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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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74 Responses

  1. Marc
    Marc January 21, 2010 at 5:18 pm |

    Democracy has abandoned you for the RealDoll of Corporate America, JF. Sad times.

  2. Jovan1984
    Jovan1984 January 21, 2010 at 5:26 pm |

    I said it. I said that these five judicial activists that were nominated by Reagan and the two Bushes were gonna destroy our country as we knew it. That was 4 months and 13 days ago.

    I was proven right today, much to our chagrin.

    We need to start a petition to impeach ALL FIVE of these judicial activists that struck down the McCain-Feingold Act.

  3. Tom Foolery
    Tom Foolery January 21, 2010 at 5:54 pm |

    Yay, free speech!

  4. DP
    DP January 21, 2010 at 6:17 pm |

    So, you are saying “democracy is dead” now because corporations can now spend money backing whichever candidate they wish. Haven’t the media outlets been doing that for years? With zero regulation? C’mon, suck it up!!!

  5. William
    William January 21, 2010 at 7:50 pm |

    Jill, I feel that what you’re calling democracy (citizen involvement in their government) died a long time ago. Sure, the corpse twitched a bit in the 60s and the hair and nails kept growing in the 70s, but democracy has been dead almost as long as the liberty it was designed to defend.

  6. Henry
    Henry January 21, 2010 at 8:29 pm |

    Has anyone really noticed a lack of money influencing politics since this bill was enacted? Really? McCain-Feingold didn’t do anything except require more misdirection about where the money was coming from and who was spending it. It was basically a bill tailor-made to look like congress was “doing something” about corruption while doing nothing at all (except protecting incumbents).

    In any case, political speech is political speech. It doesn’t matter who is paying for it.

  7. ballgame
    ballgame January 21, 2010 at 8:47 pm |

    Good post, Jill. This ruling represents an appalling victory of Property over Democracy.

  8. Ben
    Ben January 21, 2010 at 10:13 pm |

    Oh no! They’ve gotten rid of part of the Incumbent Protection Act!

  9. Nancy Goldstein
    Nancy Goldstein January 21, 2010 at 10:32 pm |

    Great post, Jill. Le sigh…

  10. Aaron
    Aaron January 21, 2010 at 10:49 pm |

    The chutzpah isn’t as much in the details – whether the money is funneled through a 527 or given directly to a candidate – as much as it’s in the expansion of the notion that a corporation – a fictitious person – has equal rights under the Constitution to a living, breathing human being. The idea that a corporation that exists solely by virtue of a charter from a state, once created, cannot be subjected to limitations on its “personhood” by the same state that allowed it to come into being.

    The “personhood” of a corporation is a necessary fiction to allow it to enter into contracts, be a party to legal proceedings, etc. – but it’s flat-out legislating from the bench to transform that into the same type of personhood enjoyed by real live human beings. If the Supreme Court incorporates the Second Amendment to the states, will that mean that any corporation has the right to form and arm its own private army qua “militia”?

    The precedents that gave strong constitutional protections to corporations arose in the late nineteenth century, through the actions of a very pro-business Supreme Court. Note that Thomas and Scalia have almost no respect for stare decisis when it stands in the way of their doing what they want to do, and when overruling the Supreme Court’s prior decisions they like to pretend that they’re mind-reading the Founding Fathers or are adhering to the text of the Constitution. But this type of decision peels away the facade – all legal ‘reasoning’ is contorted to reach the desired end, and as is explained in the dissent the majority also engaged in unnecessary, activist overreaching in order to do so.

  11. DTG in STL
    DTG in STL January 21, 2010 at 11:43 pm |

    Imagine this… this blog may literally not exist in a few years because of this ruling.

    Remember the whole Net Neutrality debate? Well, with the power to basically write laws by buying politicians, AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and the rest of their ilk can now effectively destroy Net Neutrality, but not only that, they can literally destroy any blog that speaks out against corporate interests.

    Think it can’t happen? Ask China.

    We’re all gonna have to fall in line, or we’ll all be quickly silenced in this space. They own the Internet, too.

    You gotta watch Olbermann’s analysis on this, and the brave new world we may be facing as a result:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34981476/ns/msnbc_tv-countdown_with_keith_olbermann/

  12. Henry
    Henry January 22, 2010 at 12:00 am |

    “as much as it’s in the expansion of the notion that a corporation – a fictitious person – has equal rights under the Constitution to a living, breathing human being”

    I’m unclear as to what the difference is (in this instance) between a corporation and any advocacy group that would finance campaign ads. Say, for instance, that a non-profit gay rights group with significant funding wanted to run political ads just before an election (you know, when they actually matter), or donate a significant sum to their candidate of choice. Should the government be able to make that illegal? So why should it be illegal for a corporation to do so? Or for that matter, a labor union (I notice no one is crying in their beer over that restriction being lifted)? Again, political speech is political speech, even when evil corporations are paying for it.

