January 21, 2010

"Much will depend on the wording, but today's decision is a small revolution in campaign finance law."

The Supreme Court has just issued the long-awaited Citizens United case. SCOTUSblog has a live-blog going on it. This is very big.

ADDED: Briefly:
The Supreme Court has ruled that corporations may spend freely to support or oppose candidates for president and Congress, easing decades-old limits on their participation in federal campaigns....

The justices also struck down part of the landmark McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill that barred union- and corporate-paid issue ads in the closing days of election campaigns.

113 comments:

Fred4Pres said...

Who not go all the way and get rid of McCain Feingold?

rhhardin said...

McCain said he'd choose clean government over free speech.

Then spent a week explaining what he really meant.

The Supreme Court's battle though is with its own idiotic acceptance of McCain-Feingold.

Henry said...

Did McCain really say that. God, he is an idiot. And I voted for him. But it's worth remembering what an idiot he is every time one wonders how Obama got elected.

I would choose clean government over deep dish pizza, given the choice.

bagoh20 said...

I'm sure that I'm naive on such complex subjects, but:

I would prefer that only individuals be allowed to donate their own money. Seems to me everyone's rights are still preserved. Organizations especially corporations are hierarchical and consequently, members do not have equal say about how funds are used for political purposes. This gives the leadership of organizations political power that is essentially taken involuntarily from the peons in the organization.

Organizations don't get a vote, and have no citizenship, so I don't see the conflict with freedom of speech. You still have freedom to assemble, just not assemble other peoples money. What am I missing?

Oxbay said...

"Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech." Unless the Supreme Court lets them.

Henry said...

You still have freedom to assemble, just not assemble other peoples money.

To take this question literally, how are you going to pay for the permits and porta-johns if you don't pool the money? Will every assembly require a single rich donor. Welcome to Soros-ville.

Ironically, one of the outcomes of campaign finance law was to help rich people win elections -- rich people are the ones who can spend their money as individuals.

In 19th-century England advocacy for a paid legislature came from the labor movement. Their candidates couldn't afford to be in office otherwise.

Lem said...

I wander how Sotomayor voted.

Chris said...

Are you being serious Lem?

Lem said...

Are you being serious Lem?

The hope was/is that she might surprise us.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Lem said...

The hope was/is that she might surprise us.

So you hope she becomes the Justice you hoped she could be when she was nominated?

Chris said...

I don't know much about this case or even which side I agree with, but I'd bet that Souter, Sotomayor and Stevens are on the same side.

Henry said...

In dissent, or partial dissne,t is Stevens, joined by Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Breyer

Just follow the link.

Chris said...

Of course if I really had half a clue I'd know that Souter and Sotomayor only count for one. DOH. **hangs head in shame.

Bushman of the Kohlrabi said...

Why not go all the way and get rid of McCain Feingold?

At a minimum, let’s get rid of Feingold. A useless husk of senate placeholder whose only claim to fame in 17 years is failed campaign finance reform and cute TV commercials.

Chris said...

@Henry although it has obviously been like this for a while, it makes me sad that big decisions break down along ideological lines so much these days. Maybe it is true that there isn't that much difference between Justices so 5-4 decisions aren't really all that indicative of a split. I like to think this is the case.

PatCA said...

This ruling, plus the outpouring of smart support for Scott Brown, are very good developments.

rhhardin said...

Did McCain really say that.

Real audio Apr 28, 2006

former law student said...

Finally corporations will get the recognition they deserve in our society.

Did Scalia wrestle with the issue of founders' intent? Were there any corporations in the thirteen colonies?

The time is right for politicians to sew their sponsors' emblems to their suits, a la auto racing. (I forget who originally came up with this idea.)

Julius Ray Hoffman said...
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Julius Ray Hoffman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Julius Ray Hoffman said...

So the de facto situation is now created where corporations and unions have more effective rights than individuals?

After all, it's pretty difficult for an individual to control the spending of $2401 in support of the candidate of his/her choice-- he would have to form a legal entity, and maybe try to find some other "owners" for it, right? Then the individual can take charge of his new legal entity and spend the funds as he sees fit. (Is it even legal to create an entity for the sole purpose of spending campaign money and getting around the $2400 limit?)

It is much easier for a corporation or union to do so-- the legal entity is already formed and its "stakeholders" (read: employees) are already found. The larger the corporation's spending effort is, the more it benefits from economy of scale. And the individual that controls the corporation controls the spending of that corporation, including the spending in support of the candidate of his/her choice.

