When five conservative members of the Supreme Court handed corporations and the super-rich the right to overwhelm our elections with tsunamis of cash, they moved America further from representative government toward outright plutocracy, where political power derived from wealth is devoted to protecting wealth.

We saw it first in the mid-term elections of 2010, and we’re seeing it in spades in this year’s elections – organized money, much of it dark money, given secretly So it can’t be traced, enveloping the campaign for president, Congressional campaigns, and state legislative and judicial races. There’s never been anything like it in our history – not on this scale, and not this sinister. We’ll take a look at this radical threat to democracy in our next two broadcasts – how it’s happening, and what can be done about it.

We’ll begin with this current issue of "The Nation" magazine, “The One Percent Court,” devoted entirely to the United States Supreme Court. It’s one you’ll not want to miss – and not because it opens with an article jointly written by me and the historian Bernard Weisberger. Our mission was simply to remind the reader of what’s obvious: that because of the partisan gridlock paralyzing both president and Congress, more than ever the court has become the most powerful branch of government, and the center of a controversy which may shape the fate of democracy for generations to come.

With me to talk about this is "The Nation" magazine’s editor and publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel. She’s a frequent presence on the talk news shows and a familiar byline in major publications. She has been one of those out in front, calling the president to task for orphaning his values and promises, as can be seen in her most recent book, "The Change I Believe In: Fighting for Progress in the Age of Obama."

The prolific Jamie Raskin also joins us. One of the country's leading scholars on constitutional law, he teaches at American University and is a Maryland State Senator, where in his first legislative session alone he managed to see more than a dozen of his bills pass into law. He's been described as “one of the nation’s most talented state legislators.” His many writings include a centerpiece article in this special issue of "The Nation."

Welcome to you both.

JAMIE RASKIN: Thanks so much.

BILL MOYERS: Okay, let’s play the numbers. What comes to mind when I call out 79, 76, 75, and 73?

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: The age of the four oldest justices on the court. And one of the reasons we did this issue is that as we enter this election season, this election could determine not only the future of the court for generations to come but the shape of our democracy for generations to come.

BILL MOYERS: You've devoted whole editions of the magazine, in the past, to the Supreme Court. What makes this one different?

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: I think we're at a moment, Bill, where we are witnessing the unprecedented concentration of power, wealth, and income. It is reminiscent not just of The Gilded Age, but of the New Deal period, when you had a Supreme Court which wanted to invalidate and dismantle the New Deal legislation that President Roosevelt was putting forward.

There's always been a threat. The court has always been important. But now we've seen a spate of 5-4 cases, 5-4, 5-4, 5-4, on the core issues that this magazine grapples with. The A.C.A. health care decision, in my mind, Jamie I'm sure has--

BILL MOYERS: Obamacare decision?


BILL MOYERS: Judge Roberts voting with the majority?

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: I think at that point partly because Citizens United has awakened Americans to the understanding that this court favors corporate interests. It's burgeoning. It's latent, but it's there. And I think Judge Roberts decided to be an institutionalist and wanted to save the court to come back to a next session and perhaps do some damage on voting rights, affirmative action, and other issues.

BILL MOYERS: You could have chosen any subject to write for Katrina, in this issue. But you chose Citizens United. Why?

JAMIE RASKIN: The way I look at it is, we'd had a decade of right-wing derailment of the Supreme Court and the politics of the country. In Bush vs. Gore in 2000, we had a 5-4 decision which took victory away from Vice President Gore, who had more than a half million votes more than Bush did and gave it to George W. Bush by intervening to stop the counting of ballots, for the first time in American history. And the history all of us know with the Iraq War and Afghan War and the corruption and so on.

That was the last decade. Now in 2010, a decade later a 5-4 coalition on the court, the right-wing block gets together and says, "Corporations, for the first time in American history, are declared to have the political free speech rights of the people, such that they can take money directly out of the corporate treasury and put it into politics."

Well, that threatens a total capsizing of democratic relationships that we've known before. And it completely upends what the Supreme Court has always said about what a corporation is. Because you can go back to Chief Justice John Marshall in the Dartmouth College case who said, "A corporation is an artificial entity. It's an instrument set up by the state legislatures for economic purposes." He said, "It's invisible. It's intangible. It exists only in contemplation of law. And it has all of these rights and benefits conferred upon it. But it must remain under the control of the government, essentially."

And that has been standard conservative doctrine on the Supreme Court all the way through Chief Justice Rehnquist. Justice White who said, "We give them limited liability. We give them perpetual life. But in return, we ask them to stay out of politics." And there's a beautiful sentence from Justice White dissenting in a case called First National Bank of Boston vs. Bellotti, where he said, "The state need not permit its own creature to consume it." And yet, this court is saying that, "We must permit the creation of the state legislatures to consume our politics." And so to me, the Citizens United case is the emblem for the whole era we're in. We're living in the Citizens United Era, I think.

BILL MOYERS: But before Citizens United, wealthy people were funneling money into politics, corporations were forming political action committees. And CEOs of those corporations were lavishing money on selected favored political candidates.

JAMIE RASKIN: Absolutely right, the corporate voice was never missing. And that's something, you know, Justice Stevens has pointed out. He said, "There were many faults to American politics. But nobody thought that a lack or a dearth of corporate voices was among the vices." But there was still a radical change effectuated by the majority--

BILL MOYERS: How so? Radical?

JAMIE RASKIN: --in Citizens United.

BILL MOYERS: What do you mean?

JAMIE RASKIN: Because before corporations could have issue ads. They could take out an ad in the New York Times on something. Before the CEOs and executives, as you say, could put their own money into campaigns. They could spend to the heavens of their own money. And they could contribute directly to candidates. But the one thing that couldn't happen was the CEOs could not take money directly out of the treasury and funnel it into campaigns,

ExxonMobil for example. I mean, in 2008, ExxonMobil had a political action committee. And that was money that was given directly by executives. People wrote checks for it. And they raised about a million dollars, which is not chump change. And they were able to spread it around.

But if ExxonMobil had been able to take money directly out of the corporate treasury, their profits in that year were $45 billion. If they had taken a modest 10 percent of their profits to spend in politics, it would have been more than the Obama campaign, the McCain campaign, the DNC, and the RNC, and every congressional campaign in the country. One corporation in the Fortune 500.