    You are never, ever, going to remove huge sums of corporate or special interest money from the federal government when the federal government wields such awesome power over the economic life of the country. I don’t care what goofy laws you try to pass. Restricting political activism doesn’t get you any closer to your goal, and damages the first amendment. McCain-Feingold is an abomination.

  13. Manju
    Manju January 22, 2010 at 2:52 am |

    “The idea that a corporation that exists solely by virtue of a charter from a state, once created, cannot be subjected to limitations on its “personhood” by the same state that allowed it to come into being.”

    If it can be limited the the NYTimes can be limited. its not a person., but a corporation. Are you saying Jill has the right to freedom of speech but if she uses Feministe there are limits?

  14. Jesurgislac
    Jesurgislac January 22, 2010 at 4:26 am |

    Are you saying Jill has the right to freedom of speech but if she uses Feministe there are limits?

    Are you being deliberately stupid by asking this question, or trying to make a clever rhetorical point? If the latter, it failed.

    Jill has the right to freedom of speech. What difference does it make whether she exercises that right in her own home, on Feministe, or at the New York Times? This is a right-wing silliness invented to defend the plain fact that it is immensely profitable and useful to the very rich if corporations are given all the legal rights of US citizens.

    What is your purpose for repeating it? Do you want to look stupidly credulous, or are you actually stupidly credulous, or do you think you have a stupidly credulous audience, Manju?

  15. melancholia
    melancholia January 22, 2010 at 7:45 am |

    The First Amendment is just as much about the listeners as it is about the speakers. If we can’t trust people to sort through garbage from insightful criticism, democracy never had much of a chance anyway.

  16. Liz
    Liz January 22, 2010 at 8:36 am |

    You’re right. Corporate funding of candidacies is Fascism.

  17. Andrea
    Andrea January 22, 2010 at 10:12 am |

    So much for representational democracy. Unless, of course, you belong to a union, own an oil company, or chair a Wall Street firm. Then you should be ok, because your voice is worth more than mine.

  18. Tom Foolery
    Tom Foolery January 22, 2010 at 10:26 am |

    In the same vein as the above discussion, maybe Roe v. Wade’s reading of the 14th amendment should apply only to individuals, and not hospitals and clinics. That’ll work, right?

  19. Tom Foolery
    Tom Foolery January 22, 2010 at 11:38 am |

    My point is that hairsplitting about whether constitutional rights can be exercised by individuals or groups of individuals working in concert is foolish — it sounds like a great idea when we’re outlawing something we don’t like, like corporations donating gobs of money to political candidates, but it’s handing the state yet another way to restrict our liberties.

  20. Manju
    Manju January 22, 2010 at 12:01 pm |

    “What difference does it make whether she exercises that right in her own home, on Feministe, or at the New York Times?”

    Exactly. “feminste” and the NYTimes (which is a corporation, btw…one that affects policy much more than non-media corps) are not people per se but are made up of people. They, like citizens united, should have first ammedment protection.

  21. Manju
    Manju January 22, 2010 at 12:09 pm |

    “Manju, you should probably read the whole of the First Amendment — you know, the part about the press.”

    I read the “free press” clause as meaning we all have the right to engage in reporting and opinion making, not that a particular industry (“the press”) gets special protection.

    If you leftist censors are correct, there’s noting preventing the government from imposing limits on newspapers if they are organized as corporations.

  22. Manju
    Manju January 22, 2010 at 12:14 pm |

    “Roe is pretty clear that the privacy right is held by the pregnant woman herself. I’m not sure what your point is.”

    I think he’s saying roe v wade would deem a law that prevented hospitals and clinics from performing abortions unconstituional, even though hospitals and clinics are not people, like leftists think “citizens united” is not.

    The governemt can make an end-run around constituional rights if the left prevails with its anti-corportion agenda.

  23. Jesurgislac
    Jesurgislac January 22, 2010 at 12:56 pm |

    Manju: They, like citizens united, should have first amendment protection.

    Right-wing oligarchists always argue that money equals speech and it is essential to “American liberty” that corporate persons should be able to spend $26 million of free speech a year to buy the policy they want as Jill at Feministe is able to say on her blog that the policy they want is destructive and life-endingly evil.