AJ Lynch said...

Heck what is the difference anymore when rich candidates like Corzine, Lautenberg and Jane Harmon can put in millions of their own money?

That said, I also agree with Bago- why can't we limit donors to only those who can vote here in Ameri$a?

Skyler said...

fls unbelievably asked:

Did Scalia wrestle with the issue of founders' intent? Were there any corporations in the thirteen colonies?

Um, that's how the colonies were founded, by stock holders paying for ships to settle Virginia and then the other colonies.

I think I now understand why people become "progressives" or marxists. They are either down right evil, or they're just incredibly ignorant of history.

David said...

The frightening thing is that the decision was 5-4.

It has always seemed to me that the massively unconstitutional restriction on free speech was both obvious and highly insidious.

I have never understood why "liberals" are so enthusiastic about such restrictions.

Even when I was a liberal pretty much across the board, this would have been my view.

AJ Lynch said...

Haha I agree Skyler. Corporations probably financed the ships that brought the colonists to the New World! ie. Columbus.

Skyler said...

AJ, Columbus was financed by the Spanish crown. The English used companies to finance their explorations. The Virginia Company, the Plymouth Company, etc. They were given royal charters, but the financing was largely from private investors.

former law student said...

they're just incredibly ignorant of history

Yes, some people even think that joint-stock companies are the same as corporations.

Hint: the concepts of "limited liability" and a "legal personality" separate from the stockholders did not emerge till the middle of the Nineteenth Century.

t-man said...

bagoh:

The Court's ruling only applies to independent expenditures, not campaign contributions. So the ACLU, NRA, etc. can now use their own funds to advocate for or against candidates.

Before this, GE could use NBC and MSNBC to promote its own interests withouth limit (because of an exception for "media corporations" built into the law), while the Chamber of Commerce (which is a corporation), could not engage in counterspeech.

I haven't read it fully, but it seems that it also may lay the groundwork for First Amendment protections for bloggers equal to media companies, including prohibiting the government from drawing legal distinctions between "real" reporters and "citizen" reporters.

AJ Lynch said...

Skyler:

Dang I guess I was wrong re Columbus but right about the English colonists.

In any event, FLS is now splitting hairs about what a corporation is.

Original Mike said...

I have never understood why "liberals" are so enthusiastic about such restrictions.

Liberals are closet facists.

27183 said...

I was asking a similar question at another blog.

How come they didn't go all the way here and overturn/redo/rectify the clerical error of Santa Clara v. Southern Pacific?

How can originalist Scalia allow *that* to stand? Because that's clearly at the foundation of today's decision.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Anyone who thinks Scalia would need to waste any time on the founders' intent doesn't know enough about Scalia to be entitled to snark about him.

Triangle Man said...

Please forgive my ignorance, but will a corporate contributor be subject to the same limits that an individual contributor is?

Chris said...

One would expect unions and corporations to have more of a say than individuals since corporations and unions are groups of individuals.

Chris said...

Good point TM. I hadn't thought of that. Presumably, if you can limit individual contributions, you can also limit corporate ones. (I really should read the opinion).

Paul Zrimsek said...

Of course the Framers’ personal affection or disaffection for corporations is relevant only insofar as it can be thought to be reflected in the understood meaning of the text they enacted—not, as the dissent suggests, as a freestanding substitute for that text. -- Scalia, J., concurring.

AJ Lynch said...

This should be good news for the advertising business and MSM. Now, Ameri$a will spend even more on political ads.

Surely this news will increase the market value of the NYT's stock [snark]!

wv= slosilli= that's me

former law student said...

it can be thought to be reflected in the understood meaning of the text they enacted

If a tree falls in a forest and there's no one to hear it, what sound does it make?

If the framers write a document, and there's no corporations to understand what it means, what does it mean to corporations?

corporations and unions are groups of individuals.

The key point of the decision is that a corporation is not the sum of its stockholders. None of the companies in which I have shares have ever polled me to see what politicians they should back.

My only recourse if I disagree with them is to sell my shares.

Original Mike said...

None of the companies in which I have shares have ever polled me to see what politicians they should back.

Just like a union, no?

Ger said...

This is a terrible decision.

What the Congress really needs to do is to correct the accidental mistake of a hundred fifty years or so ago that allowed corporations to be treated as "citizens".

traditionalguy said...