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: What Jamie is describing is the reason we have unprecedented inequality today and why we don't hear people's voices. We're hearing the voices of money. Money is the realm, the coin of power in this country. But, you know, one of the reasons we did this issue was because of the trajectory of this court. Because it is true that this is a radical shift. But we could see more dismantling of the frail structures of campaign finance reform that remain.

BILL MOYERS: There's hardly anything--

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: There's hardly anything left. But it has been a terrible downward spiral. But the clean money legislation in states like Arizona, the ban on corporate spending in Montana. These are other steps that this court could take if it moved to not a 5-4, but if you had more right-wing justices on this court. But it--

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: There's no question that the arc, as Jamie said, from Bush v. Gore, which in so many ways was a right-wing coup. When you talk to people outside this country, they saw it as that. I mean, you had the brother of the governor overseeing the decision and the justices shutting down democratic votes to this decision.

BILL MOYERS: Do you agree with Jamie that Citizens United is a game changer?


JAMIE RASKIN: But it's also emblematic of what's going on in the court. If you look at the 2011, last year's Supreme Court term, the court wiped out a very important class action suit brought by women in the Wal-Mart stores. A million and a half women brought a class action, again, a 5-4 decision saying that they didn't have enough in common with each other. They had not alleged a sufficiently common element to their complaint. The sex discrimination wasn't enough. They didn't have the same supervisor, for example.

Of course, they were all over the country. We saw another major blowout decision against consumers in-- AT&T Mobile versus Concepcion, where a family responded to an ad saying, "Get a free phone." And then after they got a free phone, they got a bill for $30, which was to go for taxes. They brought a suit. It was consolidated with a class-action suit. And AT&T said, "Well, you've signed our boilerplate adhesion contract which says you've got to go to independent arbitration."

That was appealed. And the Ninth Circuit said that you can't do that to people. This is unconscionable to steer them away from the ability to get judicial relief. Well, 5-4 decision reverses that in AT&T versus Concepcion. And the court said it was preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act.

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: And also the court siding with management against labor. Basically invalidating the National Labor Relations Act. And we saw in this decision which was underreported, because it was just on the eve of the Obamacare health care decision, Knox vs. S.E.I.U., Service Employee International Union.

Some called that the Scott Walker decision, because it placed such an undue burden on public employees that it has made collective bargaining more difficult. Dahlia Lithwick, has a piece in the issue, builds on what Jamie was saying, which is that in some ways the move to arbitration has closed off the possibilities of class action. Which has been an avenue for ordinary citizens to challenge corporate power, corporations, their malfeasance. And that is a trend which I believe we need to bring more attention to. It may seem dry, but again, it affects everyday lives.

BILL MOYERS: You open your article with a quote from the announcer in The Hunger Games. "And may the odds be ever in your favor." What are you trying to tell us?

JAMIE RASKIN: Well, in the Citizens United era, we're moving dangerously close into a kind of corporate state mentality, where the corporations operate with impunity in the Supreme Court. And they're now endowed not with personhood rights, as some people think, but super personhood rights. Because they have all kinds of protections that ordinary human beings don't have, like limited liability and perpetual life. And they continue to, you know, accrue wealth through the generations.

But now they're given political free speech rights that people theoretically have. But of course, most American citizens don't have millions of dollars to spend in politics. But the corporations do. And it’s, you know, a matter of chump change for them to put several million dollars into a campaign that could, you know, very much affect the direction of public policy.

BILL MOYERS: You live in New York, Katrina, if you were explaining to another straphanger on a moving subway the impact on that person's life of Citizens United, what would you tell her before the next stop?

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: What's misunderstood is that money is not an abstraction. Money will decide how people live, how their children are raised and treated, and how you're treated by corporations. I mean, if you're defrauded by AT&T and you don't have access to a fair legal system, you're not living in a fair democracy.

JAMIE RASKIN: And it's a fundamental distortion of a fair market, too. That's the other thing. It's not just an offense to Thomas Jefferson. It's an offense to Adam Smith.

BILL MOYERS: And by the way, this is why some conservatives I've talked to are distressed by Citizens United. They do not see it as a boon to--

JAMIE RASKIN: Corporations should compete based on the ingenuity of their engineers, their ability to come up with better products, not based on an army of lobbyists that they send to Washington or the amount of money they can put into politics to get their guy elected to office.

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: You know, what I really dislike about the current campaign is this idea if you raise a question of corporate power that you're antibusiness.

We're not antibusiness. We're simply saying that you need to have labor. You need to have organized citizens given the same rights as corporations are now being given. The rights of free association are being limited while the rights of corporations are being enhanced. So that countervailing power, which was at the heart of an American politics and system, is being diminished and dismantled.

So the fact that the federal district and appellate courts are deciding so much, and those have been so seriously already reshaped by Bush, by the right. It's a long game that the right has played. And that it's not too late but it's almost too late--

BILL MOYERS: You've been publishing about this. You've been writing about this for some time now. You both have seen this coming. You've written about how the court has been taking the side of corporations against regulators. And as you said a moment ago, the corporations against citizens. So wasn't Citizens United the logical next step to this trend that has--

JAMIE RASKIN: Oh, it absolutely was. I mean, Justice Powell was a key figure here. He wrote this memorandum as a private lawyer for the Chamber of Commerce in 1971 saying, "We need a counter-attack against the environmentalists and the labor unions and so on." And developed a whole strategy for kind of a corporate takeover of the judiciary and politic.

BILL MOYERS: By the way, you said something very important. Justice Lewis Powell, then a lawyer in Virginia, wrote this for the Chamber of Commerce, later became appointed by Richard Nixon to the Supreme Court.

JAMIE RASKIN: Just several months later.

BILL MOYERS: Many people look at the Powell Memo as the charter--

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: The foundational, the foundational document.

JAMIE RASKIN: And the first big case in this direction was the First National Bank of Boston vs. Bellotti case, which he wrote the decision on. And what it said was corporations -- the identity of the speaker is irrelevant, which becomes the key--

BILL MOYERS: What does that mean?

