Free Speech for Corporations

Why the Supreme Court got it right in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission

During the 2008 campaign, a group called Citizens United put together a documentary, Hillary: The Movie. Remember seeing it on cable TV? No, you don’t, because the organization decided it couldn’t show the film without the risk of felony prosecution. It had every reason to be afraid.

The problem was that the movie was not only about Clinton but made the case that she should not be president. Worse, it was supposed to be shown during—get this—an election campaign. That, under the federal law, made it verboten.

You might think the point of a campaign is to air facts and opinions about the people running, so that voters will have a wealth of information upon which to choose. But in the judgment of Congress, some facts and opinions are not welcome.

Citizens United is a nonprofit corporation set up to engage in conservative advocacy—an assemblage of individuals working for a political agenda. As individuals, they have the right to spend money to spread their opinions. But when they form a corporation for that purpose, some people think the same activities should be illegal.

That point of view prevailed in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, which forbade corporations from engaging in “electioneering communication” within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election. But Citizens United claimed the rule violated its free speech rights. And last week, the Supreme Court agreed.

The result was not in much doubt after the justices heard the case. The government lawyer defending the statute was asked: If movies financed by corporations may be banned because they express opinions on candidates, how about books?

“It’s a 500-page book, and at the end it says, ‘So vote for X,’ the government could ban that?” asked Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. Replied the Justice Department attorney, “Well, if it says ‘vote for X,’ it would be express advocacy and it would be covered by the pre-existing Federal Election Campaign Act provision.”

If the corporation wanted to publish such a book, he continued, “we could prohibit the publication of the book using corporate treasury funds.” We could prohibit the publication of the book.

If corporate advocacy may be forbidden as it was under the law in question, it’s not just Exxon Mobil and Citigroup that are rendered mute. Nonprofit corporations set up merely to advance goals shared by citizens, such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Rifle Association, also have to put a sock in it. So much for the First Amendment goal of fostering debate about public policy.

It is often argued that corporate speech may be banned because corporations enjoy certain privileges afforded by law. But it’s a longstanding constitutional axiom that the government may not require the surrender of constitutional rights in exchange for state-furnished benefits—say, barring criticism of Congress by residents of public housing.

Once you grant the government that sort of power, it is bound to expand. Newspapers could be forbidden to make endorsements. Right now, media companies are exempt from the ban. But why should a newspaper be free to spend money urging voters to support a candidate, while other companies are not?

Critics fear that freed from constraints, giant corporations will burn vast sums to help or hurt politicians. In reality, most business people are not about to plunge into divisive election campaigns, for fear of antagonizing customers.

Apple and Microsoft are not going to be squaring off to see who can elect the next president. In Illinois, corporations have always been allowed to spend money on elections. They rarely take any noticeable role.

In the end, the right to speak does not mean the power to control the political process. It merely means the right to convey views that citizens are free to reject—which, if they distrust corporate power, is exactly what they are likely to do.

Under this ruling, corporations will be allowed to speak about politics, just as they may speak about their products. In both realms, though, the effort is wasted unless they offer something their audience wants. The marketplace of ideas is not so different from the marketplace of goods.

Corporations have the freedom to communicate what they want. But the people still have the ultimate right: the right to say no.

COPYRIGHT 2010 CREATORS.COM

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  • Suki||

    Good Morning reason!

  • Untermensch||

    But to hear most of the punditry, this is the end of democracy and tomorrow we're going to wake up and find ourselves in Bladerunner. This is entertaining if nothing else because of the absolute hysteria it's engendered.

  • TheOtherSomeGuy||

    Watching Democrats running around trying to engage in censorship, after fighting against it for so long, as in the case of evolution being taught in schools, is quite entertaining, if a bit annoying.

  • jack||

    Well generally corporations have a really great track record of social responsibility and a concern for the well being of the individual so I don't see any reason not to let them use their resources to try and shape the assumptions of the public to further their agenda.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    In reality, most business people are not about to plunge into divisive election campaigns, for fear of antagonizing customers.

    Like, say, a major soft drink company changing its logo to more match the brand of an exciting new candidate?

  • ||

    which explains why I don't drink Pepsi anymore

  • ||

    well does peps's logo match any of the brand of any candidate in elections?

  • TP||

    Corporations have the freedom to communicate what they want. But the people still have the ultimate right: the right to say no.

    Candidates also have the "right" to sue for libel. Big corporations and labor unions have much bigger pockets than some political hack blogger.

  • ||

    I predict zero (0) libel cases as a result of this ruling.

    A libel case draws more attention to something that hurts your campaign, and gives the defendant the opportunity to engage in discovery, under oath, to prove the truth of their claims.

    So only a moron would sue for libel over a campaign ad.

    Let me revise my prediction. I expect a deluge of libel cases as a result of this decision.

  • JohnD||

    Pretty funny, Dean. You may be right.

