Political Primers: SCOTUS

(Supreme Court of the US)

A quick breakdown of a politically complex idea, historical event, hot topic, government process - you get it.

Campaign Finance

Presidential candidates raise campaign funds from 2 main sources: 1) Personal donations and 2) PACs

Corporations have some rights of people (Supreme Court 1886: Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Co.) but can't donate to candidates directly. So they donate to PACs (Political Action Committees). PACs promote political platforms, work to elect and oust political candidates, support cultural movements.

For each election cycle, $5K is the maximum donation a PAC can make to a candidate or to another PAC. Individuals can donate up to $2,900 to each candidate per election.

Super PACs emerged in 2010. Instead of donating to candidates, they spend without limits to influence elections.

A deeper explanation from VOX

What is a PAC? - OpenSecrets

FEC Donation Limits '21-'22

Executive Privilege

Definition: The right for the President (and some of his/her staff) to maintain secrecy and privacy of information - sometimes even when called into court by Congress with a subpoena.  

The checks and balances for this includes Congressional oversight (like subpoena power) and the Supreme Court's judicial review.

Executive privilege applies to a sitting President. It is no longer applicable once that particular President leaves office.

Explained by Cornell Law

How to Impeach a Supreme Court Justice or Two

(Disclaimer: It's not easy.)

Article III, Section I of the Constitution says Judges "shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour".

Article II, Section IV of the Constitution states a Supreme Court Justice ("federal 'civil officers'") can be impeached/removed.

The House of Rep's acts to impeach with 218/435 votes (simple majority), then the Senate needs at least 67/100 votes (2/3) to remove a Justice.

Read Article III, Section 1

Read Article II, Section 4

The Pentagon Papers

The Supreme Court case New York Times Company v. United States of 06/26/71 was about President Nixon's court order against the New York Times and Washington Post that prevented them from publishing government docs detailing US military ops in Vietnam.

Ruling 6-3 in favor of the NYT/WaPo, the Court said the Nixon admin's actions were unconstitutional - a milestone precedent for preventing the censorship of our American press. "Security" is not a politician's blanket term used to keep citizens in the dark.

Great ACLU read on this