Supreme Court Justice Alito had a made-for-video moment during Obama's State of the Union address, mouthing "Not true" after the President inaccurately described the recent Supreme Court decision on campaign finance laws. Brad Smith is a law prof with the truth, or we could go to David Kirkpatrick of the NY Times:
The president appeared to have mischaracterized the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn restrictions on corporate-paid political commercials by suggesting that the decision invited political advertisements by foreign companies, too.
“Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections,” Mr. Obama said.
“Well, I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, and worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.”
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., a member of the majority in that decision, broke with the justices’ usual decorum to openly dissent. He shook his head no and mouthed the words “not true.”
...President Obama called for new legislation to prohibit foreign companies from taking advantage of the ruling to spend money to influence American elections. But he is too late; Congress passed the Foreign Agents Registration Act in 1996, which prohibits independent political commercials by foreign nationals or foreign companies.
I think Mr. Kirkpatrick has more of a future as a reporter than as a political strategist - Obama's strategy of calling on Congress to enact laws already on the books should assure him of a useful victory. A year from now, Obama can appear at the State of the Union and proudly announce that Congress has banned foreign corporations from running ads.
The Times got this right during their live-blogging last night as well:
A Memorable, Unusual Moment | 10:38 p.m. David Kirkpatrick notes a rare moment of confrontation. As Mr. Obama criticized the recent ruling on campaign finance, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. appeared to correct him.
(The justice’s reaction is captured on YouTube.)
When Mr. Obama declared that the ruling would open the floodgates to special interest spending on American elections, including foreign companies, Justice Alito broke with the justices’ usual decorum during such events and shook his head no, mouthing the words, “No, it’s not true.” In fact, though a dissenting opinion and some analysts argued that the opinion could imply a First Amendment right for foreign corporations to spend money on American campaign commercials, the majority opinion explicitly said it was not making that determination with this decision [link to 183 page .pdf].
So the Times, at least, is not in the tank for Obama on this one. But you can't spell "apologist" without AP! Their coverage:
The court did upend a 100-year trend that had imposed greater limitations on corporate political activity. Specifically, the court, in a 5-4 decision, said corporations and unions could spend freely from their treasuries to run political ads for or against specific candidates.
In his dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens said the court's majority "would appear to afford the same protection to multinational corporations controlled by foreigners as to individual Americans."
As the Times noted, Stevens was arguing (p. 120 of the .pdf) that a simple-minded extension of the majority logic ought to allow foreign corporations the right to run commercials. However, the majority expressly addressed that (p. 3 of the .pdf,or p. 46 of the opinion):
We need not reach the question whether the Government has a compelling interest in preventing foreign individuals or associations from influencing our Nation’s political process. Cf. 2 U. S. C. §441e (contribution and expenditure ban applied to “foreign national[s]”).
Geez - what sort of basic skills are they teaching in law schools?