JAMIE RASKIN: What it means is you can't tell corporations that they can't put their money into politics just because they're a corporation. Which has, I guess, a surface plausibility to it. But then would you say that, for example, the City of New York can put money into an election--

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: That could be the next step.

JAMIE RASKIN: --to tell people how to vote?

BILL MOYERS: If we had any money. City of New York is broke.

JAMIE RASKIN: Can churches put their money in? I mean, if the identity of the speaker is really irrelevant. And even the court itself has not gone with that notion, because the next step was the right-wing lawyers who are pushing this today like James Bopp said, "Well, then we should have a right to give money directly to campaigns." Corporate contributions are next. And the court, at least at this point, is unwilling to go that far. So it doesn't totally buy the rhetoric of the identity of the speaker is irrelevant. But the First Amendment is being used today the way that the Lochner Court in the attack on the New Deal used due process.

BILL MOYERS: Back in the '30s.

JAMIE RASKIN: Which is you get everything through the First Amendment. For example, this outrageous case from 2011 from Vermont, Sorrell's decision, which struck down a patient and physician confidentiality law, which said that pharmacies and insurance companies could not sell-- information about patients being prescribed particular drugs by doctors directly to pharmaceutical companies. And the Supreme Court struck that down as a violation of the First Amendment, which is incredible that the data that's being collected by physicians somehow is free speech. And the pharmaceuticals have a right to it.

BILL MOYERS: So you could tell the straphanger on the subway that the data she gives her physician about her health could be sold by him to some corporate cause--

JAMIE RASKIN: Absolutely.

BILL MOYERS: --to some corporate subscriber.

JAMIE RASKIN: Now her name wouldn't be in it, at least in this variation.

BILL MOYERS: But it does change the relationship.

JAMIE RASKIN: It changes the relationship. And the point is that the First Amendment is being used by corporations to get everything that they want, including the right, basically, to own campaigns.

BILL MOYERS: Is your position that corporations do not have quote "free speech" under the First Amendment?

JAMIE RASKIN: They have commercial speech rights. And this is a point that Justice Breyer makes very effectively in the Vermont decision. He says, "What's happening is the majority is confusing the political speech, free speech rights of the citizenry with the commercial speech rights of businesses."

And those rights are constricted. For example, we say that states can punish businesses for lying and defrauding people. But we don't say that in politics. Politicians get up and say almost anything. And you can't sue them for fraud, basically. But commercial speech is a much lesser notion, because corporations are instrumentalities of the state. And they're endowed with all of these great rights and privileges that have made them fantastic accumulators of wealth and investors of money. But everybody from Chief Justice Marshall to Rehnquist to Justice White said, "You don't let them convert their economic power into political power."

And that is the fateful step that's been taken by the Roberts Court.

BILL MOYERS: Justice Scalia would disagree with you. I want to show you Justice Scalia earlier this summer on CNN.

PIERS MORGAN: At that moment, under your interpretation, I believe, of the Constitution, you should be allowed to raise money for a political party. The problem, as I see it and many critics see it, is that it has no limitation to it. So what you've now got are these super PACS funded by billionaires effectively trying to buy elections. And that cannot be what the Founding Fathers intended. Thomas Jefferson didn't sit there constructing something which was going to be abused in that kind of way. And I do think it's been abused, don't you?

ANTONIN SCALIA: No. I think Thomas Jefferson would have said the more speech, the better. That's what the First Amendment is all about. So long as the people know where the speech is coming from.

PIERS MORGAN: But it's not speech when it's...

ANTONIN SCALIA: The first...

PIERS MORGAN: -- it's ultimately about money to back up the speech.

ANTONIN SCALIA: You can't separate speech from the money that facilitates the speech.

PIERS MORGAN: Can't you?

ANTONIN SCALIA: It's utterly impossible.

Could you tell newspaper publishers you can only spend so much money in the publication of your newspaper? Would they not say this is abridging my speech?

PIERS MORGAN: Yes, but newspaper publishers aren't buying elections. I mean to -- you know, the election of a president, as you know better than anybody else, you've served under many of them...


PIERS MORGAN: -- is an incredibly important thing.

ANTONIN SCALIA: Newspapers...

PIERS MORGAN: And it shouldn't be susceptible to the highest bidder, should it?

ANTONIN SCALIA: Newspapers endorse political candidates all the time. What do you mean -- they're almost in the business of doing that.


ANTONIN SCALIA: And are you going to limit the amount of money they can spend on it?

PIERS MORGAN: Do you think the...


PIERS MORGAN: Do you think, perhaps, they should be?

ANTONIN SCALIA: Oh, I certainly think not. I think, as I think the framers thought, that the more speech, the better.

JAMIE RASKIN: Well first of all, the freedom of the press is just an irrelevant distraction from this. And that's an easy question, not that difficult a question. The good justice betrays either an ignorance of what Thomas Jefferson's position was or a willful defiance of it. Because Jefferson wrote several times about how afraid he was about an encroaching corporate tyranny and corporations who already, with their charters would bid fair to the laws of the land, in attempt to go off in their own direction.

BILL MOYERS: You actually quote Jefferson on the rise of a quote "single and splendid government of an aristocracy founded on banking institutions and incorporations." He said they would ride and rule over the plundered ploughman and beggared yeomanry. The ordinary citizen, right?

JAMIE RASKIN: Well, look, our founders understood power. And one thing that Jefferson really believed in, he invented the phrase "the wall of separation between Church and State," was dividing power up. And one way we've divided power up over the last century is building a kind of wall of separation between corporate treasury, wealth, and public elections.

That wall has been bulldozed by the Roberts Court. And now they're letting the corporate money flow in. And everybody knows, I think, across the country, what that means, from Montana to Florida. You know, what that means to have corporations directly involved in politics. And look, we should want corporations out competing and prospering and thriving and profiting. But we shouldn't want corporations to govern, because that inverts the proper democratic relationship.

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: Part of what Scalia and these originalist judges have done, and the right, is appropriate the language, is take the language. And we haven't found a narrative and a language to explain the importance of the court. They use terms like "freedom" and "liberty" and "activist judges.” And the importance of talking about the fairness and the balance and how these kinds of decisions infringe on the individual liberty of people.