    It’s not the New York Times’ right to publish op-eds by William Ayers or Joseph C. Wilson that is under threat when the government legislates to prevent corporate “persons” getting grabby about “free speech”.

    It’s the “right” of a multi-billion corporation to buy your Senator and have him support the corporate policy against the will of the people whom theoretically he represents, because each dollar equals a free word and everyone’s got the same right to give a Senator a million dollars, right?

  24. Manju
    Manju January 22, 2010 at 12:57 pm |

    “Well, just because you read “free press” to mean a certain thing doesn’t mean that a century of Supreme Court justices have read it the same way.”

    I’m not aware of any precedent for that and on face value it would be deeply problematic for the docrine of unalinable rights. After all, religions themselves aren’t the only ones afforded “freedom of religon”…all individuals and groups have the protection by mere virtue of practicing their relgion, even if its just one guy who made up his religion this morning.

    To interpret the phrase “or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press” as meaning special protection for an elite group called “the Press” strikes me as a severe limitation (becasue you are restricting it to one industry) of a basic freedom.

  25. Tom Foolery
    Tom Foolery January 22, 2010 at 1:00 pm |

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable for the government to also have the right to limit some of what they can do, and to say that they are fundamentally different from individuals or even other collectives of individuals.

    And indeed, it does have that right, as laid out by several clauses of the constitution. But where does the power to dictate how they can spend their money to finance political speech come from? My guess is the interstate commerce clause, but like so many applications of that clause, I fail to see how it relates.

    On top of that, while I think that extra privileges ascribed to groups of people need to be closely scrutinized (like limited liability, which, as a member of a corporation, I absolutely love), saying that groups of people have fewer rights than the people who make those groups up is corrosive to liberty. Almost nothing gets done by individuals anymore, nearly all human endevour is cooperative.

  26. jpe
    jpe January 22, 2010 at 1:02 pm |

    Manju, you should probably read the whole of the First Amendment — you know, the part about the press.

    Funny, I didn’t see anything in there about the freedom of the corporate press. It must’ve been written on the super-secret version of the Constitution that only you possess.

    That you would hallucinate an illusory freedom of corporations to exercise the freedom of the press demonstrates that you realize just how pernicious corporate censorship is. You know it’d be awful if the government could ban corporate speech when it’s done by media corps, but rather than be intellectually honest about it you try to create a distinction between corporate speech and corporate media that has zero support in either the text or the history of the first amendment.

  27. Manju
    Manju January 22, 2010 at 1:08 pm |

    “It’s not the New York Times’ right to publish op-eds by William Ayers or Joseph C. Wilson that is under threat when the government legislates to prevent corporate “persons” getting grabby about “free speech”. ”

    well, thats the problem. You want to privilege some corporations over other which is what censors do, and allowing the govt to make such distinctions is dangerous. media corps have much more influence over policy and one could argue the hatred that comes out of the mouths of rush limbaugh and keith olbermann has a a much more corrosive influence on the body politic.

  28. Manju
    Manju January 22, 2010 at 1:20 pm |

    “Right-wing oligarchists always argue that money equals speech”

    This is ahistorical. i don’t know of any example of a nation descending into an oligarchy due to excessive free-speech protections. However, I can think of many examples of the reverse: the restriction of free speech to the wealthy and privileged, resulting in Orwellian nightmares.

    The left just seems completely oblivious to bloody history of progressives authoritarianism.

  29. Jesurgislac
    Jesurgislac January 22, 2010 at 1:26 pm |

    Manju claimed: You want to privilege some corporations over other which is what censors do

    William Ayers is not a corporation. James C. Wilson is not a corporation. They have free speech, which they may opt to exercise by writing op-eds which may then be published for all the world to read.

    media corps have much more influence over policy

    Ha. You seriously think that an op-ed published in The Hill or The New York Times or anywhere in the bleedin’ world is more influential than providing a Senator with enough money to run his next election campaign? Are you that stupid, or just pretending for a rhetorical point?
    You want to privilege corporations over individuals by claiming that a corporation’s free speech is being abridged if it is not allowed to whisper $17 million to Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, Jon Kyl, Jim Bunning, Mike Crapo, Pat Roberts, John Ensign, Mike Enzi, and John Cornyn. Because you pretend to believe that giving $17M to US Senators to oppose the public option for health care is exactly the same as the right to publish an op-ed on why the US needs a public option.

  30. Jesurgislac
    Jesurgislac January 22, 2010 at 1:28 pm |

    Manju claimed: i don’t know of any example of a nation descending into an oligarchy due to excessive free-speech protections.