  • Jimmy 'Crack' Corn||

    "A libel case draws more attention to something that hurts your campaign, and gives the defendant the opportunity to engage in discovery, under oath, to prove the truth of their claims."

    How about the case of the loser filing a suit after the campaign? That might be more likely. Say, Ex-Senator John Edwards suing the rags for saying he had a love child...

  • ||

    Corporations do not have the right to communicate what they want. They must speak only in furtherance of their own profit; otherwise they risk being charged with breach of fiduciary duty. Every corporate utterance is made under duress, the duress imposed by its corporate charter and by many court decisions concerning fiduciary duty.

  • TheOtherSomeGuy||

    Thank You Steve Chapman!

    I've been saying this stuff for the last week, and it falls on deaf liberal ears.

    I, for one, pride myself on NOT doing whatever the commercials on TV tell me to do. I like to think that I try to form my own opinions, and that a major corporations can't give me the Clockwork Orange treatment by running ads on TV during elections.

  • Ratko||

    The Ludovico Technique?

  • ed||

    the effort is wasted unless they offer something their audience wants

    That's why the lefties hate it. They fear a wide-scale populist revolt, the beginnings of which they witnessed last summer. They are petrified that they may lose control of the propaganda machine. They have luxuriated in dependable if not craven support from Hollywood, the music industry, even the so-called objective press for so long that they consider it a birthright. All that is in jeopardy now, they fear. Do they have so little confidence in their leadership, their legislators, their very philosophy, that mere information could topple their little fiefdoms?

  • TP||

    Who's being paranoid?

  • ed||

    I give up. Who?

  • Ratko||

    Control as a birthright sounds like aristocracy. Aristocrats who believe they represent democracy may or may not be paranoid, but they certainly must be suffering some type of multiple personality disorder.

  • DJF||

    I have no problem with the corporate owners, board of directors, management and union members and bosses having free speech, it is their right. Just lets remove their limited liability so they have the same status and every other citizen and not. I see no benefit to me for some to get special government issued protection and not others.

  • Michael Ejercito||


    I have no problem with the corporate owners, board of directors, management and union members and bosses having free speech, it is their right. Just lets remove their limited liability so they have the same status and every other citizen and not. I see no benefit to me for some to get special government issued protection and not others.


    Limited liability shields investors from corporate debts (just like it shields registered voters from government debts).

    It does not shield corporate agents from any tortious actions they took on behalf of the corporation.

  • Wicks Cherrycoke||

    What the hell does limited liability ahve to do with the government's lack of authority to regulate speech. The issue is not the coporation's or union's "rights." It is the absence of government power to regulate communications, especially political communications.

    And--corporations and unions do not have "limited liability." Investors have liability limited to their investments, but the corporation has the same unlimited liability as anyone else.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Investors have liability limited to their investments, but the corporation has the same unlimited liability as anyone else.

    And as an artificial person, what are the consequences of this unlimited liability? In the worst case, the corporation is dissolved. In that case, what is liability of the real people that make up that collective?

  • Mr. J||

    The corporation can be fined.

    The executives can be jailed.

    The investors can lose their investment.

  • Suki||

    Yes, we have seen this recently. So what is so great about that corporate veil these days?

  • Ratko||

    Agreed. Surely those who have lost or are sitting in prison would be hard pressed to answer your question.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    The concept of unlimited liabilty is every bit as much an artificial construct as the opposite.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Indeed, however, corporations are not held to the same standards of liability as individuals, for a lot of reasons. There is a degree of protection against the actions of the individual officer's actions, who are typically prosecuted as individuals. There are good reasons for this, but the artificial persons that corporations are do not face liability for their actions in the same way or to the same degree as individuals.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    I've never considered that there was a good reason for unlimited liabilty in the first place.

    Why should someone who is 1% responsible for some damage have to pay up to 100% just because they couldn't get the money out of the person who actually was responsible for 99% of the damage?

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Why should someone who is 1% responsible for some damage have to pay up to 100% just because they couldn't get the money out of the person who actually was responsible for 99% of the damage?


    It depends. I support the legal doctrine of respondeat superior .

    As a matter of fact, corporations can be held 100% liable for the actions of its employees, from the minimum-wage intern to the chairman of the boar just as it should.

    It makes sense for the state of Washington to be 100% liable for the actions of a Washington National Guard private.

    It does not make sense for Bill Gates to be 100% liable for the actions of a Washington National Guard private (assuming he did not employ the private).

  • ||

    You act as if this is no big deal, and all the investors can just shrug it off and walk away unharmed. Investors can lose their entire investment, which can be significant. Individual officers can be held criminally liable for their actions, in some cases.

    And what does this have to do with the right to free speech?

  • Neu Mejican||

    I believe the reason this comes up is because the ruling essentially equates corporations with people and claims they have the same set of rights. Bringing the ways in which corporations have special privileges into a discussion opens up the topic of whether those privileges come with increased responsibilities or restrictions on behavior.