It seems to me an important mission, as well as working with those in Congress to hold accountable State Senators, to hold accountable a president, to appoint and deepen the bench of those who understand the fairness and balance. And the values of freedom, of opportunity, of equality, that are at the core of our country's purpose and constitution.

BILL MOYERS: You include in here some very specific, concrete examples. I was especially taken with a particular case that you make in your centerpiece, where you say that the 2010 election should have been framed by three major events. They were?

JAMIE RASKIN: Corporate catastrophes.

BILL MOYERS: They were?

JAMIE RASKIN: The BP oil spill, which destroyed an entire ecosystem and created billions of dollars worth of damage. The Massey Corporation's collapsing coal mines, which caused the deaths of 29 people and--

BILL MOYERS: In West Virginia.

JAMIE RASKIN: --suffering in West Virginia. And then, of course, the biggest of them all, which was the subprime mortgage meltdown, which destroyed trillions of dollars of wealth for the American people, in terms of people's retirement incomes, their home values, and so on. That should have been what the campaign was about.

BILL MOYERS: But they weren't--


BILL MOYERS: --what the campaign was about, because?

JAMIE RASKIN: Well, we saw, because of Citizens United and an infusion of hundreds of millions of dollars, an unprecedented amount of corporate money coming in, not just through Super PACs, but as The Nation pointed out, through 501c4's and c6's, what we saw was a complete reframing of the issue to the big culprit being regulation. And so the theme of the campaign was corporate deregulation being the solution to all of our problems. It was like a parallel universe.

BILL MOYERS: And it worked because the Republicans, funded by many of these corporations and billionaires, took control of the House. Sixty-three votes, I think they won then. And fulfilled the wishes of their funders for deregulation.

JAMIE RASKIN: And the corporate-funded Tea Party caucus in the Republican Party, in the House has basically been driving the train of government, which is why we've had near, you know, financial collapses again through these various debt controversies that have been taking place.

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: But let me broaden it. I agree with Jamie that those are the three disasters which should have been at the focus of our attention. But it is the case that across the board, at the moment, the idea that we need austerity in this country, that jobs aren't the great crisis of our-- you know, the joblessness isn't the great crisis of our time, but debt and deficits. That's also a function of the .01 percent who are the big players, who have the money, Democrat and Republican, who are funding these elections.

Because if it wasn't that kind of money in our system, you would hear more of the people's voices and those who lost their wealth through the terrible subprime mortgage disaster, those who are seeking jobs, 26 million people in this country either underemployed or unemployed. Those voices aren't heard, because of the din of money in the system. You know the story, what is it, seven lobbyists for every representative. It may be ten, at this stage.

And one thing that isn't paid as much attention to. You have the lobbyists. But this National Chamber Litigation Center, the N.C.L.C., started by the Chamber of Commerce, again an outgrowth of the Powell Memo. Its record is better than the solicitor general. And if you want to track the court--

BILL MOYERS: They've won more cases before the court.

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: They've won more cases before the court. And a nonpartisan group, The Constitutional Accountability Center documented this. And in the last, I think it was 2010-2011, their record was unblemished, meaning they won all the cases brought before the court. And this is the Chamber's specialized litigation bar. Now there are good environmental consumer civil rights, civil liberties groups working.

But you don’t have that coherence. And you certainly don't have foundations and individuals in this country supporting those groups in the way that the right has supported the Chamber of Commerce and this kind of bar. That distorts justice. It's about money. And what's always shocking, and not to diminish the amount of this money in the system, is for some of these people this is chump change that they're putting into the system, in terms of investment on return, because they will buy the deregulation, the low taxes, the ability to pollute, the ability literally to kill, as was the case in the Massey mine disaster, 29 miners killed because of the deregulation and the lax oversight. Why is that? Partly because of the starving of government, but also because the money in the system gives them the power.

JAMIE RASKIN: Well, and the Massey Company's exactly what Thomas Jefferson was talking about, a company that defied the law, had hundreds of violations written up--


JAMIE RASKIN: --against it. Constantly litigated and gone against the government. Put millions of dollars into politics, in order to have its way, and continues to be a major political actor, despite its being essentially a criminal corporation, in terms of its disregard of human life and its defiance of the law.

BILL MOYERS: I talked to a well-known, a leading, and a very thoughtful conservative yesterday about the magazine. And he said, "Katrina is hyperbolic about this. We've only taken a small step to the right, trying to reverse the pendulum that swung so far, not only under Roosevelt, but under Lyndon Johnson and that period of the '60s when the conservatives had to grit their teeth and the only thing they could do was say, 'Let's impeach Earl Warren,' because all of what he called the social liberal causes that the court was trying to push down our throats." He says, "We're just correcting history." That was what he said.

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: No, first of all, what's interesting about this issue in my mind is we're not dealing with some of the important cultural issues, which often rile up the right and rile up so many. Abortion--


KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: The schools, guns.

BILL MOYERS: Guns. Gay rights.

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: The whole-- but I think on the corporate front, this is an extremist court. A court that has shifted so far to the right that it is beyond just the backlash to the Warren and Berger courts, and moving in a direction that has very little check on it. And I don't believe it's hyperbolic.

In fact, you know, very sober commentators in commenting on the Roberts Court on the eve of the health care decision, noted how extremist, how radical the four or five-- I won't call them conservative, the right-wing justices on the court were in terms of literally-- one thing Jamie hasn't talked about is Citizens United, and he will express this far better than I do, they literally called back the case in order to open a jurisprudence--

JAMIE RASKIN: You talk about judicial activists.

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: Activism, that's right.

JAMIE RASKIN: Well, judicial-- I mean, for one thing, the masterpiece of judicial activism was, of course, Bush vs. Gore, where the Supreme Court intervened in democratic politics to stop the counting of ballots. Then a decade later, we get Citizens United, where the court says, "You know, we don't like the questions presented, even by this conservative group, Citizens United."

All they were saying was, "Don't treat our made for TV pay-per-view movie like a TV ad." And I think anybody could have gone along with that. They said, "That's not quite sweeping enough for us. We want to know, does every corporation in America have political free speech rights, such that they can take money out of the treasury and put it into politics. Go brief that." They briefed it. They came back. They reargued it. And what do you know, five justices say, "Yeah, they've got that right."