Forbidding the donation of money during a contested political campaign is a lot like forbidding weapons at a fight. The saying is that unless you are cheating, you are not really trying. These donations are NOT deductable. The Bundling of Friend's friends donations in many $2250 checks is a routinely broken restriction because 95% of those are paid for by the candidates Friends paying back the business owners or professional on an invoice padded with that much plus the 33% add on for the income tax on it. So the net effect here is less corruption.

Sofa King said...

What the Congress really needs to do is to correct the accidental mistake of a hundred fifty years or so ago that allowed corporations to be treated as "citizens".

There's no such thing. Corporations are treated as independent legal entities under the law because that is in fact what they are. They are not equivalent to humans, or recognized as "citizens" or any other mythical nonsense. I wish this idiotic talking point would die already.

Sofa King said...

None of the companies in which I have shares have ever polled me to see what politicians they should back.

That's your own fault for not holding a voting share!

rdkraus said...

Liberals are closet facists

Actually, if you look, you'll see they're out of the closet.

t-man said...

All,

Please keep in mind that this case was not about contributions to politicians or political campaigns. It was about whether corporations (other than media corporations) could be prohibited from spending their own money to speak on behalf of, or against a candidate.

The word "corporation" may be throwing some people off, but as the court wrote, the ruling really doesn't affect large powerful corporations one way or the other, because they always have the power to influence legislator through lobbying or private meetings. What this does is empower smaller companies and individuals to band together to increase their ability to get their own messages out to the voters.

bagoh20 said...

If the corporation I work for wants to support a candidate, I suggest they hand out that money to all the employees and then ask them to donate it to the cause. Now let's vote on it.

rcocean said...

The 1st amendment protects individuals not corporations. And when did "Free Speech" mean the right spend money?

Of course, I'm just reading the Federalist papers and the Constitution as opposed the SCOTUS version.

t-man said...

bagoh-

Does the corporation you work for make all of its decisions by polling the employees?

Would you still take your position if the corporation you worked for was the Sierra Club?

Don't let the word "corporation" lead to think that his is about big business (or unions), it's not. Those entities are big enough and sophisticated enough to work around the laws. It is smaller companies and citizen groups, who can't afford FEC lawyers or compliance costs, who were shut out by the law at issue.

Chris said...

This is a victory for libertarian types. Culture warriors of both stripes will probably find things to complain about (depending on how things empirically play out). My suspicion is nothing changes.

Seven Machos said...

"Corporations suck." -- Signed, the Sierra Club and Moveon.org.

Kylos said...

rcocean, is speech free if the government is allowed to determine who you can speak to? You may not like the intermingling of money and speech, but in the end, even in the days of the founders, one could speak to a larger audience only with a certain amount of money. Thomas Paine would have been hindered greatly if he could only express his common sense orally. Print, air, and web advertising all cost money. Why should people be restricted in what they want to say or to whom they can say it?

t-man said...

Excerpt from the majority opinion:

Corporate executives and employees counsel Members of Congress and Presidential administrations on many issues, as a matter of routine and often in private. ... lobbying and corporate communications with elected officials occur on a regular basis. When that phenonomenon is coupled with section 441b, the result is that smaller or nonprofit corporations cannot raise a voice to object when other corporations, including those with vast wealth, are cooperating with the Government. That cooperation may sometimes be voluntary, or it may be at the demand of a Government officialwho uses his or her authority, influence and power to threaten corporations to support the Government's policies. .... References to massive corporate treasuries should not mask the real operation of this law.

P. 39-40.

c3 said...

Great! more political commercials ending with the exhortation to "Call Senator ______ and tell him to stop ______"

It was wonderful in '08 to live in a state that "wasn't in play"

I have never understood why "liberals" are so enthusiastic about such restrictions.

Maybe it was the old belief that all of the corporate money went, by definition, to Republican candidates and causes. We've since learned otherwise. (Ask Big Pharma)

Pete the Streak said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bagoh20 said...

"Does the corporation you work for make all of its decisions by polling the employees?"

Of course not, but they also don't get to decide how I vote, and a political donation is more similar to a vote than a purchase of material or services.

"
Would you still take your position if the corporation you worked for was the Sierra Club?"


Absolutely. I don't see the difference. If I'm the janitor for the Sierra Club, that does not mean I support their political agenda.

But my main point is that corporations should not get free speech rights. Individuals do. Otherwise that right is diluted and unnecessarily so. Otherwise, why can't I donate in my dog's name or my house's.

t-man said...

You may not be a lawyer, but you should read the opinion.

Does the NYT have a free speech right? It is a corporation. Your local paper is too, most likely. As are all broadcasting companies and cable channels. As are book and magazine publishers. None of these have free speech rights? Don't be lazy, think through what you are saying.