    Money does not equal free speech. Trying to claim that it does is a lie.

    The US is already a de-facto oligarchy – there’s your historical example, Manju. No individual voter has the ability to influence their Senator like a corporate person with “excessive free speech protection” to give a million dollars.

    You want to privilege some corporations over other which is what censors do

    William Ayers is not a corporation. James C. Wilson is not a corporation. They have free speech, which they may opt to exercise by writing op-eds which may then be published for all the world to read.

    media corps have much more influence over policy

    Ha. You seriously think that an op-ed published in The Hill or The New York Times or anywhere in the bleedin’ world is more influential than providing a Senator with enough money to run his next election campaign? Are you that stupid, or just pretending for a rhetorical point?
    You want to privilege corporations over individuals by claiming that a corporation’s free speech is being abridged if it is not allowed to whisper $17 million to Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, Jon Kyl, Jim Bunning, Mike Crapo, Pat Roberts, John Ensign, Mike Enzi, and John Cornyn. Because you pretend to believe that giving $17M to US Senators to oppose the public option for health care is exactly the same as the right to publish an op-ed on why the US needs a public option.

  31. Manju
    Manju January 22, 2010 at 1:31 pm |

    “I will also point you to this portion of Stevens’ dissent which I think is pertinent:”

    Steven’s dissent fails the slippery slope arguement. Media corps or organizations like unions,no profits, and Femisnte don’t vote as one entity either, but they have first amendment protection…despite not being individuals.

    Stevens seems to think the “free press” clause affords them (at least the media) special consideration, but thats problematic as I argued earlier.

  32. Manju
    Manju January 22, 2010 at 1:39 pm |

    “The US is already a de-facto oligarchy – there’s your historical example, Manju.”

    I guess we are just too far apart here, Jesurgislac. The US stands as a beacon of freedom for immigrants everwhere, in large part because of her free markets and bill of rights.

    If you already view it as an oligarchy, then I suppose your revolution is justified; but frankly–to put it in lefty speak–that is one of the most privileged statements I’ve ever read. You don’t know how good you have it.

  33. Henrietta G. Tavish
    Henrietta G. Tavish January 22, 2010 at 2:50 pm |

    (1) If the government can censor corporate speech or a corporate press, it can censor a New York Times editorial (or editorial commentary at CBS, NBC, ABC, MSNBC, Fox) because those entities are organized in corporate form.

    (2) There is no principled way to distinguish a “regular” corporation engaging in speech or running a press from a media corporation engaging in those activities. Why should a corporation which regularly engages in political commentary have more speech rights than one which only speaks occasionally, or only about matters which affect it? Should monthly magazines have less free speech protection than daily papers because they publish less regularly?

    (3) An individual who runs off copies of opinion pamphlets and distributes them is running a “press.” A corporate newspaper which distributes copies of it product is running a “press.” A “regular” corporation which runs off copies of a press release, position statement or video is running a “press.” There is no reason to distinguish between any of these activities.

    (4) A blog is essentially a “press” in internet form. An anonymous group blog is a “press” in the same way. An anonymous group blog may not be a corporation (although it might) but it’s also certainly not an individual. That being the case, the government could censor a group blog pursuant to the same principles it censors other non-individuals such as corporations.

    (5) The concern about “corrupting” the political process is baseless. If not, the dissent should have specifically identified former and sitting members of Congress who were “corrupted” by being unjustly elected by a populace that was fooled by a corporate ad. The true concern about “corruption” here is that liberals (wrongly) perceive that regular corporations will elect more conservative candidates (as opposed to the liberal ones promoted by most media corporations other than Fox).

    (6) A rich individual can “corrupt” the political process just as easily a corporation. If corruption is truly the concern, individual limits should be imposed. And to insure a level playing field, the limits should be something that even the poorest individual could afford: nothing. In other words, all speech should be banned.

    JPE, you are welcome to debate and argue, but accuse me of intellectual dishonesty again and I will ban you.

    Please do the same to jersurgilac next time he/she says something like “Are you that stupid, or just pretending for a rhetorical point?” (see comments ## 16 and 40).

  34. Henrietta G. Tavish
    Henrietta G. Tavish January 22, 2010 at 3:05 pm |

    Please don’t tell me how to run my own space.

    True — that’s a function best left to the government.

  35. Manju
    Manju January 22, 2010 at 3:13 pm |

    “True — that’s a function best left to the government.”

    Heh. (You gotta admit, that was good).

  36. roses
    roses January 22, 2010 at 3:18 pm |

    Can an American on this comment thread please explain to me why political contributions = free speech in the first place?