BILL MOYERS: Alito and Roberts both come out of a corporate background, either serving corporations as lawyers or teaching corporate law.

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: Well, this is an-- I mean, in the issue, there's a piece by Sherrilyn Ifill which is interesting, because on the face of it, the court looks diverse. But when you look at their actual professional backgrounds, I believe that eight come out of the appellate court system. Elena Kagan, solicitor general. But you don't have a Thurgood Marshall, who had experience in civil rights or practical--

BILL MOYERS: Real life experience.

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: --experience and real life experience that could connect to ordinary citizens. And so I think that diversity is something we've lost and has been an--

JAMIE RASKIN: And what's interesting--

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: --important part of the court.

JAMIE RASKIN: --is that it's not a partisan question that Katrina is raising here. I mean, my two favorite justices were Republican appointees, Justice Souter and Justice Stevens. They were incredible. They were evenhanded. They were serious and sober. They never would have gone along with this and didn't go along with this idea that somehow corporations should be treated like citizens for the purposes of political free speech--

BILL MOYERS: So what's happened?

JAMIE RASKIN: Well, part of it is this story of the extremism of the Republican Party today. Because after Justice Souter was named to the court, the slogan, the mantra within the Republican Party was "No more Souters." They really are imposing a very strict litmus test, not just on the right to privacy and abortion but also on these corporate questions.

They want to see that you’re going to be, down the line, just voting with corporate, you know, big corporations regardless of what it is that they're saying. And that's not justice. We don't want justices who are pro-corporate or anti-corporate. We want people who are going to--


JAMIE RASKIN: --enforce the rule of law.


JAMIE RASKIN: And here, what we've got is a complete derailment of the rule of law, just like we have a derailment of democracy. Because we have one part of society that's gotten too much power. And, you know, the economists, conservative economists talk about the difference between societies where the economy is closed and you have extractive industries that are taking money for themselves. And they end up closing politics at the same time. Versus societies that are open, that have open free markets and open politics. And we're moving to a closed kind of economy and a closed kind of society.

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: And I would say, you know, Jamie talks about the extremism of the Republican Party, yes. But go back 40 years, because it was the revolt of the plutocrats, which was part of the Powell Memo and the reason for the Powell Memo. And that revolt is winning now. It was class war waged from the top down. And I think we're seeing the culmination of the Powell doctrine so to speak, which is that corporations should not be checked, should not be fettered, and that they have free reign of the land. And that--

BILL MOYERS: What puzzles me, Katrina, is that that's not a conservative position necessarily.

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: No, it's an extremist. I don't-- I believe in conservatism. I believe that there is a role for conservatives. I believe that there's a role for a conservative Republican Party in this country. And we can talk about Edmund Burke and all of that. But at the moment, we're witnessing an extremist Republican Party willing to ravage and savage the freedoms and liberties in the name of-- they want to say greater good, but it essentially is a corporate good.

And I would argue that we're now going to witness a court next session, and Jamie follows this more closely that there is a well-funded, right-wing intellectual and corporate campaign now to try and really gut the Voting Rights Act, which I see linked to this, because I think more voices, more diversity in our political system can counter some of this corporate power. And if that's gutted, we are at great risk of a monotone political system.

JAMIE RASKIN: And that's why I invoke The Hunger Games. Because I think it doesn't have anything to do with conservatism. It has to do with corporatism. And that's a completely different philosophy of government.

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: Or Jamie has this great term, "jurist corporatists."

JAMIE RASKIN: Jurist corporatists.

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: Jurist corporatists. Jurist corporatists.

BILL MOYERS: So The Hunger Games announcer is, in effect, speaking for the corporate state, right?

JAMIE RASKIN: Yeah, I mean, she's basically saying, "May the odds be ever in your favor," wink, wink. "But everything is stacked against you once you arrive here."

BILL MOYERS: And are the odds now in the favor of corporations on the Supreme Court?

JAMIE RASKIN: You know, if you check out the People for the American Way website, where I follow the Supreme Court decisions, you will see case after case, where the court is throwing out tort verdicts against large corporations, jury verdicts for plaintiffs, throwing them out, because it's preempted by this federal law or that federal law or "You messed up the class-action mechanism below." There's always a reason why the little guy's got to lose.

BILL MOYERS: Well, you have written that over history the people have turned against the court and amended the Constitution 16-17 times when the enemies of democracy were slaveholders or people trying to prevent a minimum wage or stop women from voting and right on down. Is it feasible to expect that another amendment could reverse Citizens United?

JAMIE RASKIN: You know, we've had 17 amendments since the Bill of Rights. Most of them have been suffrage expanding, democracy enlarging amendments, where in a number of cases the people had to confront the court. So the court says in the Dred Scott decision that African Americans can never be citizens and persons within the meaning of the Constitution.

And it took a civil war and a whole bunch of constitutional amendments to reverse that. The Supreme Court said, "Women don't have the right to vote." In Minor vs. Happersett, despite the 14th Amendment. That got reversed by the 19th Amendment. The Supreme Court upheld poll taxes and that got reversed by the 24th Amendment.

So there are a whole bunch of cases where the people have said, "You know what? The court is a fundamentally conservative institution, often times reactionary. And we've got to confront their power and tell them what the Constitution really means. Because the first three words of the Constitution are 'We the people,' not 'We the court' not 'We the corporations' but the people."

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: I mean, the struggle in the country today is between "of, by, and for the people" and "of, by, and for the one percent," speaking about the corporate powers. And I think the importance of framing the debate about the future of the court, as this issue tries to do, between those who would roll back the civilizing advances of this country, economically, politically, socially against those who want to build a more just, fair, and diverse country.

And in the future of this country, the demographic shifts, for example, I do think the right looks out at this country, doesn't like what it sees, which is why you see the influx of money and the voting right suppression. And those two fused may give them a last hurrah, but there is a struggle moving forward in a different country that they may not be able to win.

BILL MOYERS: One of my colleagues asked me to tweet to her the essence of your magazine. Would this be an accurate expression of the essence of what you've done here? "The Supreme Court is now a corporate court that by giving big business the advantage is shrinking access to justice for everyday citizens."

