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People For the American Way: Justin Greenberg, email@example.com, (202) 467-4999
Public Citizen: Dorry Samuels, firstname.lastname@example.org
Free Speech For People: Jeff Clements, email@example.com, (978) 287-4901
Center for Media and Democracy: Nikolina Lazic, firstname.lastname@example.org, (608) 260-9713
Today marks the 125th anniversary of the Supreme Court's ruling in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, a landmark case which was interpreted to confer "personhood" on corporations, thus extending the right to equal protection under the law as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment, which was previously afforded only to individuals.
Today marks the 125th anniversary of the Supreme Court's ruling in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, a landmark case which was interpreted to confer "personhood" on corporations, thus extending the right to equal protection under the law as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment, which was previously afforded only to individuals. Throughout the next century, the rights of corporations have significantly expanded, and now, thanks to Citizen's United, include the ability to make almost unlimited political contributions as an expression of free speech.
"In the last 125 years, the concept of corporate personhood has reached ridiculous extremes," said Marge Baker, executive vice president at People For the American Way. "Increasingly our laws and our Constitution are being bent to favor the interests of powerful corporations instead of the rights of ordinary Americans. The Supreme Court's shocking decision in Citizens United put a 'for sale' sign on our democracy, allowing unlimited funds to be spent from corporate treasuries to influence our elections, and the American people are paying the price."
"The Constitution should serve to advance the interests of We, the People, not giant corporations," said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. "Santa ClaraCountyv. Southern Pacific Railroad Company has come to stand for the proposition that corporations are presumptively entitled to the same constitutional rights as humans. The doctrine has corroded our democracy, most stunningly in the 2010 decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which held that corporations have a First Amendment right to spend whatever they like to influence election outcomes. Rescuing our constitutional democracy requires reestablishing the principle that corporations are the creations--and subordinates--of We, the People."
"Citizens United is the Santa Clara of our time," said Jeff Clements, general counsel for Free Speech For People. "Past generations of Americans came together across party and ideological divides to take on corporate power to amend the Constitution to reverse corporate-dominated Supreme Court decisions: to end corporate corruption of the appointment of U.S. Senators and to require direct election to the Senate, and to overturn a corporate Supreme Court that said Americans cannot have a progressive income tax. To take on today's threats on our republican democracy, we must come together again to amend the Constitution to overturn Citizens United and to protect people's rights, not corporate rights."
"The current U.S. Supreme Court arrogantly dictated that corporations have a constitutional 'right' to spend unlimited money influencing our elections, basing this edict on a deeply flawed decision from over a century ago," said Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy. "In the 1886 Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company case, a group of activist judges granted rights to for-profit corporations that were put into the Constitution after the Civil War to protect newly freed slaves, not railroads and robber barons. The five politicians in judicial robes given lifetime jobs on our highest court by Presidents George W. Bush, his dad, and Reagan have now given the richest corporations in the world fundamental First Amendment rights that were supposed to protect the human rights of citizens in our democracy. Their dictate will be over-ruled."
Sen. Elizabeth Warren noted that "noncompete clauses give companies unfair power over workers, enabling them to cut wages and benefits without fear of workers finding a new job or starting their own business."
Progressive advocacy groups and lawmakers celebrated Thursday after the Federal Trade Commission proposed a new rule that, if finalized, would prohibit employers from including noncompete clauses in employment contracts, which the agency described as "a widespread and often exploitative practice that suppresses wages, hampers innovation, and blocks entrepreneurs from starting new businesses."
Given the prevalence of noncompete agreements, which prevent roughly one in five U.S. workers from freely changing jobs, the FTC estimates that "the new proposed rule could increase wages by nearly $300 billion per year and expand career opportunities for about 30 million Americans."
The American Economic Liberties Project (AELP) called the FTC's 3-1 vote to initiate a rulemaking process to ban the use of noncompete clauses "a victory for American workers and fair, competitive markets."
“Millions of workers, future new business owners, everyday consumers, and the American economy overall will be better off because of the FTC's vote today," AELP executive director Sarah Miller said in a statement. "For too long, coercive noncompete agreements have unfairly denied millions of working people the freedom to change jobs, negotiate for better pay, and start new businesses."
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) noted that "noncompete clauses give companies unfair power over workers" and commended the FTC for moving to ban them.