AJ Lynch said...

There would not be a Sierra Club nor a Moveon if they could not make political donations.

They are single-purpose groups and that is to lobby for their far left whackadoodle beliefs.

Skyler said...

fls continued:

Yes, some people even think that joint-stock companies are the same as corporations.

Hint: the concepts of "limited liability" and a "legal personality" separate from the stockholders did not emerge till the middle of the Nineteenth Century
.

Yeah, and printing presses used to actually squeeze ink onto one piece of paper at a time instead of using laser printing or ink jets or conveyors or electricity. Yet, they still have freedom of the conveyored electric laserized press too.

Sheesh.

Sofa King said...

The 1st amendment protects individuals not corporations.

A corporation is nothing but a collection of individuals who have legally agreed to make common cause, typically profit but possibly anything else. You might as well argue that conservation is about protecting trees, not forests.

If the corporation I work for wants to support a candidate, I suggest they hand out that money to all the employees and then ask them to donate it to the cause. Now let's vote on it.

Why? You are not a member of that corporation. You have no obligation to act in their interest beyond what you agree to do for pay, and likewise they have none to act in yours beyond what they agree to provide for your services. It's far better for everyone to keep things separate this way.

Sofa King said...

a political donation is more similar to a vote than a purchase of material or services.

Again, we're talking about independent expenditures, not donations to candidates' campaigns. Would you be okay with submitting your decision to volunteer for a campaign to everyone you work with? That is what you are demanding.

H said...

If the corporation I work for wants to support a candidate, I suggest they hand out that money to all the employees and then ask them to donate it to the cause.

That is against the law.

traditionalguy said...

Thee playing field is still far from level. These corporations will spend real earned and taxed money on partisan ads. The ABC, NBC, CNN and CBS corporations will still have the free use of partisan ads on their own media outlet 24/7 and hide it as a "news show". That was the trade off in McCain/Feingold in exchange for a favorable McCain narative up to 2008. The Congress and the Supremes gave the media a hammer to use uncontested, and surprise, surprise, they quickly morphed into organs of the DemonRat Party. Can that toothpaste now go back into the tube???

Skyler said...

What I like about this decision, among many other things, is that hopefully this will end the reign of super rich people being the only ones that can really spend the amount of money (legally) to be competitive.

I'm sick and tired of politics being largely restricted to the independently wealthy.

wv: wayin, as in now there's another wayin to politics than being born a Rockefeller or Kennedy.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

The time is right for politicians to sew their sponsors' emblems to their suits, a la auto racing. (I forget who originally came up with this idea.)


@fls. That is an awesome idea!!! I vote for that. Think of how we wouldn't have to complain about transparancy anymore. We know just who bought who and where the bribery will lead the votes.

KLDAVIS said...

This was a long time coming. The road that SCOTUS started down with Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire of segregating certain types of speech and affording them lesser status is reaching an end. There is no other possible just outcome. The government cannot be in the business of deciding what sort of speech is permitted. That is the heart of the First Amendment.

The solution to our corrupted election process is not in further laws limiting who can say what or when. If you really want to see change, citizen funded elections are certainly worth a try.

Freeman Hunt said...

Say someone is proposing legislation that will cripple your business. Now you can let people know.

I don't see why everyone in the company should get a say. They don't all get a say in how the rest of the money is spent.

AJ Lynch said...

FLS- that is a great idea!

Heck, if we charge high enough fees for this branding of our pols.........voila! Our deficit is gone!

Skyler said...

I don't see why everyone in the company should get a say. They don't all get a say in how the rest of the money is spent.

Yes they do get a vote. They can quit their job or sell their shares.

I like the branded politicians too. At least they'll be public about some of their real loyalties that way!

bagoh20 said...

I get your arguments and they are helping flesh it out for me.

So what is the difference between my corporation donating money and my family donating, or my house. The issue for me is that the Chairman of the board gets to donate twice. Once personal and once as a corp.

KLDAVIS said...

bagoh20, this isn't about donations. It's about corporations being able to endorse candidates or speak out on issues. Previously, these groups could not tell their side of the story if it would be seen as pushing one candidate over another.

Seven Machos said...

Bag -- Start a corporation. Or write checks to organizations that are funding what you want to see funded.

Moreover, are you really donating up to whatever limits exist as of right now? It's not a case ripe for review for you in all likelihood.

Sofa King said...

