Franken Slams Citizens United During Kagan Hearing

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Washington -- Sen.
Al Franken (D.-Minn.) used much of his opening statement in the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan Monday to take aim at the Citizens

That was the
Supreme Court decision last September that lifted the ban on direct corporate
funding of campaign TV and radio spots.

Franken was
taking aim in general at what he said was the judicial activism of the Supreme
Court under Chief Justice John Roberts, echoing his theme during the hearings
last year for Justice Sonia Sotomayor. But citing the Citizen's United
decision, he said things have gotten worse since then.

Franken said
the decision "tore a gaping hole in our election laws." And its impact was
felt not just in terms of federal elections, but ones in Minnesota. He added
that the decision also affects efforts to pass laws on seat belts, clean and
water, and health care -- laws that might not have been enacted, he said, had
big corporations like Standard Oil or GM been able to take direct aim at
vulnerable legislators seeking re-election.

about our ability to pass laws that protect the American people even if it
hurts the corporate bottom line," said Franken. He has been a staunch
populist since being he was installed last July, after winning election by a
hair in a hand recount.

"I am
more worried about how this decision is going to affect our communities -- and
our ability to run those communities without a permission slip from big
business," Franken said, likely telegraphing his line of questioning as a
member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which starts that questioning Tuesday
(Monday was taken up by opening statements and introductions by both
legislators and Kagan).

House and
Senate Democrats are attempting to ameliorate the impact of the Supreme Court
decision with a bill, the DISCLOSE Act, which boosts disclosure of
corporate-backed ads (CEOs have to appear to take responsibility) and reimposes
the ban on corporations with foreign ownership and government contractors.)

The House passed the DISCLOSE bill last week.
Franken is a co-sponsor of the bill.