The full text of the courtís decision can be found at FindLaw. Go to FindLawís site and search supreme court cases with either the name Richardson or the citation 418 U.S. 166.
I see you... yeah, you with your hand up there in the fifth row: you want to know what this case has to do with anything. Well, draw near and I will tell thee.
The government takes a rather healthy chunk oí change from yer pocket in the form of taxes. The Founding Fathers (that would be Jefferson, Franklin, et al), took issue with being taxed without being allowed to know, or influence, how the tax money was spent. After a really envigorating revolt against the taxors (that would be the Sir Nigel Braithewaite Twit- On- Thames Brits), the taxees (that would be the resident revolters) demonstrated their resolve about this inequity, in part by way of a Tea Party in Boston Harbor and a Revolutionary War, the latter of which was probably considered a very tasteless inconvenience by said taxors. In any event, said taxees documented their objection to being taxed in this authoritarian manner in the U.S. Constitution (which you might read at your eventual convenience).
The subject of their particular resolve about this matter is commonly called ďTaxation Without RepresentationĒ, and was included as Article I, 9, cl. 7 in said Constitution... just in case somebody forgot about the little skirmish this caused at some later date (heavy handed hint). That provision says the government has to make periodic public accountings of the tax moneys it collects and spends, purportedly, on behalf of its constituency.
Thence did time pass in the land where the securities and commodities industry activities pre-dates its Constitution (which you can get a feel for at http://www.nyse.com/public/ ).
Guess where the current American value system originates. But I digress profanely.
With the windage of time passing blew the Gilded Age, in which the Robber Barons (Morgan, Rockefeller, Gould, et al, et al, et al) did scheit often and profusely on the spirit of aforesaid Constitution, with the full cooperation of the then incumbent political hacks (who by then had verily degenerated from citizen legislators and statesmen into professional politicians which coveted greatly after elbow-rubbing-that-begets- dinero). Thus was borne the black hole military industrial complex which a man named Eisenhower was kind enough to name - and fear - a century later, but only when safely on his way out of the White House in a farewell speech. In exchange for bailing said US economy out of a couple depressions, panics and a few wars, said businessmen and Robber Barons thusly became incestuously postured with said government in very unseemly doggy style manner. And guess where they got the money to repay said Robber Barons: thus was borne the foul burden oft called federal income tax.
Thence did some more time-bytes pass as said corrupt nation entered
the Century of
War (that would be the 20th century, for you historians), largely at the behest of said political hacks and corporate worms who were just beginning to discover the massive profit potential in war. Thus did the Morgans, Colt Industries, US Steel, the nations lawmakers and others continue to engage in unruly and obscene financial acts for which the general population (that would be you... yeah you in the fifth row again) continued unwittingly to pay an ever rising price in both currency and freedoms. But with the advent of the Cold War, the money monster did create nationalism, fear of other nation states, and a whole bunch of -isms upon which we could cast an anal retentive eye for long enough to build the military industrial complex on a whole new scale: namely, humongous. Thence did said government entities and businessmen determine a manner by which to construct $300 hammers, $500 toilet seats, $4,500 titanium "combat-ready" toothbrushes, and million dollar conversions of electronic games (like "DOOM") for training their ammo-short soldiers to wage war. And said entities saw what they had created, and they saw it was profitable. And with their defense forces thusly equipped, the constituent peoples saw this and thought: Dang... I feel safer now.
But one day in the 1970ís, after a series of events which included Lincolnís assassination a century before (hey, Americans are slow learners and, besides, some of the documents relating to Lincolnís death are still not accessible to the public even under the FOIA), the Kennedys' and King's assassinations, and Nixonís resignation, some of the said general population began to awake from their collective hibernation to discern something was amiss here. Among them was an obscure insurance salesman named William Richardson. Thus did Richardson one day wake up and decide to purchase (thatís right, you have to purchase a detailed copy of the budget and financial reports) a copy of the federal budget and financial reports. Thusly inundated with said Dostoevsky-version of his nationís income and expenses, Richardson also decided that he couldnít make sense out of the confounded documents because they donít show any details for a major portion of military and intelligence expenses. How cometh ? Because alot of those numbers are buried in either wildly oblique line descriptions, or in, uh, other places where they shouldnít be... like covert ops and black programs shoved into the Social Security programís figures.
Thus did Richardson ask the US Treasury for said undisclosed details. And unto Richardson did the Treasury purser sayeth: I hear you, I understand you, and I ainít gonna do a freakin thing about it - not my job, thank you very much. Thence did Richardson ply unto the General Services Administration for said detail. Same answer, but in terms which complied with generally accepted accounting principles, FASB, GAAP and GAAFR standards: "Not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin".
Thence Richardson appealed unto the courts in Pennsylvania for relief. And while Richardson got relief at first, the government appealed and he ultimately got an unrelieving hand job on said appeal. So Richardson figgered wait a minute (I once heard him figgerin), I know business and politics have bellied up to the legislative bar historically, and I know the Constitution says the lawmakers can even keep some secrets if the conditions make it necessary. But this has gone too far: the congress is holding secret committee sessions, making non-public laws (thatís right, bucko - they pass non-public laws, and thereís subjects and agencies that even congressmen arenít allowed to ask or talk about on the open floor of congress, as Democrat George Brown found out in 1985 when he insisted on inquiring about the NRO, and nearly got himself censured before relenting) and outright mistating intelligence expenditures. Thus did Richardson decide to appeal to the nationís highest court. In the process of pursuing this litigation, mind you, said citizen Richardson lost his job and seemed inexplicably unable to procure any employment save for following parade horses with a shovel.
Which bringeth us full circle to the case at hand. Essentially, the high court decided that ours is not an ďAthenian democracyĒ; that if we donít like the way congress directs and reports on tax dollar expenses, then elect another body to fill those hallowed halls. Thus unto citizen Richardson did the high court sayeth ďShaddup: it ainít none of yer bizness til congress says it isĒ. In a dissenting opinion, Potter Stewart and friends (after recovering from apoplexy) said the people are the sovereign here, not the legislature and not the intelligence community. Tough crappeth, said the majority of the court. Which just goes to show that democracy works for the courts, but not the people they're charged to protect via said Constitution.
Now go read the courtís opinion for yourself. And if you ever have cause to consider why you donít know where a third of your federal tax dollars goes (and that, my friend, is a pile of money that isnít being used for education and other essentials today), you can always come back here fer yer Cliff Notes.
Next up: Kennedy and Lincoln had a few essential programatic interests in common which seem to be timeless guarantees of assassination. Not coincidentally, these programtic qualities were the underlying subjects of the Richardson case. Stay tuned.