So what is the difference between my corporation donating money and my family donating, or my house.

There isn't much difference, except that corporations have special rules for taxes and reporting and liability and stuff.

The issue for me is that the Chairman of the board gets to donate twice. Once personal and once as a corp.

A legal necessity, as he is forbidden from mixing the two funds for reasons of corporate accountibility.

Of course, in such a hypothetical situation, with a Chairman who owns a majority share of the company, the more likely scenario is that he simply raises his pay and spends the money personally.

Freeman Hunt said...

That's the big thing: being able to tell their side to the story.

The corporation still has to balance its business interests. If it constantly takes controversial stands, it risks limiting the pool of prospective employees and clients.

Sofa King said...

The issue for me is that the Chairman of the board gets to donate twice.

And again, the number of donations is irrelevant, because we are talking about independent expenditures, not campaign contributions. There is no limit to what you, as an individual, can spend indpendently.

bagoh20 said...

I'm sorry, I misunderstood the issue. I should be more careful and read it first.

Incidentally, I am a corporate officer and on the board of directors of a mutlimilliion dollar corp. We do not make political donations for this very reason. We don't believe it to be right to use money that could be used for employee salaries to support causes they may not support. We're capitalists, but sensitive to the imbalance of the power in an organization and do not take advantage of that in the political sphere unless absolutely necessary to the survival of the company.

Sorry again.

knox said...

hopefully this will end the reign of super rich people being the only ones that can really spend the amount of money (legally) to be competitive.

I'm sick and tired of politics being largely restricted to the independently wealthy.

Yes. So many liberal policies end up that way.

Universal Healthcare leads to only the super-rich being able to afford fast, high-quality healthcare. The lack of voucher programs make private schools unaffordable for middle-class families. The invention of Carbon Credits to cater to the owners of private jets, limos & mansions... The list goes on and on.

Seven Machos said...

Obama doesn't need vouchers. His kids go to Sidwell Friends.

bagoh20 said...

Thanks people. I do learn a lot here from you all.

t-man said...

It's not donations - its spending on advertisements.
The Chairman who can personally afford a prime time ad, or ad in the newspaper are few and far between. Currently, there is no limit on what you, as an individual, can spend, so there is no need to spend "in the name of your house" if you have the resources. (Presumably, with regard to spending by corporations, the Chairman, the rest of the Board, and the executives will make their decisions consistent with their fiduciary duties to the corporation, but that is a different question.)

The average person, or small business owner, has no ability to finance such ads. From the opinon: 96% of the 3 million businesses that belong to the U.S. Chamber of Congress have fewer than 100 employees... More than 75% of corporations whose income is taxed under federal law ... have less than $1 million in receipts each year. Individuals and smaller companies have to pool resources with others, and they often do that in corporate form.

The decision removes an obtacle to individuals and smaller businesses. The challenged law, (surprise, surprise) tilted the playing field in favor of larger, more entrenched interests.

Luke Lea said...

Thus this ruling apply to any and all corporations or just non-profits that are based in the US?

If the latter, there is a lot of misleading "scare" in the headlines.

KLDAVIS said...

bago, it's not your fault you were confused. The media is spinning this story recklessly. Check the Chicago Tribune headline, "Court ends limits on corporate political donations". Only when you get into the article, you see, "Corporations, and presumably unions, cannot give money directly to the campaigns of federal candidates. These "contribution" restrictions were not challenged in the case decided today."

So, donation limits are ended...except that corps still can't donate.

Freeman Hunt said...

The lack of voucher programs make private schools unaffordable for middle-class families.

Yeah, what is the deal with no vouchers?! Where does the government get off forcibly confiscating people's money for schooling, and then assigning them to the schools of the government's choosing? That's a pretty outrageous abridgment of freedom.

bagoh20 said...

"bago, it's not your fault you were confused"

I wish, but I was not confused by what I read, but what I did not. Entirely, my fault.

Your point is well taken though.

knox said...

Where does the government get off forcibly confiscating people's money for schooling, and then assigning them to the schools of the government's choosing?

Not only that, but said schools are largely crappy.

Not only THAT, but the crappiest of said schools are the ones poor kids have to go to. It all works out so that, within the much-vaunted, supposedly equalizing public school system, those in the wealthiest areas receive the best education.

Insidious!

We moved to Ohio precisely because it would have been too expensive to send our kids to any one of the few private schools in Knoxville. And the public schools there were no good except in the wealthiest part of town, where we didn't want to live anyway.

An unjust system propping up something that badly needs to be demolished. Won't happen in our lifetimes, I imagine.