  • anonymous||

    According to you. According to the ruling, it simply suggests that Congress constitutionally lacks the power to carve out exceptions to the first amendment.

    According to the strictest interpretation of the first amendment, if people ever legitimately came to view certain animal communication as "speech" of a sort, that animal speech would also be protected (and yet, animals would still not be considered the equivalent of human beings in general). The first protects all speech, regardless of its source.

    Besides, you surely don't believe that corporations have no first amendment rights when it comes to establishment of religion -- that is, if Congress passed a law requiring all corporations to officially acknowledge Christianity as their religion, you would consider it a violation even though no human beings directly had their religious rights violated. And you would point out, hypocritically, that even though the motivation was the human right of freedom of conscience, the mechanism was a blanket ban on Congressional action. And so it is with speech.

  • Neu Mejican||

    In your example you contend that as far as speech is concerned, corporations and people (and anything else that can speak) are equivalent (a rephrasing of my point, in essence).

    Those who disagree with the decision say that the logic used to come to the decision is flawed because the source of the speech does matter. They may point to limited liability as one way the they are different.

    As for you second paragraph...who is this "you" of which you speak. It certainly ain't me.

  • ||

    "Those who disagree with the decision say that the logic used to come to the decision is flawed because the source of the speech does matter. They may point to limited liability as one way the they are different."

    But that point is wrong. The source of the speech is irrelevant because the constitution doesn't ever mention the source.

    Your original argument was also wrong and misleading. The constitution doesn't really protect any right to free speech. Its merely prevents the government from regulating speech. You have interpreted this as protecting the right to free speech. You can choose to interpret it this way but you are still obliged to understand the actual text and what it says. It never protects any rights. It only restrict government from regulating speech regardless of the source of the speech. Thus the constitution also protects the speech of non-citizens, cylons and toasters.

  • ||

    The constitution protects the rights of the individual to free speech. The fact that corporations are considered as "persons" under the law is a disgusting perversion of this concept. For REASON to make the occasional, and accurate, indictment against "crony capitalism" and then support this travesty is appalling. In the overwhelming majority of political races the winner is the candidate with the most money. Now we can be "free" to have "the best government money can buy!"

  • ||

    No, the Constitution does not protect the right of the individual to free speech. It limits the power of the State to punish speech.

    Ponder the distinction, libertylover.

  • Soonerliberty||

    "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."

    I think you're reading it wrongly. It also protects the free speech of groups. Otherwise, it makes no sense to include it in a list of rights focusing on rights dealing with groups: freedom of the press, freedom of religion, right to assemble peaceably. It makes sense that they meant groups as well when you consider their views and ours on voluntary association. What logic is there behind "we have an individual right to free speech but not when individuals organize in the form of a group"?

    You may not like it that it seems to favor corporations. However, free speech is not what causes crony capitalism. On the contrary, it is much likelier to occur in the absence of free speech, because now you can organize a group to protest crony capitalism right before an election. Second, crony capitalism has a lot more to do with wealth confiscation and redistribution than the free speech of corporations. We've long had the best government money can buy, but this won't change because of this ruling. It will only change when government stops regulating the hell out of every industry it can. If you take the politics out of our money, the money will leave politics.

  • Chris||

    "If you take the politics out of our money, the money will leave politics."

  • Chris||

    +10

    Very plagiarism-worthy!

  • Jimmy 'Crack' Corn||

    Libertylover

    "The fact that corporations are considered as "persons" under the law is a disgusting perversion of this concept."

    Just remember leftie, this includes unions too. Although admittedly, they couldn't possibly have any power in modern politics.

  • tom||

    Bringing the ways in which corporations have special privileges into a discussion opens up the topic of whether those privileges come with increased responsibilities or restrictions on behavior. It's like no money down real estate investing during the hay days.

  • ||

    >The fact that corporations are considered as "persons" under the law is a disgusting perversion of this concept.

    The ruling had to do with the governments regulation of Constitutionally-protected political speech.

    A corporation and/or labor union is made up of people. Not automaton robots. Individuals with First Amendment rights. There is nothing in the first amendment that prohibits groups of people from exercising that right, but there IS clear limitations on government's ability to restrict what they say.

    Deal with it. The fact that this has to be explained to supporters of an all-powerful national government that is here to "save" us from political ads on TV that we can ignore or switch off says more about the supporters of statism than it does about "corporations."

    >Now we can be "free" to have "the best government money can buy!"

    Obama got more donations from Wall Street and raised more cash than any candidate in history.

    And that was with this stupid law in place.

    Methinks the problem isn't the money, and the Obama-ites certainly weren't complaining about money in politics in 2008. Were they?

  • ||

    You say that a corporation is made up of people, but that's just not true. It's made up of shares, which may be held by other corporations, and it's made up of employees who have no free-speech rights within the corporation.