  37. Henrietta G. Tavish
    Henrietta G. Tavish January 22, 2010 at 3:39 pm |

    Can an American on this comment thread please explain to me why political contributions = free speech in the first place?

    They don’t . The decision wasn’t about political contributions. Corporations are still prohibited from making direct monetary contributions to candidates. The decision was about corporations engaging in political speech — specifically, an organization that wanted to offer a critical partisan documentary about Hillary Clinton for viewing on cable television. Yes, of course the the organization spent money on the documentary (as did Michael Moore on Farenheit 451), but the main purpose was to influence the electorate with the organization’s opinion of Clinton.

  38. Jesurgislac
    Jesurgislac January 22, 2010 at 4:01 pm |

    The US stands as a beacon of freedom for immigrants everwhere

    Right-wing Americans still have this happy fantasy that the US is well-regarded in this respect, despite all a succession of right-wing governments have done to change the way the world regards your country, don’t they? A country where thousands of Muslim immigrants were locked up, harassed, and expelled from the country, by the US government, purely because they shared a religion with 19 hijackers, is hardly a country that stands as a “beacon of freedom”.

    You don’t know how good you have it.

    I do. Believe me, as a citizen of the UK, I really appreciate how good I have it compared to the citizens of your oligarchic anti-democratic nation.

  39. Tom Foolery
    Tom Foolery January 22, 2010 at 10:51 pm |

    Believe me, as a citizen of the UK, I really appreciate how good I have it compared to the citizens of your oligarchic anti-democratic nation.

    I lol’d. Wave to the CCTV cameras for me.

  40. Jesurgislac
    Jesurgislac January 23, 2010 at 4:18 am |

    Wave to the CCTV cameras for me.

    Every time I’m on a nearly-empty bus with a cluster of drunk-off-their-asses boys who might decide that beating me up would be ever so fun. …but who know damn well that though the tape on the CCTV camera on the bus isn’t saved for long, it can and will and has been preserved to use as evidence against them in court.

    I’ve noticed that big tough men tend to regard CCTV as a massive assault on their personal liberties. But then, they’re generally not the ones who sit on buses or walk through late-night streets worrying that they’re going to be assaulted. My heart bleeds for them and I play the smallest little violin in the world, that they find it so terribly troubling that their images might appear briefly on a soon-to-be-wiped security tape…

    But really, I actually consider the right to hold free, fair, and democratic elections way more important. Sorry that you consider the absence of CCTV cameras to be way more important to your personal freedom than a functioning electoral system.

  41. Tom Foolery
    Tom Foolery January 23, 2010 at 11:30 am |

    it can and will and has been preserved to use as evidence against them in court.

    In a whopping 3% of cases. And the crime prevention features of CCTV are so amazing that Britain was named the most violent country in the EU in 2009, with crime stats surpassing the U.S. and South Africa.

    But clearly, they are having the effect desired by the Home Office, which is making you feel safer. So that’s billions of pounds well spent, no?

  42. a lawyer
    a lawyer January 23, 2010 at 3:01 pm |

    I know very little about the first amendment, but my area of expertise is corporations. It seems to me that the corporate/non-corporate distinction is a very poor one for determining which speech can and cannot be regulated. Lots of nonprofits, advocacy groups, religious organizations, and unions are incorporated, while not all business organizations are incorporated. I don’t think it makes sense to say that the government should be free to restrict union involvement in politics depending on whether they’ve set themselves up as “AFL-CIO, Inc.” or as “AFL-CIO, an unincorporated association.” Conversely, political involvement by Microsoft would be no less pernicious if it were “Microsoft, L.P.” rather than “Microsoft, Inc.” Similarly, if the idea is that incorporated entities have no free speech rights, then “United Church of Christ, a Nonprofit Corporation” can be banned from running TV ads, but “United Church of Christ” cannot.

    I think it is a bad idea to allow GlaxoSmithKline to run unlimited political ads, but saying it can be restricted because it’s a corporation is not a good argument. It would be no less corrupting if (for some bizarre international tax reason) it were organized as a common-law general partnership without filing any documents with the state. Whatever distinction is drawn should depend on the underlying substance, not on form.

    To be clear, my argument is based on policy, not on a doctrinal reading of the First Amendment, which is not my area.

  43. DougEMI
    DougEMI January 23, 2010 at 4:17 pm |

    If corporations do not have protections under the constitution, then that would mean all the bill of rights are non operative with respect to corporations. Therefore the government would be free to take whatever it wants from corporations without granting due process.