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: Most beautiful 140 characters I've heard.

BILL MOYERS: Right out of your magazine, too. Jamie Raskin, Katrina vanden Heuvel, thank you very much for being with me.

JAMIE RASKIN: Thanks for having us.

Katrina vanden Heuvel and Jamie Raskin on the Pro-Corporate Supreme Court

The Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel and Jamie Raskin, constitutional law professor and Maryland state senator, join Bill to discuss how the uncontested power of the Supreme Court is changing our elections, our country, and our lives. The two joined forces for a special upcoming issue of The Nation entitled “The One Percent Court.”

“We wanted to bring attention to how this court has empowered the 1% at the expense of the 99%,” says vanden Heuvel. “How it is now working for big business, for corporate power against the interests of ordinary citizens in this country.”

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  • Grace

    These are the stories that the public need to hear, and don’t almost anywhere else. Bill Moyers, and PBS, allows for free access to the opinions and issues that matter most in our political lives. It give us the gift of a fully informed opinion, and that gift allows for critical insights, from all parts of the political spectrum, that make the world a better place.

  • Mass voter

    I feel like a patient who is almost-conscious on an operating table, being sliced up — and can’t scream – when I hear this. Meanwhile, the money of the multi-national corporations and the media of Karl Rove and the Extreme Republican/Corporatist Right — are going to do an incredible job with the evangelicals and others GETTING OUT THE VOTE for the Right. They talk about ‘small business owners’ when they are really talking about getting the regulators off the track of eco-cidal and fraudulent business practices. Meanwhile, the so called Left (or anyone with half a brain) is snoozing and analyzing and hang-wringing. (Guilty of too much of this myself.) Almost nowhere else but with Moyers does one hear what is at stake with our democratic way of life and REAL free market realities — in fact-based, historical or simply grounded terms – and how that relates to this coming election. Did you hear Obama or almost any Democratic representative/Senator bring this up? And Obama, the Constitutional lawyer, knows what is at stake – and yet we must declare him the better candidate — AND VOTE! Elections DO and DID have consequences. We are standing in the shadow of the death of our Democracy. We need to organize and wake each other up and start screaming — and GET OUT THE VOTE — for, alas, Obama.

  • Anonymous

    The word that Katrina is reaching for but doesn’t want to utter is “fascism” — that radicalism that goes far beyond ordinary conservatism (which people can refamiliarize themselves with by reading some of the better articles in *The American Conservative*).

    I don’t mean “fascism” with all its silly, overblown baggage but rather, fascism as Mussolini meant it — i.e., unfettered corporate power and the obligation of the authoritarian, militarized state to support it.

    I prefer the designation “corporate imperialism,” since that phrase incorporates the international power of corporations — that is, they can simply move their operation offshore and their executive can simply move their bank accounts to the Caymans if the state decides to collect on the taxes those corporations and executives aren’t paying.

    The underlying philosophy of corporate imperialism is fascistic, of course — which is why it’s relatively easy to get legislation passed to disenfranchise minorities and the poor (Pennsylvania), and legislation to rescind the right of workers to organize (Wisconsin). I say “relatively easy” because 30 years ago anyone suggesting it would have been dismissed as certifiably insane.

    Corporations are all about competitiveness, and the great competitor — the big bogyman — of the US is China. China pays its workers $2 an hour, and any corporation paying more is not “competitive.” Striking down the National Labor Act and disenfranchising those who will be hurt directly by it’s being struck down takes care of a big obstacle to American corporate competitiveness.

    What corporations fail to understand is that although capitalism thrives on the gap between rich and poor such that the greater the gap the more it thrives, there is still a limit to how big that gap can get. In 2008, the US hit that limit, but corporations are in denial. Unfortunately, the US — and the economies tied to it — will have to undergo another meltdown, probably a bigger one — and it will have to sink a number of big corporations — before corporate imperialists wake up.

  • Kate

    A note on the Massey Energy disaster. Chancellor Strine, of the Delaware court of chancery, wrote a poignant opinion regarding the shareholders’ role in it all: they voted in Blankenship year after year after year, despite all the violations of law, because he was *making them money.*

    We need to look at shareholders’ role in all this — it is their individual rights, after all, that Citizens United purports to mechanize. The problem is — they don’t pay attention unless the company is making profits for them. And I am talking about you and me and everyone with a 401K.

    There has got to be a way to get shareholders to take responsibility for their investments.

  • Sylvia Scarletti

    True of Mr. Moyers. I’m not so sure about PBS.

  • Lia

    Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!! Re-posting my comment from last week.

    We all agree there’s too much money in
    politics and Citizen’s United is bad for the country, but who is
    responsible for it being upheld? The Supreme Court that’s who.

    We have an IMPORTANT ISSUE to consider that not many are talking about,
    but should be kept in mind when voting in this election and in 2016. And
    if you know anyone saying they aren’t going to vote or are voting
    against Obama talk to
    them about this.
    Here in lies a broader issue regarding the direction this country is
    about to turn and perhaps the real reasoning behind the secretive
    underlying push from the billionaires and corporations.

    In the
    Supreme Court currently the scale is tipped 5 Republican appointments,
    to 4 Democratic appointments. That, potentially will change within the
    next 4 – 8 years given the age of 4 justices. Do the arithmetic.

    Ruth Bader Ginsberg is 79 Clinton appointed
    Antonin Scalia is 76 Reagan
    Anthony Kennedy is 76 Reagan
    Steven Brayer is 74 Clinton

    We have 3 Supreme Court Justices turning 80 and one trailing shortly
    behind who will be in his late 70’s by 2016. We’re unsure if they might
    retire, or come to their demise during this next presidency. This is
    downright FRIGHTENING. The reality is, we (the country) absolutely
    cannot lose the next two elections, or the republicans/corporations and
    billionaires have the country cornered.

    If Obama is re-elected,
    Ginsberg could easily retire and Breyer if he chose to as well. The
    scale would remain as is.. not a good thing particularly, but ground
    would not be lost. The two Reagan appointed justices would have to wait,
    or survive until 2017, or 2021 depending on who wins in 2016.

    If Rmoney is elected the scale could potentially and very likely reach
    7-2. Then the country would be signed sealed and delivered to the rich
    and crazy.