\u201cNoncompete clauses give companies unfair power over workers, enabling them to cut wages and benefits without fear of workers finding a new job or starting their own business.\n\nI\u2019ve called for a ban on these harmful contracts and commend @FTC's action to protect workers.\u201d— Elizabeth Warren (@Elizabeth Warren) 1672932562
Miller, meanwhile, said that Thursday's proposed rule "makes clear that the use of noncompetes to undermine fair competition for workers and prevent new businesses from entering the market is also an illegal practice under the antitrust laws."
"Yesterday's enforcement actions under Section 5 of the FTC Act make clear the FTC means business," she added, referring to the lawsuit the FTC—led by "antitrust trailblazer" Lina Khan—filed Wednesday to force three corporations and two individuals to lift noncompete restrictions they imposed on thousands of workers.
Wednesday's crackdown—which marked the first time the FTC has sued to halt unlawful noncompete clauses—came just weeks after the agency voted 3-1 to issue a new policy statement restoring its commitment to "rigorously enforcing" the long-neglected Section 5 ban on "unfair methods of competition."
"This rule would be an important step in creating an economy that works for everyone."
Thursday's proposal to prohibit noncompete agreements altogether comes less than three weeks after AELP, Demand Progress, Public Citizen, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), and more than 20 other groups urged the FTC to immediately begin a rulemaking process to eliminate noncompete provisions they described as unjustifiable and "anti-worker."
"Today's vote from the FTC is a step forward toward banning this unfair practice that hurts millions of workers and prevents new businesses from being able to compete on equal ground," Demand Progress Education Fund executive director David Segal said Thursday in a statement. "In a time when millions of Americans are struggling to afford their basic needs, we should be providing more opportunity—not less."
Matt Kent, competition policy advocate for Public Citizen, called the FTC's Thursday move "thrilling."
"The rule was long in the making but the strength of this proposal makes the wait worthwhile," said Kent. "If finalized in this form, the rule would be wide-ranging, applying to independent contractors and requiring an employer to actively inform workers that existing noncompete clauses are no longer in effect."
"The legal backing for the rule is also an exciting and overdue use of the FTC's power to police unfair methods of competition using authority granted by Congress in Section 5 of the FTC Act," he added.
EPI president Heidi Shierholz also praised the FTC's regulatory initiative.
"Why do we need this rule?" Shierholz asked on Twitter. "The only source of power nonunionized workers have vis-à-vis their employers is their ability to quit and take a job elsewhere. So, SURPRISE, employers are using noncompete agreements to cut that source of worker power off at knees."
\u201cIt\u2019s worth noting that employers do not need noncompetes to protect their trade secrets\u2014for example, intellectual property law already provides significant legal protections for trade secrets, and employers can still use tailored non-disclosure agreements. 4/\u201d— Heidi Shierholz (@Heidi Shierholz) 1672934579
"Noncompetes are about reducing competition, fullstop," said Shierholz. "That's bad for workers and bad for consumers. This rule would be an important step in creating an economy that works for everyone."
The public has 60 days after the Federal Register publishes the proposed rule to submit comments. The FTC will review the comments and possibly make changes based on citizen input and the agency's further analysis.
After applauding the FTC for "once again taking bold action where necessary to protect competition in the labor markets," Kent urged the agency to "issue a final rule that mirrors the quality of this initial effort."
"It is not necessary to send the Proud Boys to storm the Capitol to attempt a coup," said one former Israeli ambassador. "Abusing a tiny legislative majority to crush the judiciary and the nature of Israel's democracy is also a coup."
Israeli liberals and critics around the world sounded the alarm Thursday over a plan by Israel's new far-right government to dramatically limit the power of the country's judiciary, in part by allowing a simple parliamentary majority to overturn Supreme Court rulings.
On Wednesday, Israeli Justice Minister Yariv Levin—a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party—released a set of proposals he said were aimed at "strengthening democracy, rehabilitating governance, restoring faith in the judicial system, and rebalancing the three branches of government."
"Judicial review? Gone. Separation of powers? Dead. Checks and balances? Kiss it goodbye."
"The night of January 4, 2023 will go down in history as the beginning of the regime coup in Israel, on its way to becoming a clone of Hungary/Poland/Russia/Turkey," journalist Yossi Verter wrote for the liberal Israeli newspaperHaaretz.
"A democratically elected government is assassinating democracy, for the glory of so-called democracy... on the way to the next step, the annulment of Netanyahu's trial," he added, referring to the prime minister's ongoing corruption case.
U.S.-based Partners for a Progressive Israel tweeted: "Judicial review? Gone. Separation of powers? Dead. Checks and balances? Kiss it goodbye."