    If corporations don’t have free speech, than can the State pass a law making it illegal for an abortion provider to advertise that he or she provides such services? Advertising and signage are corporate speech.

  44. Henry G. Tavish
    Henry G. Tavish January 23, 2010 at 4:29 pm |

    25000

    I think it is a bad idea to allow GlaxoSmithKline to run unlimited political ads

    It’s probably a “worse idea” to permit an individual skinhead neo-Nazi  to run such an ad, but that is clearly protected speech. 

    but saying it can be restricted because it’s a corporation is not a good argument.

     Exactly. It’s also a poor argument to distinguish between media corporations and ordinary corporations. A distinction could be made between persons and all other “entities” but that fails as well. Entities are simply groups of persons speaking collectively and often anonymously. There’s no reason to distinguish between a group of high school students distributing an unsigned pamphlet, the New York Times Company publishing an unsigned editorial, and GlaxoSmithKline running a television ad supporting a candidate.  They are all engaging in speech activities in their capacities as a “press.”

     The FEC’s case collapsed when its lawyer admitted that under its theory, the government could prohibit a corporation from publishing a book within 30 days of an election.   Although the statute only applies to broadcast media, nothing would have prevented Congress from extending it further. As the Supreme Court pointed out, limiting the free speech rights of corporations would permit the government to censor an editorial published by the New York Times Co.

  45. Jesurgislac
    Jesurgislac January 23, 2010 at 5:28 pm |

    Tom Foolery, from the perspective of a Brit, it looks completely weird to see anyone trying to make an argument for anything by linking to the Daily Mail. If there’s one thing you can rely on: the Daily Mail will get it wrong. It’s a tabloid rag with about the same status as Rush Limbaugh for accurate presentation of the facts. “Most violent country in the EU”? If Rush Limbaugh said it was raining, would you believe him?

    The second story you linked to, from the UK’s most reliable news source, does suggest that the value of CCTV cameras in court cases is less than I’d supposed, but I’d argue that the presence of CCTV cameras may well have given some wannabe thugs pause for thought.

  46. Jesurgislac
    Jesurgislac January 23, 2010 at 5:30 pm |

    And I note, Tom, that you’ve got nothing to say about the fact that the UK has a far more democratic electoral process than the US. I guess you dived into CCTV cameras and daily mail stories because you couldn’t stand to admit the US loses on that score. What price CCTV next to being able to register to vote and have your vote counted?

  47. Tom Foolery
    Tom Foolery January 23, 2010 at 6:29 pm |

    If Rush Limbaugh said it was raining, would you believe him?

    If I also observed it was, sure.

    And I note, Tom, that you’ve got nothing to say about the fact that the UK has a far more democratic electoral process than the US. I guess you dived into CCTV cameras and daily mail stories because you couldn’t stand to admit the US loses on that score.

    Fortunately, I didn’t have to dive into anything, because criminal justice reform, both in the U.S. and abroad is one of my favorite issues, and I had read these stats before. But I appreciate your concern for my time.

    The reason I’m unconcerned by the supreme court decision at issue here is that I had 0 confidence in the U.S. electoral system prior to it. I have nothing to say in defense of the U.S. government, but I certainly do have things to say when someone from the U.K., which is traveling just as quickly down the road to authoritarianism as the U.S., holds up their own pack of petty tyrants as an example.

  48. a lawyer
    a lawyer January 23, 2010 at 8:01 pm |

    If corporations don’t have free speech, than can the State pass a law making it illegal for an abortion provider to advertise that he or she provides such services? Advertising and signage are corporate speech.

    Well, presumably that would depend on how the provider was organized. Doctors typically aren’t allowed to incorporate because of the public policy of ensuring that professionals retain personal liability for malpractice. However, some states allow them to incorporate as “professional corporations,” which offer some protection from liability but not as much as the ordinary corporate form. So on the “corporations have no free speech rights” theory, the state would be allowed to ban advertising by “Abortion Providers, P.C.” but not by “Abortion Providers, a general partnership.” I’m not clear on where “Abortion Providers, L.P.” would fit in this theory, since limited partnerships are partnerships, not corporations, but they’re also creatures of statute, not common law. Either way, it makes very little sense to say that the state could ban “Abortion Providers, P.C.” from advertising, but could not restrict the advertising of “Abortion Providers, a general partnership.”

  49. RobW
    RobW January 24, 2010 at 7:40 am |

    specifically, an organization that wanted to offer a critical partisan documentary about Hillary Clinton for viewing on cable television.