Skyler said...

Water bag wrote:

We do not make political donations for this very reason. We don't believe it to be right to use money that could be used for . . .

You also have a fiduciary duty to spend the money per the purpose the corporation has been created for. There is some leeway nowadays on that duty, but that's still the trend.

You don't say what your business is, and it's moot, but let's say your business is to make asphalt roofing shingles and Politician Smith wants to make a law outlawing the manufacture of any item made from asphalt. You'd be out of business.

Now you would have a fiduciary duty to oppose this legislation or the corporation would be put out of business. Now you can run ads telling your side of the story and explaining the virtues of asphalt shingles. Before this ruling, you would be extremely limited in how you could fight the legislation and you would in fact be easily susceptible to political blackmail to do other things to prevent your corporation's demise.

This now dead law was just a vehicle for politicians to control corporations.

bagoh20 said...

"You also have a fiduciary duty to spend the money per the purpose the corporation has been created for"

We're a private company and the entire ownership is on the board so there is conflict.

Our corp. exists to support both owners and employees as much as possible. Casually stepping on our employee's political sensibilities is not considered smart business for us. And would be irresponsible.

Not that we would not do as your example suggests, just that we need really good reason to piss off valuable employees.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

bagoh20 said...

Not that we would not do as your example suggests, just that we need really good reason to piss off valuable employees.

That sounds wise. It also sounds like a business decision that should legally be left to the people running your business. At 9:59 this morning it was not. As of 10:00, it is.

AlphaLiberal said...

This is an activist judicial decision, over-turning long-established law so they can legislate from the bench.

The idea that corporations should have the same rights as human beings is absurd. Corporations are not human beings, more like machines.

So now our elections will be dominated by wealthy corporations. What vision of America is this? Not one shared by the founding Fathers.

Government of, by, and for the corporations.

bagoh20 said...

Alpha Liberal is taking over my arguments.

Now I know I was confused.
I will go hurt myself now, as I surely deserve it.

AJ Lynch said...

Freeman:

The new governor of New Jersey just appointed Bret Schundler as his Education Secretary.

Schundler is a former mayor and a longtime huge booster of school vouchers. So keep your eye on NJ, I think there will be some school fireworks there.

Sofa King said...

The idea that corporations should have the same rights as human beings is absurd. Corporations are not human beings, more like machines.

How is it so obviously "absurd?" Corporations are simply legal proxies for collectives of individuals. If you think individuals should have rights, then why would those rights automatically disappear when they act collectively?

Should the government have the power to search and seize the office of the New York Times without a warrant? Why not, if the idea of the NYT having Fourth Amendment rights is so "absurd?"

t-man said...

Yes AL, that long established law was Austin, a case from 1989, which was in the last millenium! That's 1000 years!!!!!! How could they overturn such a longstanding case, which itself completely departed from prior case law? It's outrageous.

wv: haggie; A Scottish transplant at Texas A&M

AJ Lynch said...

Alpha said:

"Elections will be dominated by wealthy corporations....and UNIONS".

I fixed that for you.

AlphaLiberal said...

The ban on corporate contributions goes back 100 years. Teddy Roosevelt was a huge champion. It's not like the Austin decision began the ban.

Corporations are not citizens (and neither are labor unions). They are often far more powerful than individual citizens. They flaunt their non-citizen status when they shut down US factories and moving them offshore. No loyalty to the USA from them.

The individuals in these "collective" organizations retain their rights when the enterprise is denied the rights of citizenship.

So if con's want to extend citizen rights to non-citizens like corporations and labor unions, will you also extend these rights to other non-citizens, like immigrants?

AlphaLiberal said...

Alpha Liberal is taking over my arguments.

Now I know I was confused.
I will go hurt myself now, as I surely deserve it.
.

Gee, I almost thought you were own man there for awhile.

guess not.

Sofa King said...

The ban on corporate contributions goes back 100 years.

THAT'S STILL IN PLACE! Sheesh, you could at least read SOME of the thread!

It's like you're just phoning it in.

So if con's want to extend citizen rights to non-citizens like corporations and labor unions, will you also extend these rights to other non-citizens, like immigrants?

Just what constitutional rights DON'T we extend to immigrants?

Are you going to answer my Fourth Amendment hypothetical?

AlphaLiberal said...

I know the difference, sofa king. I have a job and am done here. Coffee break is over.

Skyler said...