\u201cThe Orbanisation of Israeli democracy is underway. https://t.co/atjbYPwzhN\u201d— Liam Hoare (@Liam Hoare) 1672911696
The most contentious part of Levin's plan is an "override clause" that would allow a 50%+1 parliamentary majority to override rulings issued by the Supreme Court, which also sits as the High Court of Justice and has been accused by human rights groups of giving legal cover to war crimes and crimes against humanity including apartheid and the illegal occupation of Palestine.
As Haaretz's Amir Tibon noted: "Israel does not have a constitution, and the separation between the legislative and executive branches is very weak as the government almost always holds a majority in the Knesset [parliament]. This makes the Supreme Court the only institution with the power to limit government actions and legislation passed by a parliamentary majority. Now Levin wants to take that power away."
"For instance," he added, " if the government passed a law that clearly favored ultra-Orthodox citizens and hurt the rights of secular Israelis, and the Supreme Court then struck it down, all it would take to reinstate the discriminatory law is 61 votes in the Knesset."
\u201cIt is not necessary to send the "Proud Boys" to storm the Capitol to attempt a coup. Abusing a tiny legislative majority to crush the judiciary & the nature of Israel's democracy is also a coup. It is time for Israelis to stand up to corrupt extremists to defend our democracy.\u201d— \u05d0\u05e8\u05ea\u05d5\u05e8 \u05dc\u05b6\u05e0\u05e7 \u0622\u0631\u062b\u0631 \u0644\u064a\u0646\u0643 (@\u05d0\u05e8\u05ea\u05d5\u05e8 \u05dc\u05b6\u05e0\u05e7 \u0622\u0631\u062b\u0631 \u0644\u064a\u0646\u0643) 1672915907
Levin's proposal would also change how Israel's judges are selected.
"Today, the Judicial Appointments Committee includes politicians from both the government and the opposition, judges, and representatives of the Israel Bar Association," Tibon explained. "Levin wants to increase the power of the politicians and decrease that of judges and lawyers, effectively giving the government the power to appoint judges and, critically, Supreme Court justices."
The Israel Bar Association opposes Levin's proposal.
\u201cIncredible how just now Israel Bar Association promises to prevent politicisation of their tainted judiciary system when their Supreme Court facilitates the comission of war crimes and crimes against humanity.\u201d— Loureen Sayej (@Loureen Sayej) 1672875718
"Another change he wants to promote is to make it more difficult for the Supreme Court to annul legislation by requiring a larger majority of justices, and not just a regular majority, for any such decision to take effect," Tibon added. When this idea is combined with increasing the government's control over judicial appointments and the override clause, it becomes clear that Levin, in essence, wants the Supreme Court's ability to conduct judicial reviews to become a dead letter."
Furthermore, Levin's proposal would turn legal advisers who serve government ministries from professional appointees accountable to the attorney general into political appointments controlled by Cabinet ministers.
Finally, Levin is seeking to rescind the "reasonableness" standard used by the Supreme Court to overrule egregious government decisions like then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's refusal to fire Cabinet Minister Aryeh Deri, leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, after a 1993 fraud and bribery indictment.
\u201cAt the heart of Israel\u2019s crisis is the fate of an indicted prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in the midst of trial, whose hold on power depends on a coalition with party leader Aryeh Deri, who escaped jail through a deal in which he abjured public life. https://t.co/WagguV2bvo\u201d— Noga Tarnopolsky \u05e0\u05d2\u05d4 \u05d8\u05e8\u05e0\u05d5\u05e4\u05d5\u05dc\u05e1\u05e7\u05d9 \u0646\u0648\u063a\u0627 \u062a\u0631\u0646\u0648\u0628\u0648\u0644\u0633\u0643\u064a (@Noga Tarnopolsky \u05e0\u05d2\u05d4 \u05d8\u05e8\u05e0\u05d5\u05e4\u05d5\u05dc\u05e1\u05e7\u05d9 \u0646\u0648\u063a\u0627 \u062a\u0631\u0646\u0648\u0628\u0648\u0644\u0633\u0643\u064a) 1672941450
Levin's proposal came a day before the High Court of Justice heard arguments for and against the so-called Deri Law, legislation recently passed by the Knesset to allow Deri to serve as minister of both health and the interior despite his prior conviction and imprisonment for bribery, tax fraud, and breach of trust.