    Neither is the speech of the corporation free. The speech of officers and directors must be in furtherance of corporate profit to avoid breach of fiduciary duty. And the collective voice of the corporations speaks, not for the shareholders, but for the shares.

    How can Constitutional freedom of speech apply to an entity which is not free?

  • ||

    "You say that a corporation is made up of people, but that's just not true. It's made up of shares, which may be held by other corporations, and it's made up of employees who have no free-speech rights within the corporation."

    So what? It doesn't matter whether its made up of people. It could just be a machine. It doesn't really matter. Constitution does not say that government may regulate the speech of non-persons.

  • ||

    "Neither is the speech of the corporation free. The speech of officers and directors must be in furtherance of corporate profit to avoid breach of fiduciary duty"

    You have never read Ben Graham, Warren Buffet or the investing literature, have you? Its difficult to get directors, management to even make financial decisions which are the best interest of shareholders and your talking about speech?! What your saying may be true in some very weird abstract theoretical sense (even this I doubt) but practically its totally false. Management has enormous scope and leeway to do whatever they damn well please and they often make decisions that are not in the best interests of shareholders.

  • ||

    Corporations are not people. If the individuals in a corporation want to spend their own money supporting candidates, fine. Using corporate funds at the behest of the board of directors to influence elections is oligarchy NOT democracy. This will lead to a gross distortion of the political process, with "swift-boating" becoming the common practice of the day. BTW, Obama is a corporate tool.

  • Justice Antonin Scalia||

    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.

  • ||

    Corporations are not people, they should be considered as such.

  • ||

    They aren't. They're groups of people. Like religions, unions, advocacy groups, non-profits, clubs, political parties, etc.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    You seem to be willfully refusing to get it.

    The Constitution restricts the federal government from interefering in free speech.

    The nature of who or what is doing the speaking is irrelevant.

  • ||

    If corporations are allowed to set the terms of the debate (which they already do) there isn't going to be any free speech. If the consolidation of newspapers, websites, radio stations, tv networks and the like continues the only voice left will be the corporate voice. get out of the classroom and into the real world sometime.

  • anonymous||

    Actually, media corporations have been in favor of these laws, since they're granted an exemption. All corporations might be equally non-human, but some are more non-human than others.

  • ||

    All the people that have tried to set you straight are correct.

    But there's another point. The money still got spent. It just has to jump through a few more hoops and government has (well had) more say. Soros had to work through moveon and media matters. Now he'll be able to (should he choose to) spend directly. I prefer the latter. It's more honest and transparent than all the front groups.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "If corporations are allowed to set the terms of the debate (which they already do) there isn't going to be any free speech."

    You mean corporations like the New York Times, the Washington Post and CBS?

    Those are the only type corporations setting the terms of the debate. And they have a reliable habit of framing those terms in ways that veer to the left.

    You're just pissed that they won't have that monopoply anymore.

  • Mr. J||

    How is this relevant to the ruling?

  • OMG||

    Corporations are not people ... Soilent Green is people! Soilent Green is people!

  • ||

    Not to quibble, but Soilent Green is dirt.

  • Jimmy 'Crack' Corn||

    Union aren't people either Ll.

  • Soonerliberty||

    You forget that without this mechanism, the leftist trial bar couldn't sue the fuck out of corporations for tons of money. If lawyers could only sue individuals, corporations would never get sued, because it simply wouldn't be worth it. Which leftist goal do we want: protecting consumers with massive settlements for lawyers or abolishing free speech for groups?

  • ||

    Libertylover you are confusing causation and correlation. the candidate with the most money is usually the incumbent and they win no matter how much they spend. I will always go back to John Corzine. He spent $52 million. 5 times his opponent and didn't even get 50% of the vote in a heavily democratic state. He won but I seriously doubt that it was because of the money.

  • ||

    Never said it was a 100% correlation, and yes incumbency provides a fiscal advantage. The rule holds in open races too. We should be seeking ways to prevent $ from corrupting democracy, not encouraging it. I can't honestly say that the limits, as they existed, prevented that from happening but this certainly won't improve the situation.

  • ||

    What corrupts our system is placing too much control and too much power in our government. Nothing in the universe will stop people from going to corruptible politicians to buy influence. In one way or the other, they'll get it. The solution is a strictly limited government.

  • wow, kittens||

    corporations are becoming your government you ignorant fuck.

  • ||

    What effect did the law have to diminish the influence of anyone with money and/or power on the government? Is it for this that we want to limit speech rights?

    Leaving out altogether the idea that access to the major media requires money and means that people can't really communicate without pooling resources, whether that's in a business, consumer advocacy group, union, what have you.

  • john||

    how likely am i as an individual to get face to face with a senator, if a group is paying many people, especially connected people, like former senators, to monopolize that senator's free time?
    the corporations get more speech because of the resources they have.

