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Justices react to rise of super PACs

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has a simple solution for people who do not like all the political advertisements unleashed by the court’s decision two years ago that ended limits on corporate contributions in political campaigns - change the channel or turn off the TV.

Scalia was asked about the decision during a presentation before the South Carolina Bar yesterday, exactly two years after the court handed down the 5 to 4 decision in the case that led to the rise of super PACs, outside groups affiliated with candidates that can take in unlimited contributions as long as they do not directly coordinate with the candidate.


“I don’t care who is doing the speech - the more the merrier,’’ Scalia said. “People are not stupid. If they don’t like it, they’ll shut it off.’’

Scalia was joined on stage by Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who voted on the losing side in the decision that has become known as “Citizens United’’ for the group that successfully sued over federal campaign finance laws. Breyer did not directly criticize the ruling, instead pointing out how it is critical that people respect the decisions the judiciary makes.

Breyer briefly summarized both sides of the argument, concentrating on his own.

“There are real problems when people want to spend lots of money on a candidate. . . . They’ll drown out the people who don’t have a lot of money,’’ Breyer said.

Money flooding political races was a consequence predicted as the decision was handed down in January 2010. Super PACs have raised more than $30 million just three races into the 2012 presidential race, according to the website opensecrets.org, run by The Center for Responsive Politics. Television advertising in South Carolina, which voted yesterday, was estimated at $12 million, or nearly $27 per voter when calculated using the 2008 Republican primary turnout numbers.


Even Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina poked jabs at the amazing number of campaign ads on TV as he introduced the justices.

“I miss seeing car ads,’’ said Graham, a Republican.

Scalia said the blame for this type of system should not fall on the Supreme Court, which bases its decisions on whether the system is legal under the US Constitution, he said. Instead, he said the ones who have to change things are the politicians who created the system and the voters who often reward the candidates who spend the most money.

“If the system seems crazy to you, don’t blame it on the court,’’ Scalia said, during a discussion in front of South Carolina lawyers that lasted for more than an hour. - ASSOCIATED PRESS

Obama discusses moves to boost tourism, economy

WASHINGTON - President Obama said his proposals last week to boost tourism in the United States are among many actions he has taken to create jobs that do not require congressional approval.

“Too often over the last few months, we’ve seen Congress drag its feet and refuse to take steps we know will help strengthen our economy,’’ he said in his weekly radio and Internet address. “That’s why this is the latest in a series of actions I’ve taken on my own to help our economy keep growing, creating jobs, and restoring security for middle-class families.’’

Obama announced the executive order, intended to increase the number of non-immigrant visas and speed approval, on Jan. 19 at Walt Disney World in Orlando.


Obama said that frequent travelers who “pass an extensive background check’’ will be able get past long immigration lines at a greater number of airports under the order.

He is also calling for the Commerce and Interior Departments to make recommendations on promoting domestic and international travel in the United States, including to national parks and historic sites.

“The more folks who visit America, the more Americans we get back to work,’’ he said in the address. “It’s that simple.’’

Travel and tourism represented about 2.7 percent of US gross domestic product and supported 7.5 million jobs in 2010, according to a White House statement.

Obama listed other actions taken without congressional approval, such as helping homeowners, whose home values have fallen, refinance more easily.

Obama said he will, in his Jan. 24 State of the Union address, present a “blueprint for actions we need to take together - not just me, or Congress, but every American - to rebuild an economy where hard work and responsibility are rewarded.’’

In the Republican weekly address, Representative Jeb Hensarling of Texas, chairman of the House Republican Conference, said fewer Americans have jobs than when Obama took office in January 2009, and that under the president’s watch the United States has higher gas prices, more people on food stamps, and a national debt that exceeds the size of the economy. - BLOOMBERG NEWS