    With women’s rights being assaulted from all angles
    by the religious whack jobs, Rmoney has said he would overturn Roe v.
    Wade and the Supreme Court would allow it. Citizen’s United favoring
    corporations over people, allowing obscene amounts of money to dictate
    the elections, how laws are made and how we live our lives. We.. The
    Country, cannot allow this to happen.

    I don’t believe any
    independent has a chance in hell to win at the moment. I do firmly
    believe, any vote against Obama puts Rmoney one step closer to the white
    house and The Country at grave risk.

    I’m not entirely thrilled
    with many of Obama’s policies. I was looking for more change than we’ve
    seen, but blame the do nothing congress 100%, for being nothing but
    obstructionists wasting our tax dollars instead of passing bills that
    would move the country forward. I firmly believe we have to make a
    decision right now to accept the fact it’s a 2 party race this election
    and we must push harder than ever to give the president a congress that
    will work with him and keep a senate majority. He’ll be able to get much
    more accomplished and make much bolder changes if he has the support in
    the house and senate. At the end of the day, Obama is a means to an
    end, not the perfect solution to the problems we face.
    Obama is the
    only viable option and right now, this country needs what’s viable not a
    protest statement. It might be cathartic to cast a vote for an
    independent but at this point it will potentially hurt the country.

    Rmoney will drive this country right over the cliff in the worst free
    fall ever seen with his groundless imaginary plans that we know by
    experience don’t work. But more importantly, he will be in the position
    to appoint Supreme Court Justices and if he did, it would take DECADES
    to correct. We’ve suffered enough, we’ve struggled enough and we’ve
    given up enough and I think the risk of what would be lost if Rmoney
    wins, is worth being patient another 4 years.

  • Anonymous

    I might wish it were true to hope for corporate imperialists to wake up. Regarding them as zombies roaming the land unaware of their damaging intent is to misclassify them. Anyone who is even feebly aware and has experience within a corporation should not be surprised to hear it is a totalitarian entity. Despite all the first-name calling and dress down Friday’s everyone knows to toe the line. Everyone obeys.

    Even in the video homage is paid to corporations for their supposed purpose to compete and prosper as being beneficial. Yes, like GE’s slogan, “We bring good things to life.” They are run by a few elites at the top not too unlike generals rule an army.

    Hoping they will see the light and undo the unsustainable damage and death they create will not be seen. As with other imperial ambitions it will happen only when these entities crash on the rocks of their own megalomania.

    Even proximity to corporations reveal their evil influence when a neighborhood or customer seeks redress. In this day it is probable heresy but I believe it is true that corporations represent the wall behind which human progress is halted.

    Long live the corporation!

  • Anonymous

    Your operating table scenario is priceless!

    Don’t agree about Obama as it seems to me perhaps a slower drift. I would like to see a substantial number of voters to pick their favorite 3rd or write in someone. I see this as standing up and saying NO. In my naive moments I believe a significant number might inspire others too as well.

  • Anonymous

    “We must declare him the better candidate”? Must we? Why? If Obama wins nothing changes. If Romney wins nothing changes. If Stein wins…everything changes. But go ahead and waste your vote. It’s your right.

  • Anonymous

    The situation reminds me of the Roman Empire in their war against the Celtic tribes. The Celts could have beat them except for their unwillingness to be interdependent. There needs to be a cohesive unity of message to the progressives, or they will be steamrolled by the Right.

  • Anonymous

    I just finished watching this video and the one after it, with Craig Unger. I think it was Jamie Raskin who made a point about conservatives having appropriated the language of the Constitution to serve their purposes. Conservatives have wielded language to their great benefit for many years now, while progressive and liberal politicians and commentators have been far less effective. Conservatives even have their own pollster and researcher, a guy name Frank Luntz, who determines the best words, phrases and messages for conservatives to use to maximize their persuasion potential.

    Being a great believer in the subtle yet powerful effect of language, even individual everyday words, I’d like to point out something I heard in both the Raskin/vanden Heuvel and Unger discussions: the phrase “corporations who.” The word “who” applies to people, so to speak about “corporations who” anthropomorphizes a nonliving legal entity. A corporation is not a “who,” a corporation is a “that.” While it may seem trivial to some, I believe the diligent use of language that accurately conveys our beliefs about the world (e.g., corporations are not people –> “corporations that”) will help us achieve the same persuasive use of language that conservatives have enjoyed for years.

  • Gene Bivins

    You say If Romney wins nothing changes. I guess you didn’t bother to read the article.

  • Anonymous

    You are correct.
    Furthermore, The Nation for which Mrs. vanden Heuvel is the editor and publisher rarely mentions Green Party candidate, Jill Stein’s name. At least The Progressive interviewed Stein and addressed the dilemma that her candidacy poses.

    I’m a lifelong Democrat but our president has failed us and I don’t think he’s going to suddenly start behaving like a progressive, that’s why I’ve switched to the Green Party.

    I’m a subscriber to The Nation, when my subscription comes up for renewal, I’m switching to The Progressive.

    It’s time for a REAL change.

  • Anonymous

    With expanded power for companies like Massey Energy should come some responsibility. The board of directors and shareholders

  • phil strauss

    Paul LiynRayn said the one of the first cuts would be to PBS

  • SBH

    Clearest discussion of money and the SCOUS. Thank you so much.

  • Bengt Cyniker

    Lovely and clarifing discussion. Do people watch this?

  • Alexandra Frerotte


  • Peter in Wisconsin

    I agree wholeheartedly, it is tragic that more Americans don’t or can’t access this information and aren’t motivated to learn from such superb broadcasting before casting a vote.

  • Wes

    What a biased show. Three people on, and no one to argue the other side. I don’t even necessarily like the other side of the argument, but someone should have been on to argue it.

    Someone mentioned the 2010 Tea Party freshmen getting everything they want or whatever. If that were true, the debt ceiling wouldn’t have been raised (again), and we wouldn’t continue to run trillion-dollar deficits every year and no budget for 3+ years thanks to the Democrat-majority Senate that refuses to do a basic part of their job.

    Even John Boehner fights the 2010 tea people because he’s for big government and big spending just like the rest of the establishment on both sides.