  • J_L_B||

    But it’s a longstanding constitutional axiom that the government may not require the surrender of constitutional rights in exchange for state-furnished benefits—say, barring criticism of Congress by residents of public housing.

    Really? Then why are churches and other places of worship denied their rights because of tax-exempt status?

  • ||

    I think churches should pay taxes. Then the members can exercise their First Amendment rights through the church, if they so choose.

    I have yet to see a good argument for exempting churches from taxes - especially when you look at creeps like Jimmy Swaggart, Pat Robertson, and Jerry Falwell duping the gullible masses out of millions of dollars in the name of salvation.

  • Mr. J||

    The power to tax is the power to destroy. As an atheist I care little for organized religion, but even I see a tax as fundamentally at odds with the first amendment.

  • J_L_B||

    In the course of their religious duties, religion A engages in behavior that is tax-deductible, while the dogma of religion B lacks those customs. Litanies of lawsuits then result questioning each difference and whether the state has an interest in differential tax treatment in each detailed case. A mosque sues claiming agricultural subsidies for Napa Valley wine produces is an unconstitutional establishment of religion. Eventually, the cost of litigation for the tax treatment of each difference will be so paramount as to cause tax-exemption to be reinstated to save the cost of litigation.

  • ||

    As someone who works for a non-profit, I would be happy to see churches and other non-profits lose their tax exemption if they were allowed to deduct amounts spent on their non-profit mission.

  • Colon Bowell||

    They would, RC. Taxable entities are always deducting their expenses to reduce their tax liabilities.

  • Untermensch||

    I keep waiting for Tony to arrive and tell us why this is horrible.

    However, I find it interesting the elitism of the argument put forth by many lefties: they, themselves, are supposedly able to see past corporate propaganda, but the unwashed masses are mindless bots waiting to be ordered into action. If they didn't believe themselves mentally superior to others, they wouldn't have this reaction to the SC ruling. But because they do believe themselves superior, they have to protect the rest of the schmucks out there who are too stupid to engage in critical response to a political ad.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    They do indeed believe themselves superior - even though none of them have ever actually accomplished anything that proves it.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Check out the comments in the Chicago Tribune website.

    www.chicagotribune.com/news/op.....158.column

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Check out the comments in the Chicago Tribune website.


    Is the Tribune corporate-owned?

  • JD||

    They're owned by the Tribune Company, which is a privately-held corporation, but was publicly traded between 1983 and 2007. This is from their own website: http://www.tribune.com/about/history.html

    Actually, shouldn't we consider that as even worse? At least I could buy ownership shares in a publicly traded company, but I've got no hope at all of getting any degree of control over the Tribune Company.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Just don't buy their newspapers. Vote with your own wallet.

  • Tony||

    As educated and politically aware people, we are capable of realizing what it means when an anti-healthcare ad is sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. Most people are not as politically aware, and just see "this bill will kill your granny." This argument is a little too optimistic about the skepticism of the average citizen. Advertising is a huge and expensive industry for a reason.

  • Michael Ejercito||


    As educated and politically aware people, we are capable of realizing what it means when an anti-healthcare ad is sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. Most people are not as politically aware, and just see "this bill will kill your granny." This argument is a little too optimistic about the skepticism of the average citizen. Advertising is a huge and expensive industry for a reason.


    I agree, hence all of the criticism of the corporate-owned New York Times and Washington Posts of publishing articles to influence elections.

  • Jimmy 'Crack' Corn||

    Tony "Most people are not as politically aware,"

    Who are 'most people'? Who determines who the 'politically aware' are? Maybe we should only let these people vote.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    If anyone is ignorant of anything, that is their own problem and it is not my responsibility to babysit them.

  • Untermensch||

    Huge and expensive and highly risky. If money spent = results, we'd all be using Zunes. Of course advertising has an impact, but it isn't as simple as you make it out to be. Some of the most expensive advertising campaigns have been utter flops, and if the reality of a product or service doesn't live up to the ads they are very quickly turned upon by the public. If only the same were true of politicians.

    Tony, when was the last time you bought something solely because an advertisement told you to? When was the last time you were snookered into mindlessly carrying out a program injected into your subconscious by a corporation through media campaigns (versus you became aware of an option you didn't know about before)? If you can't point to an instance where you were overwhelmed by media persuasion, why do you think you're the exception to the rule and that others are being snookered?

    Advertising at best puts forth propositions (this car will get you more sex, this shampoo will get your hair cleaner), propositions that may or may not be compelling to you based on many, many factors that are beyond the control of the advertiser.

    Advertising companies are constantly trying to find edges and new angles precisely because what they're doing now doesn't work for most people: it simply works on the margins of people who want to be persuaded. Even my children (9 years and 7 years old) get that, for crying out loud: they spend half their time at the boob tube mocking inept advertisements and engaging in critical readings of others (at least as critical as they can be). They even, get this, mock political ads on a regular basis. Sure, they ask for things that are advertised, but only the things that offer them a compelling proposition, not every bit of junk that they're bombarded with. More than once they've told me that they don't want to buy something because of ads that they found lacking. The ads raise their awareness of brands and items, but it's far from a foregone conclusion that that awareness is in favor of the item.