Liberal wrote: The idea that corporations should have the same rights as human beings is absurd. Corporations are not human beings, more like machines.

and

So if con's want to extend citizen rights to non-citizens like corporations and labor unions, will you also extend these rights to other non-citizens, like immigrants?
.

Corporations have long had the recognition as persons in almost all of our legal system. This is not new.

I don't recall someone having to be a citizen to have free speech rights in this country. How is that germane? We're not talking of contributions to politicians, we're talking about being free to express an opinion. George Soros and Idi Amin both have the right to speak freely in this country, as do you.

Now we are recognizing that people without millions of dollars to spare can collect their money and spend it the way they choose to spend it. Freedom of speech is no longer confined to the rich. I'd think that someone calling themself a "liberal" would be all for that.

Oh, I forget. "Liberal" is just a mask for "marxist." And we know that Uncle Joe would never want to let people speak freely, either as individuals or as a community or corporation.

Almost Ali said...

McCain has been one the more annoying members of the Senate's back-slappers club.

I trust Arizona will finally put him out to pasture. And let him take Feingold with him.

Sofa King said...

I know the difference, sofa king. I have a job and am done here. Coffee break is over.

Whatever.

t-man said...

Yeah, AL's coffee break is over. He's got to go back to his real job, sticking pins in a Scott Brown voodoo doll, while chanting "Serenity Now!"

Steven said...

From Kennedy's opinion:

The [First] Amendment is written in terms of "speech," not speakers. Its text offers no foothold for excluding any category of speaker, from single individuals to partnerships of individuals, to unincorporated associations of individuals, to incorporated associations of individuals--and the dissent offers no evidence about the original meaning of the text to support any such exclusion. We are therefore simply left with the question whether the speech at issue in this case is "speech" covered by the First Amendment. No one says otherwise.

--

So, the court is holding that, whether the speaker is a private citizen, corporation, or foreign national, speech is still speech, and speech is free.

Steven said...

I'm sorry, that bit is from Scalia's opinion, not Kennedy.

bagoh20 said...

"Gee, I almost thought you were own man there for awhile. "

Nope, I was just wrong. Now you are it.

Ger said...

Re: Sofa King at 1147:

"There's no such thing. Corporations are treated as independent legal entities under the law because that is in fact what they are. They are not equivalent to humans, or recognized as "citizens" or any other mythical nonsense. I wish this idiotic talking point would die already."

Funny - we hear the phrase "corporate citizen" all the time.

From the founding of this nation until the late 1800's there were rather sever limitations on the formation and function of corporations. It wasn't until the SCOTUS in the 'Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad' case over a hundred years ago that corporations started to be given legal standing as "persons".

The first amendment provides the right of free speech to people - not corporations. It is a bastardization of that principle more than a hundred years after the founding of this nation that corporations came to be regarded as "persons".

So we give corporations the rights of a citizen yet they are shielded from many of the responsibilities and obligations that a real citizen has. Can we throw a bad "corporate citizen" in jail?

So now it appears that corporations can spend a boatload of money to further influence our already too heavily corporate-influenced lawmaking processes.

Yet real citizens are still prevented from contributing as much money as they want to a candidate.

Why the difference? Shouldn't my money (after all - "money talks") share my free speech rights.

Just as there are good reasons to set individual campaign contribution limits for "real" citizens I think there are legitimate reasons to also limit corporate "citizens" rights.

Of course, I could be wrong. Perhaps this is a great decision.

I wonder though how certain factions will react when Microsoft, Google, and others start throwing hundreds of millions of dollars into campaigns with a liberal social slant - will they still welcome unlimited corporate spending?

Skyler said...

Ger, how is a newspaper organized?

Is it an individual?

Is it a citizen?

Seems to me that a newspaper is a corporation organized to put words on paper.

By your logic, we are only ever able to speak to those around us or pass out flyers at the mall but not publish our own thoughts in a mass manner unless we personally fund it ourselves.

If the court had foolishly ruled with the minority (a depraved group indeed) then what is there to bar news corporations from continuing in operation?

Ah, there's an exception you say. But who determines who is eligible for the exception? Seems to me that the determination process would be rife with corruption.

We are either all free or none are free. I recall that silly slogan from the progressives. Why wouldn't it apply to this situation?

I guess in your world, you'd have to somehow get labeled as a newspaper in order to speak your mind.

Synova said...

Yes, and self publish novels.

You can write Animal Farm for this century or be the next great Jonathan Swift, but unless you can publish and distribute your books without involving a publishing company or corporation the government is free to censor your work.

Gerry said...