Levin's predecessor, Gideon Sa'ar, likened the proposed judiciary overhaul to "regime change," while Benny Gantz, leader of the opposition National Unity Party, called the plan "a major danger to the private citizen."
"We don't have a balanced system. We don't have a constitution to protect us. We don't have two houses [of parliament]," Gantz toldHaaretz. "We have a government that with its majority controls the Knesset, and now together they will control the court."
Yair Lapid, who stepped down as Israel's prime minister last week and now leads the opposition, wrote: "Like a gang of criminals, the day before the High Court hearing on the Deri law, the government placed a loaded gun on the table. What Yariv Levin presented today is not legal reform, but rather a threatening letter. They are threatening to destroy the entire constitutional structure of Israel."
"A country that removes basic democratic checks and balances and eviscerates the independence of the judiciary can no longer be referred to seriously as a full democracy."
Daniel Sokatch, CEO of the liberal, U.S.-based New Israel Fund, said in a statement that "a country that removes basic democratic checks and balances and eviscerates the independence of the judiciary can no longer be referred to seriously as a full democracy."
"If Israel's new ruling coalition approves this legislation, it would strip power from the High Court of Justice, one of the few remaining institutions willing to protect human rights, individual freedoms, and democratic values," he continued.
"The international community, including the United States government, should see this move for what it is," Sokatch added, "a lurch towards autocracy, weakening Israel's legal system and democracy, and paving the way towards an attempt to further marginalize the most vulnerable in Israel and under Israel's control, including Palestinians, Arab citizens of Israel, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and migrants."
"These types of shady, backroom deals—which indebt our lawmakers to corporations and special interests—are corrupting our democracy," said Rep. Ro Khanna.
Why is a billionaire-funded super PAC aligned with Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy playing a role in talks over who will become the next speaker of the House?
Democratic lawmakers and campaign finance watchdogs raised that question Wednesday after the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) and the Club for Growth—another right-wing organization bankrolled by billionaires—announced a deal under which CLF won't spend any money on "open-seat primaries in safe Republican districts," a key demand of McCarthy opponents who felt their preferred candidates have been snubbed by the deep-pocketed super PAC.
As Fortunereported Wednesday, "far-right lawmakers have complained that their preferred candidates for the House were being treated unfairly as the campaign fund put its resources elsewhere."
CLF spent nearly $260 million during the 2022 election cycle, including millions to help reelect Republicans who are trying to tank his speakership bid. The super PAC's top donors in the midterm cycle were banking scion Timothy Mellon, Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman, and Citadel CEO Kenneth Griffin—all billionaires.
The deal between CLF and Club for Growth came as McCarthy continued his frantic efforts to cobble together the necessary 218 votes, offering a number of concessions to Republicans who have rejected the California lawmaker in six consecutive votes—and possibly more on Thursday.
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) was among those who raised concerns over CLF and Club for Growth's role in the ongoing speakership debacle.
"It is creepy that dark money super PACs are explicitly part of the negotiation regarding who becomes speaker of the United States House," the senator wrote on Twitter.
Federal law prohibits candidates from coordinating with super PACs, though the independence mandate is often flouted in practice. In a press release, CLF and Club for Growth insisted that "no one in Congress or their staff has directed or suggested CLF take any action here."
"Interesting that an independent super PAC that isn't supposed to coordinate with members of Congress comes to an agreement to benefit a specific member of Congress," responded Adam Smith, action fund director of End Citizens United.
\u201cI\u2019ll just say I\u2019ve never had to write \u201cwhat we just did is legal\u201d in a press release before.\u201d— Adam Smith (@Adam Smith) 1672878872
Club for Growth, which bills itself as a "leading free-enterprise advocacy group" that promotes tax cuts and deregulation, originally opposed McCarthy's run for speaker, pushing him to agree to a number of concessions backed by far-right House Republicans.
But the organization, which has received funding from the Koch network and other right-wing forces, suggested Wednesday that it will support McCarthy if he upholds the concessions he has offered thus far.
"This agreement on super PACs fulfills a major concern we have pressed for," Club for Growth president David McIntosh said in a statement.
While the CLF-Club for Growth agreement was seen as a major victory for the anti-McCarthy faction, it's not clear whether it will be enough to end the impasse. The House is set to convene again Thursday at noon.
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, argued in a tweet Wednesday that "these types of shady, backroom deals—which indebt our lawmakers to corporations and special interests—are corrupting our democracy."
"This is why I started the bipartisan Congressional No PAC caucus and have never taken PAC money, and refuse to start," Khanna added.