    I heard “corporatism” mentioned. If you say that word, the next three words should be “Obama,” GM,” and “Solyndra.” Obama gave a raw deal to the non-union GM employees while giving the union employees everything.

    Oh yeah, and GM pays less taxes than Warren Buffett’s secretary.

    Anyway, a reminder that Gary Johnson is running for President. Unlike both Obama and Romney, he wants to bring the troops home, balance the budget, and repeal NDAA indefinite detention. Oh, and he wants to follow the Constitution. Crazy, right?

  • Wes

    I’d be more worried about the two major parties than anything. Did everyone see what happened at both conventions? Both Republicans and Democrats had aye/nay votes and completely disregarded the nay votes. The “the ayes have it” was even on the teleprompter! Isn’t that considered election tampering?

    Watch “RNC Sham 2012″ and Ben Swann’s Reality Check segment “DNC Runs Over Delegates with Scripted Vote.”

    Oh, and Ron Paul had enough states to be nominated from the floor, but the RNC blatantly ignored the delegates’ petition to do so. And then they changed the rules to require 8 states to be nominated instead of 5.

    I would think this kind of stuff would be plastered on the news every day including on PBS, but guess not.

  • Wes

    Looks like Katrina vanden Heuvel was trying to subtly call the right-wing racists with supposedly wanting to “gut the Voting Rights Act.” Come on. If the left wants to require an I.D. to be able to exercise 2nd Amendment constitutional rights, then they have no business calling the right names for requiring an I.D. to vote.

    How many on the left against voter I.D. are also against requiring an I.D. to purchase a firearm to exercise the constitutional right to bear arms? I bet not too many.

    Heck, you already need an I.D. to cash a check, get food at food shelters, and to buy cough medicine. Also, does this mean the Democrats in Rhode Island that passed voter I.D. are racists? Oops, I mean, “they don’t like diversity and are trying to gut the Voting Rights Act”?

  • Jay Bock

    How is it possible only 22 people, 23 now, have heard this program and felt compelled to offer a comment? Quite by geographical accident…I was driving through Ventura… I was able to hear most of the interviews until the fade-out in the San Fernando Valley occurred. This subject deserves wide consideration and suggests strongly that the appointment of life-tenured supreme court justices is largely the focus of unlimited corporate donations made possible by the Citizen’s United case decided by the Robert’s Court. Rolling back the momentum that has made possible all the benefits of an increasingly pluralistic society by judicial fiat has come to be the last best opportunity for a dominant plutocracy in this country.

  • tiranuf

    The problem I have with this “Corporations are people.” If corporations are people, do they vote? Are they registered voters? Are International corporations voting? So, some foreign country entity can actually participate in a US citizen privilege? Is someone voting twice? Vote once as a citizen and once as their corporation? If so, then I might incorporate and get a second vote.

  • Theodore Wirth

    Basically we have a choice between slow death and quick death. At this moment in time (as always) a vote for a third party enables the “worser of all evils.”

    Our political system is rigged towards a two-party system. How do we change that?

  • titration

    The guests and Lewis Powell notwithstanding, the one percent ran government and society brutally and exploitively in the 1970s – and before – just as it does now. It’s other circumstances that have moved matters closer to a nightmare of corporatism or “organic, fascism”.

  • Seabury Lyon

    This is what television -our media, was and is intended for, providing meaningful news and information to what is supposed to be “an informed electorate”. Moyers and a small handful of other dedicated patriots in media are living and enduring examples of what it should be.
    You have my undying gratitude.

  • Shawn P. Watson

    Fantastic episode….wow!

  • Rain,adustbowlstory

    Although I write, my day job is teaching, and I would urge all teachers here to talk to their students about Citizens United. Even if you “give both sides,” your students will be smart enough to figure out that, as Elizabeth Warren says, this is a rigged game.

  • MrUniverse

    I think that most Americans don’t thoroughly examine the news because it is time consuming, frustrating, and tedious. Voting from the gut, not the mind, is the main problem. We need more shows like Bill Moyers that get to the crux of things. Possibly a free distribution of consumer reports would help as well.

  • merritt

    Absolute power corrupts absolulety.
    Why should we be surprised by any of this?
    We sent our men and women into wars around the globe to make sure corporations in this greedy country kept lining their own pockets.
    It was good while it lasted.

  • JonThomas

    Until corporations are made unacceptable there will always be problems.

    As Mr. Raskin alluded, a corporation is by definition a “Limited Liability” entity. Therefore, again by definition, it can never be held fully accountable for it’s actions.

    Even the people in this interview expressed the opinion that corporations are acceptable entities.

    Sorry, but if you want to believe that corporations should be acceptable entities, you aren’t following the logic all the way through. You will seal your own fate.

    People seem to think that corporations can be “reigned in” by the same type of legislation that created them.

    This is impossible. In the same way you can’t take life from a living being and still expect it to be alive, you can’t hold an entity, to which you assigned limited liability, and hold it liable.

    This is why people who have power use corporations. If they acted on their own, they
    could, and should, be held liable! A corporation is a conjured bulwark imbued with power.

    I do not suggest that enterprise is, in itself, wrong. Rather the artificial entity, the corporation, is a damaging artifact powered by a
    irresponsible idea.

    That idea… that liability, and therefore,
    responsibility, can be sidestepped in a rational world… will only lead down a road that will continue to cause trouble and run hazard over the rights of true beings.

    Private enterprise, and individually owned companies are fine (I should also include partnerships.) These (in a healthy society) are held in check by the system of justice which holds individuals accountable for their actions.

    Corporations can never be fully held accountable. As long as such entities are allowed to continue, money and power will always trump justice and individual rights.

    If any want to continue to make half apologies for the corporate system, they will find themselves always fighting the same battles in one form or another.

    Liability and responsibility are inseparable!

  • Dane

    According to the Sherman antitrust act corporations can be broken, and their charters revoked, meaning they are out of business, aka making them illegal, there is also a stacked deck when it comes to corporations, our supreme court says corporations are people when they want to buy elections, but they are not people when they break the law, either way we need an amendment to the constitution to fix all of this.

  • Anonymous

    And while they are at it, they should explain the banking system as it exists now, so they will be able to figure out that it too is a rigged game!