    If young children can do that (and I make no claim that my children are in any way exceptional), do you really think that everyone (excepting you and a selected overclass) is so stupid that they need to be protected from advertisements that might encourage them to vote for someone or think about a political issue in a new way, that they are mindless robots that pull the lever because the TV told them too? If you think that, why should media organizations have any sort of exemption at all? I'm sorry you think so little of people.

  • starbell||

    amen. Also, corporations are not likely to plunge into spending money on endorsing/criticizing politicians leading up to elections because it is (sadly) more effective to lobby on K street. Advertisements at least leave the voters the right to make up their own minds on the issues.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Lobbying should be completely unrestricted too, for all I care. The real problem is the government's power to regulate so heavily in the first place.

  • ||

    I tend to agree that it is unfair to apply censorship rules to some forms of speech and not to others. But I think Chapman is out to lunch with the following two quotes:

    "In reality, most business people are not about to plunge into divisive election campaigns, for fear of antagonizing customers"
    ."the right to speak does not mean the power to control the political process".

    Of course corporations are using their money to lobby and persuade the public to adopt particular points of view. They don't antagonize customers because they do it through shell companies and other less discrete forms. And Chapman thinks this does not mean they have the power to influence the voters' opinions anyway - WTF!? Why else is so much spent on advertising? Advertising and propaganda work to influence consumer and voting behavior - that is why it is done! Hence, the more money you have to spend the more power you have to change election outcomes. Period.

  • joeschmo||

    Two facts about the issue:

    1) corporations have always had the right to express and fund political views via segregated fund contributions from employees and share holders

    2)Company treasuries are accrued and accumulate through state-sanctioned beneficial tax laws

    S.C. majority decision, 1990 RE campaign finance rules (Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce):

    "We emphasize that the mere fact that corporations may accumulate large amounts of wealth is not sufficient for [regulation]; rather, the unique state-conferred corporate structure that facilitates the amassing of large treasuries warrants the limit on independent [campaign] expenditures"

    And what's changed since then regarding the law and our constitution? - new SC appointees.

    text of 1990 ruling:

    http://www.law.stanford.edu/pu.....4us652.pdf

  • joeschmo||

    Some more critique of this Steve Chapman article:

    Article: "You might think the point of a campaign is to air facts and opinions about the people running, so that voters will have a wealth of information upon which to choose. But in the judgment of Congress, some facts and opinions are not welcome."

    Untrue.

    As noted in my post above, any entity, corporate or otherwise can spend on elections any which way it wants. Just not using its treasury, accrued through state-sponsored beneficial tax laws.

    Article: "As individuals, they have the right to spend money to spread their opinions. But when they form a corporation for that purpose, some people think the same activities should be illegal."

    Untrue

    Once again you fail to acknowledge the distinction between using a corporation's treasuries, versus its ability to voice concern just like every other person and entity. If that entails purchasing air time for example, that is paid for by the company shareholders and company employees - the same way any entity or individual pays.

    Article: "If corporate advocacy may be forbidden as it was under the law in question, it’s not just Exxon Mobil and Citigroup that are rendered mute. Nonprofit corporations set up merely to advance goals shared by citizens, such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Rifle Association, also have to put a sock in it. So much for the First Amendment goal of fostering debate about public policy."

    Untrue - and very misinformed.

    In fact the supreme court in FEC vs Massachusetts Citizens for Life, affirmed that non-profit entities set up for the purpose of promoting political ideas were EXEMPT from campaign restrictions.

    It was this SC ruling that, for the purpose of campaign financing regulation, has done away with any distinction between a non-profit political entity, and a for-profit corporation.

  • ||

    So, Koch brothers win! You know the jokes are in the details; unless you aleady have, these events should come as a blessing from the god(s). But, if your a squirrel attempting to get your nut, well your left behind.
    Are you libertines, libertarians or what? Either way their will be a public revolt or further disolution of the "Nation State" concept or both. Which is fine by me, I'm not Roman; the Huns have crossed the Rubicon and they (we) will sack Rome tonight (history repeats itself).

  • Jake-the-rake||

    Freedom of speech? Ever hear the expression "money talks, bullshit walks?" Wanna become an ambassador? Collect funds for the winning presidential candidate! Check out Obama's appointees. Hey, where did all the little shops go? Shall we discuss the personhood of Burger King? Why is the free speech of Corporations "regulated" when they advertise?

    What's wrong with Corporations just paying people to vote for their favored candidate? Why can only politicians be bought... how about us folks?

    Advertising power means nothing. Interesting!