    Understanding that the content of the message is irrelevant to the legal arguments presented, wasn’t Citizens United’s partisan criticism of Clinton pretty much nothing more than calling her a c**t?

  50. Tom Degan
    Tom Degan January 24, 2010 at 8:45 am |

    Are corporations really persons?

    Do corporations think?

    Do corporations grieve when a loved one dies as a result of a lack of adequate health care?

    If a corporation ever committed an unspeakable crime against the American people, could IT be sent to federal prison? (Note the operative word here: “It”)

    Has a corporation ever given its life for its country?

    Has a corporation ever been killed in an accident as the result of a design flaw in the automobile it was driving?

    Has a corporation ever written a novel that inspired millions?

    Has a corporation ever risked its life by climbing a ladder to save a child from a burning house?

    Has a corporation ever won an Oscar? Or an Emmy? Or the Nobel Peace Prize? Or the Pulitzer Prize in Biography?

    Has a corporation ever been shot and killed by someone who was using an illegal and unregistered gun?

    Has a corporation ever paused to reflect upon the simple beauty of an autumn sunset or a brilliant winter moon rising on the horizon?

    If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a noise if there are no corporations there to hear it?

    Should corporations kiss on the first date?

    Our lives – yours and mine – have more worth than any corporation. To say that the Supreme Court made a awful decision on Thursday is an understatement. Not only is it an obscene ruling – it’s an insult to our humanity.

    http://www.tomdegan.blogspot.com

    Tom Degan
    Goshen, NY

  51. Miss Incognegro
    Miss Incognegro January 24, 2010 at 9:35 am |

    Never thought I’d live to see the day when the U.S. Supreme Court would hand down a ruling worse than Dred Scott.

  52. DougEMI
    DougEMI January 24, 2010 at 10:28 am |

    Then if partnerships are kosher as far as free speech goes, then Exxon could simply form a partnership, or hire a couple of people on the board to form one, and then gain such first amendment rights.

    A reading of the first amendment does not include language restricting free speech only to individuals. If that were the case, couldn’t a super majority of republicans pass a law banning labor unions and non-profits (two groups whose speech was previously restricted before the decision) from criticizing the government?

  53. a lawyer
    a lawyer January 24, 2010 at 12:32 pm |

    Never thought I’d live to see the day when the U.S. Supreme Court would hand down a ruling worse than Dred Scott.

    Dred Scott: Black people are “so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

    Citizens United: Corporations may spend money on campaign speech directly, rather than having to do it through a political action committee, provided they include the “I’m GlaxoSmithKline, and I approved this message”* disclosure and file documents with the Federal Election Commission stating the amount spent, the election the money was spent on, and the names of certain financial backers.

    When the OP called loosening the restrictions on corporate campaign advertising the end of democracy, I thought it displayed a lack of proportion. Calling it worse than declaring that black people have no rights is heinously offensive.

    * Technically the required message is “GlaxoSmithKline is responsible for the content of this advertising.” The disclosure statement must be in audio and must also be displayed on the screen “in a clearly readable manner with a reasonable degree of color contrast between the background and the printed statement, for a period of at least 4 seconds.” 2 U.S.C. 441d(d)(2).

  54. a lawyer
    a lawyer January 24, 2010 at 1:11 pm |

    Forgot to reply to this one:

    Has a corporation ever won an Oscar? Or an Emmy? Or the Nobel Peace Prize? Or the Pulitzer Prize in Biography?

    Dunno about the Oscar, Emmy, and Pulitzer, but as for the Nobel:

    1999
    1997
    1985
    1977
    1947

    Possibly also 1995, 1969, 1963, 1944, 1938, 1910, and 1904, but the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, International Labour Organization, League of Red Cross Societies, International Committee of the Red Cross, Nasen International Office for Refugees, Permanent International Peace Bureau, and Institute of International Law are all non-U.S. entities and I wasn’t able to figure out if they use the corporate form. Various national Red Cross organizations are incorporated but I don’t know if the LRCS or ICRC are.

  55. shah8
    shah8 January 24, 2010 at 1:57 pm |

    I think a lawyer is underestimating the participation and proliferation of nontransparent puppet organizations with unclear sources of finances and organization in the now, regardless of what their impact in the future future.

    Lateral thinking, peeps! It’s good for you!

  56. Jesurgislac
    Jesurgislac January 24, 2010 at 2:40 pm |

    One of the regular commenters at Obsidian Wings already answered this defense of the court’s decision, a lawyer:

    For defenders of the decision there is no difference between the ACLU and Google. “Both corporations, don’t you see?” There is, on other hand, a huge gulf between direct campaign contributions and independent expenditures. All the difference in the world. And here you are telling us that a PAC is just like a corporate expenditure.

