In a landmark decision passed down on January 21, the Supreme Court repudiated an extremely important part of one of the most important examples of bipartisan legislation of the past decade. The McCain-Feingold Bill, passed in 2002 as a result of the efforts of Republican Senator John McCain from Arizona and Russell Feingold, a Democratic Senator from Wisconsin, limited the role of corporations and unions in campaign finance by prohibiting "issue advocacy ads" paid for by these groups; the Court, on the other hand, ruled that such a limitation is unconstitutional under the tenets of the First Amendment.

At a time when bipartisanship has been utterly forgotten in the face of President Obama's stimulus package and attempts at health care reform, such a decision rejecting across-the-aisle cooperation is ironically emblematic of the increasingly distinct boundaries between Congressional Democrats and Republican.

At the same time, it seems democratically antithetical at the very least to suggest that corporate money is redeemable in this country for more political power; if the argument that campaign finance is an issue of free speech is a tenable one, it also suggests that money itself is the currency of freedom.

In a democracy structured as the United States is, the right of free speech is—theoretically at least—meant to apply equally to all citizens, and suggesting that wealth plays a role in the claim to rights a given entity possesses simultaneously implies a hierarchical structure, within which those with more money could claim greater access to a given freedom.

Ironically, the Court claimed in their decision to be reinforcing the doctrine of free speech, although there still exist limitations to the amount of money a given individual can donate in general and primary elections. While the Court has no ability to challenge these limitations unless a specific case dealing with the issue is brought before the justices, it is unfortunate that the rights of corporations are being asserted more vociferously than those of individual voters.

The interests of corporations ought not to be protected or promoted when such actions compromise the corresponding interests of the general voting public. Elected officials ought to be beholden to their constituents and their constituents alone, and if corporations are allowed to donate unlimited amounts of money to campaigns, it is in the best interests of these officials—at least in terms of future elections—to honor the wishes and make decisions based on the desires of these special interests. In theory it is possible to argue the connection between campaign finance reform and the issue of free speech, but in practice it corrupts the meaning and act of democratic elections.

Justice John Paul Stevens and the three other dissenting justices, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer, argued that the speech of corporations is not the same as that of individuals. The four justices of the majority opinion have conflated the two, and have challenged the importance of American citizens and their voice in politics.

Obama has been particularly critical of this decision, as have many members of the Democratic Congressional leadership, which is no surprise, considering the role health insurance companies and their corresponding special interests groups will play in the ongoing struggle for health care reform.

Whether or not one agrees with the notion of a public health care option or even a single-payer system, it makes sense to support any measures that would encourage a more honest, open relationship between officials and their constituents.

As the president put it, the Court's decision is "a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans." And he's right. It is abundantly clear that the future actions of corporations in politics will dilute the current power of American citizens in political transactions.

Because of the actions of the Supreme Court, efforts to expand the reach and influence of the public finance option in primary and general elections will be that much more difficult.

Most Republican political leaders have voiced their support for the decision, although any official or individual interested in an honest legislative process, regardless of political affiliation, needs to reject the notion that corporations, with their coffers full to the brim, ought to be able to drown out Americans' voices with their investment in political campaigns. This is particularly true in an economic climate that has seen so many Americans suffer due to the unorthodox and greedy decisions made by these same conglomerates.

Caitlin Hurwit is a member of the Class of 2012.