    Welcome to plutocracy. Now to see what I mean, start a debate about who makes the best pizza. You'll be discussing brand names quoted in the stock market, each worth billions, and each lousier than the what the little, unfranchised guy used to make. What happened to the old non-Starbucks cafès? Couldn't afford (nor interested in) million dollar, coast to coast publicity campaigns maybe.

    The love of money is the root of all evil. Enjoy, corporate America. And don't worry, the politicians will be honest now that being bought isn't a crime. Problem solved. But I wonder... with tweets, blogs, facebooks, youtubes, robocalls, and all the rest, the price of spreading ideas has plunged. Oh, they're not interested in spreading... they're interested in "selling"... Ho capito! Freedom of speech is really about freedom to market.

    Hello, I'm Scott Brown and I drive this truck. Brilliant.

    Hello, I'm Thomas Jefferson and I use this fishing rod.

    Hell I'll go along with it, if politicians wear Formula One style suits with the logos of Insurance Companies on their butts and Big Pharma down their arms... and big retail on their cod pieces.

    Eisenhower: "Beware of the establishment of an Military Industrial Complex!"

    (Nah, no way, could never happen. Money doesn't corrupt! And Corporations are persons, evolved from apes, have ejaculation problems, go into menopause, tune out and become Buddhists. They're just like us... and not single-purpose doggedly-determined entities - like the first Terminator.

    la la la li li li

  • ||

    jake,

    costco makes the best pizza. and are you seriously pretending there arent millions of little pizza places all over the country?

    and you know money is an abstraction, right? money is the root of all evil is the dumbest phrase i have ever heard. so if we got rid of money, rape, murder, and bullying would disappear?
    you really dont think people fight even more over status than over money? you must be something in person!

    you belong in a hospital, and i am going to costco tomorrow for 2 huge slices of pizza for $4

  • joeschmo||

    "and are you seriously pretending there arent millions of little pizza places all over the country?"

    You mean Pizza Huts, Dominos, Pappa Johns, LIttle Ceasars, Boston Pizzas et al?

    "costco makes the best pizza"

    If you add some fresh vegetables it's ok.

  • ||

    Here's why the Supreme Court got it wrong: Corporations do not have free will, and so cannot engage in free speech.

    The speech permitted to a corporation is determined by its charter and by various court decisions. A for-profit corporation is required to speak only in furtherance of its profit; to do otherwise is a breach of fiduciary duty.

    Truly free corporate speech would require unbinding it from the speech constraints inherent in its charter and in previous court decisions. Unless and until that happens, it is entirely constitutional to keep its speech out of the political arena where it drowns out true free speech.

  • joeschmo||

    2ndary issue in my oppinion.

    As judges have pointed out on both sides of the issue:

    A company's participation in an election will be guided towards that outcome which increases its future returns. Therefore, given the chance to participate in the process, even if a company 'bets wrong', it would be hard to claim it breached its fiduciary duty in doing so.

    Furthermore, the law as it stands today, gives little recourse for stakeholders of a company to make claims of fiduciary breaches - their principal recourse is to sell their stake in the company.

  • Abdul Alhazred||

    To hear some of the hysterics about this you'd think that campaign commercials equal mind control. Personally if I don't like a candidate, seeing his or her commercials a dozen more times doesn't wear me down, it pisses me off.

    If people don't like politicians who prioritize corporate interests over their own, don't vote for them. Congressional votes are a matter of public record.

    Some will say "well but so many people are stupid, they'll just do whatever a commercial tells them and won't research anything." I'm sure in some cases that's true, but it speaks to a much deeper problem, if your electorate is that stupid or lazy or gullible, you've got deeper problems than can be solved by any law or bureaucracy.

  • joeshmo||

    The issue doesn't rest on whether voters are well informed or uninformed, stupid or smart, gullible or discerning.

    The issue is about the corruptive influence of corporate spending in politics (or any spending for that matter). That is to say, company A promotes candidate A. Candidate A's agenda when elected will tend to favor company A. That is the most simplistic form of corruption, or quid pro quo. In real life, the scenarios may play out more subtely, but the influence is most certainly there.

    You can argue that advertising has a desired outcome, or you can argue that it doesn't.

    You can't however argue about the money that is already in politics. The politicians are on record about this and know it to be true - that's why there have been many legilative attempts at position-neutral campaign financing policies. And even before the SOTUS descision, the meat of the legislative measures resulted in only modest restrictions.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    The correct solution then is to simply restrict government from favoring any company's (or group's) agenda, in other words, establish a free market.

  • Jake-the-rake||

    Ciao Blake,

    But of course I belong in a hospital for not wanting the corporate take over of America (aka fast food nation).

    I'll be joining - at least in spirit - the founding fathers and plenty of others. After all, there was no free speech for personhood corporations just a couple of weeks ago, before the Supreme Court "legislated" this ruling to the sensationally dumbed down American audience (hard to call them people anymore).

    Rightwing Libertarians are such useful idiots!