    But the ACLU and Google, both corporations, are two entirely different things, just like a Volkswagen and a Boeing 747 are two entirely different things, despite both being “transportation vehicles.” Finding some category into which two things both fit doesn’t make them the same.

    Similarly, independent expenditure are not actually much different from campaign contributions. They have the same goal, and the money is spent on the same types of activities.

    And finally, PAC’s are different than corporate contributions. For one thing, they rely mostly on individual – hence actually voluntary – contributions. For another, related to that, despite their size they don’t command the kind of funds big corporations do.

    I think this first distinction – ACLU vs. Google – is the most important, and it is one the court spent a lot of time dodging. Why they did that is left as an exercise for the reader.

    Why do you suppose right-wingers everywhere are cheering on a dodge of the distinction between Microsoft and the Red Cross, or Google vs ACLU?

  57. Henry G. Tavish
    Henry G. Tavish January 24, 2010 at 4:43 pm |

    One point of the decision especially worth considering:

    Soon, however, it may be that Internet sources, such as blogs and social networking Web sites, will provide citizens with significant information about political candidates and issues. Yet, §441b would seem to ban a blog post expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate if that blog were created with corporate funds…. The First Amendment does not permit Congress to make these categorical distinctions based on the corporate identity of the speaker and the content of the political speech.

    While the government might not be able to censor Feministe, it could probably shut down RH Reality Check.

  58. a lawyer
    a lawyer January 25, 2010 at 2:10 am |

    Jesurgislac: I think you are missing my point. The argument I’m addressing is that corporations should have no free speech rights because they aren’t people, are creatures of statute, have no thoughts or feelings, etc. I’ve seen a lot of people on the left raise this argument, and I think it’s invalid. American Friends Service Committee, Inc., a Nobel laureate, is no more a person than ExxonMobil Corporation is; nor does it have any more thoughts or feelings than ExxonMobil Corporation does.

    The “corporations should have no (or extremely restricted) free speech rights” also makes the degree of permissible speech restriction depend on form rather than the underlying substance. Whether a business, nonprofit, union, or any other organization chooses act through a corporation, partnership, limited liability company, unincorporated association, or other form depends on tax and liability considerations that have nothing to do with the social value of their speech (or lack thereof).

    The problems posed by allowing entities like ExxonMobil Corporation to engage in unlimited political expenditures are the danger of drowning out other voices and the risk of de facto corruption. These dangers would be no less severe if ExxonMobil were organized as an LLC or even as a common-law general partnership.

    FWIW, I disagree with the Citizens United decision and strongly support restricting ExxonMobil Corporation’s ability to run political ads. But the rights of for-profit business enterprises versus unions versus not-for-profit advocacy organizations should have nothing to do with the particular legal form they use to organize their affairs.

  59. Manju
    Manju January 26, 2010 at 1:40 am |

    “Why do you suppose right-wingers everywhere are cheering on a dodge of the distinction between Microsoft and the Red Cross, or Google vs ACLU?”

    For one, McCain-Feingold itself did not make the distinction. Both individuals associated with Google and the ACLU had their first amendments rights violated.

    Secondly, it should be noted, Google is a huge backer of Barack Obama. Indeed, that’s not an outlier. The Democratic party gets far more corporate money the the Republican one (and obviously more union money).

    http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/sectorall.php?cycle=2008

    So the insinuation of the question (Why do you suppose right-wingers everywhere…) is indeed incorrect.

  60. Manju
    Manju January 26, 2010 at 1:41 am |

    “I think a lawyer is underestimating the participation and proliferation of nontransparent puppet organizations with unclear sources of finances and organization in the now, regardless of what their impact in the future future.”

    The justices upheld the discloure laws 8-1.

  61. Jesurgislac
    Jesurgislac January 26, 2010 at 3:30 am |

    For one, McCain-Feingold itself did not make the distinction.

    …and in what universe is McCain not a right-winger?

    Google is a huge backer of Barack Obama.

    Yes, and Barack Obama is a right-wing conservative politician.

  62. Manju
    Manju January 26, 2010 at 11:46 am |

    “…and in what universe is McCain not a right-winger?”

    Apparently in yours: “Why do you suppose right-wingers everywhere are cheering on a dodge of the distinction between Microsoft and the Red Cross, or Google vs ACLU?”

    “Yes, and Barack Obama is a right-wing conservative politician.”

    Then why does he support McCain -Feingold?

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