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Skyler,

Newspapers, also known as "the press" are specifically mentioned in the first amendment.

Newspapers don't have to be a corporation though I would guess that these days the vast majority are.

Had the founding fathers meant for entities other than individuals or the press to be given first amendment protections they would likely have explicitly included them yet I see no mention of corporations in the amendment.

The amendment clearly gives individual citizens and organizations fulfilling the role of "the press" the right to speak their mind. A CEO, acting as an individual, is free to speak his mind on whatever topic he wants (oh wait...there are some rules that prohibit some corporate officers from making certain kinds of business/financial statements so I guess free speech is not absolute).

Even with our first amendment we do not really allow everyone to say whatever crazy crap they want - there are limits such as libel and slander laws.

It's amusing to see so many on the right today trumpeting their belief that this decision is a victory for free speech. Yet so many of those same folks don't really believe in free speech when it comes to symbolic forms of protest in the form of flag burning.

My bottom line is that I detest the power and influence that corporations have in the legislative process and this decision just adds to that power.

If you welcome and desire more corporate influence in government well I guess today is a day for you to celebrate.

As I said earlier, when some of the richest corporations such as Microsoft or Google or Apple, start dropping boatloads of cash to support/sway the playing field on some left leaning issues will the wingnuts still believe that this type of speech is a good thing?

Paul Zrimsek said...

Yet real citizens are still prevented from contributing as much money as they want to a candidate.

As are corporations.

Skyler said...

The problem, Gerry, is deciding what constitutes "the press."

Most would agree that The Nantucket Mirror and Inquirer is the Press. They print a newspaper regularly and it is in a traditional form.

But is Ann Althouse part of The Press? Non-traditional media, but certainly a regular publisher.

What about Slate? It's on line and is a corporation. How is that different from Professor Althouse?

What about terrorist organizations such as Green Peace? They certainly go beyond their hobby of terrorizing peaceful ships and they publish political tracts. Surely this is not too dissimilar from Thomas Payne's pamphlets in mechanism if not in patriotism. Would not that pamphleteering be part of The Press?

So why is Exxon Corporation, or even your local Brewery not allowed to call itself The Press? Why should their political speech be suppressed when Green Peace's is not?

Sofa King said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sofa King said...

Had the founding fathers meant for entities other than individuals or the press to be given first amendment protections they would likely have explicitly included them yet I see no mention of corporations in the amendment.


What is a corporation? It is a legal collective...of people. A corporation cannot exist without people. If people have rights when they act individually, why oughtn't they have those rights when acting collectively?

The Amendment certainly doesn't explicitly except corporations, as you seem to imply. I see a prohibition on the abridgment of "speech," generally, without any specific limitation as to its source. And I think that our sense of right and wrong would not countenance a legal system that takes away the rights of people simply because they are acting collectively.

For example - the Fourth Amendment doesn't mention the press. Would you be okay with the government conducting warrantless searches and seizures of the offices of the New York Times? The Fifth Amendment doesn't mention the press. Should the government be able to simply appropriate any corporate property without any compensation whatsoever? Are you meaning to suggest that you would find no constitutional problem with the government just arbitrarily liquidating corporations it disfavors with no process whatsoever? These are the logical consequences of your argument.

I submit most people don't think so. Thus most people agree that corporations should have at least some of the same rights as people, and furthermore that this is a reasonable reading of the Constitution, which does not, generally speaking, discriminate between individual and collective enterprise.

jaed said...

Newspapers, also known as "the press" are specifically mentioned in the first amendment.

OH FOR JEFFERSON'S SAKE.

This is one of the most egregious misreadings of the Constitution there is, and no less egregious for being widespread. Particularly among journalists, to their shame.

Freedom of the press is the freedom to use a printing press. The freedom to publish, which goes with the freedom to speak. You do not need to be an employee of a media corporation to enjoy freedom of the press. You have it, I have it, everyone has it. The right of all to publish their thoughts, without interference by Congress, is recognized in the First Amendment. The claim that this right is restricted to a special class of persons called "journalists", or a special class of corporations called "newspapers" or "media", is an infamous falsehood and any American who promulgates it ought to be forced to write out the Declaration of Independence, by hand, a hundred times.

And then apologize to each and every one of his or her fellow citizens. Gerry, I sure hope you're not an American. Really, this is right on a level with claiming that freedom of speech applies only to professional public speakers. Except that public speakers aren't self-aggrandizing enough to believe and to teach that the Constitution mentions their profession specially.

Sheesh.