    No, no, no, Blake, money is not a corruptive influence on politics... why I must be dreaming! Famous scientists don't invent hockey sticks for grants, power and position, they do it just for the hell of it. Huge corporations haven't knocked out the little guy. I'm dreaming, Blake, I truly belong in a hospital, where I can get my swine flu shot (nothing was done by Big Pharma, in cahoots with the Govt. to spread panic). Wall Street hasn't replaced Main Street and we are not 100 trillion in debt on account of it. Two salaries are barely enough to bring up a family, but not to worry, the kids being brought up on TV (that corporate favorite) will know how to discern... They're free!! We're free, you're free, everybody's free!

    Hey, enjoy your Costco pizza, maybe I'll join you (always in spirit) and go to Ikea - here in Italy - for a fine Swedish meal.

    Enjoy your meal, Blake, have a nice day and be sure to check out our 9.99 offers, don't forget your coupon, and our discounts on happy smile insurance... we also sell hearing aids, gasoline, home appliances, solar panels, pharmaceuticals... just what you'd expect from your favorite pizzeria! And fear not, we now accept food stamps! Seeing as 1 in 7 Americans, and one in four children are surviving on them in the land of the free and prosperity, we recently changed our policy.

    In 1968, McDonald's had 1,000 restaurants – today it has about 30,000, and 2,000 new ones are opening each year. Wow! They're really free! No time to cook those meals at home! Ronald McDonald,an orange clown, is America's most recognized figure! But it's free! And freedom is beautiful... and the entry level for little guys is negligible! Nobody got muscled out! (No no no)

    Fear not, big money doesn't liase with big government, they are only big, but not powerful! They don't control, they are never in cahoots. And really freedom is so so soooo important... though only us sick guys who belong in a hospital, sometimes see it as nothing left to lose.

    One in seven Americans (1 in 4 children) on food stamps. In America! Land of corporations, well-being, hope 'n' change... Freedom baby, it's a beautiful thing!

    The other day Giuseppina made my cappuccino too hot and I scalded my lips! In a free country, like the USA, I could've made a million bucks! Instead Giuseppina only apologized and then she made fun of me... and I made fun of her back (in a free country I'd have been hauled in for harassment). Giuseppina has a nice ass.

    I prefer Giuseppina's to Starbucks. I'm a sick bastard.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    You belong on a riverbed, for being an obnoxious troll.

  • ||

    How much money would it cost to have you change your opinion of me? More than a Senator to prefer Grumman over Northrop? Or less that a state senator to suggest another road to a Walmart?

    Just askin'

  • Vincenzo||

    I'm fine with PACs forming and sending out whatever message they want. People join and fund a PAC because they all believe in the same principles. But corporations are not PACs and their stock holders come from all sides of the political spectrum. If they want the right to contribute their stock holder's money to a particular candidate then they need the permission of their stock holders and they need to disclose who and where the money flows to.

    Even then, those with more stock/money will have a louder voice. Those with less stock/money will have less of a voice. If a company speaks for a candidate that a large stock holder doesn't approve, he or she has the financial mobility to walk from the company by dumping shares...possibly hurting the company's value. Small stock holders wouldn't have the freedom...they would have to wait till they could make a profit on the sale before they left.

    The law may have been imperfect but the SCOTUS threw the baby out with the bath water on this one.

  • ||

    The American people are so uneducated that they are ready to give up their 1st Amendment rights. The Obama administration is taking full advantage of these people and here is a video to prove just how dumb people are. You will just shake your head in amazement!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....r_embedded

  • ||

    How convenient for the insurance companies to block healthcare reform before the next election. Induce filibuster for the next nine months in the Senate and then blitz the airwaves with anti healthcare reform messages to the tune of a millions of dollars if necessary. Your argument is blatantly full of holes.

  • abercrombie milano||

    It is interesting and informative article. Thank you.

  • wow, kittens||

    "In the end, the right to speak does not mean the power to control the political process. It merely means the right to convey views that citizens are free to reject—which, if they distrust corporate power, is exactly what they are likely to do."

    OK. First of all, let's not oversimplify what it means to be a deep pocketed corporation propagating an idea. With that kind of money you begin to blur the line between opinion and propaganda. Corporations already spend I'm not sure how many millions of dollars on tv ads that shape our assumptions about their character. That's why I initially thought that Halliburton were great folks. Then I did the research and saw the film "Yes Men" and i hope I don't have to try and convince anyone here that they embody the most egregious set of ethical failures a person can imagine. There is no reason why corporations would not use this new extension of power to try and shape people's assumptions about other things. We worry about skewed media, well give corporations a microphone and see how much better you feel after that.

  • Finnish Spitz||

    just how very likely 'm post for man or women to receive skin to handle which has a senator, whether a collection is actually spending lots of people, specifically linked men and women, for instance original senators, to be able to monopolize which senator's time to yourself?
    that businesses obtain a lot more conversational because the sources they want.

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