigns. Liberals in particular bemoan the potential for corporate sway to drown out individual voices. This is based on their presumption that all corporations have a conservative bent, which isn't true. On the other hand, unions are overwhelmingly liberal.

Washington Post columnist George Will wrote recently that through March 31, 86 percent of the money donated to the eight leading super PACs supporting Republican presidential candidates had come from individuals, not corporations. Will made another great point: “This media and liberal anxiety (about Citizens United) was not conspicuous in 2004, when George Soros spent $24 million supporting Democratic candidates.”

Boren laments the outsized role of money in politics. Fair enough. But placing limits on what can be spent or said in campaigns, and by whom, isn't the solution.

Another whiff

Roger Clemens' acquittal this week on charges of lying to Congress was the latest in a line of swings and misses by federal prosecutors in high-profile cases. After an expensive 10-week trial in Washington, D.C., the jury needed less than 10 hours to find Clemens not guilty on six counts of perjury. The charges stemmed from his 2008 testimony before a House committee where he said he never used performance-enhancing drugs. The feds spent seven years investigating former slugger Barry Bonds and came away last year with a guilty verdict on just one count of obstruction of justice. The jury couldn't decide whether Bonds had lied to a grand jury about steroid use. An investigation into possible PED use by multiple Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong ended recently without any charges brought. These constitute a lot of taxpayer money spent, with very little to show for it.

Smile for the camera

Expect a decision by the district attorney in Cleveland County to have a ripple effect across Oklahoma. The office has decided that unless there is a legitimate “law enforcement purpose,” it won't release mug shots of people who get arrested and booked. These photos have routinely been released to the media for years. The Cleveland County decision follows a 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that upheld a Tulsa judge's decision in 2011 that the U.S. Marshal's Service didn't have to provide the Tulsa World with mug shots it had requested of six people indicted by federal grand juries. Federal law allows mug shots to be withheld if releasing them could be considered an unwarranted invasion of privacy. “I think the application is clear in Oklahoma,” said David Batton, assistant district attorney in Cleveland County. Given that it's unclear what constitutes a legitimate “law enforcement purpose,” and that bureaucrats much prefer operating in the gray instead of in black-and-white, the public — who pay for those booking cameras, by the way — can bank on fewer and fewer mug shots being released in the future.

Copying a bad idea

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