"Bitterly Divided Court" Carelessly "Sweeps Aside" 100 Years of "Important Precedents." Bastards.

More dispatches from the hysterical "Democracy is ruined, just ruined!" response to the Supreme Court's Citizens United campaign finance decision today. The opening paragraph from The New York Times story:

Sweeping aside a century-old understanding and overruling two important precedents, a bitterly divided Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections.

Take a moment to savor the language here. The "bitterly divided Court" carelessly "sweeps aside" 100 years of "important precedents." Bastards. Note that nowhere do the words "free speech" appear, despite the fact that at least five justices thought that's what this case was really about. (Admittedly, those words do appear in the next graf, but the bold declaration has already been made by then. And most people don't read past the first sentence anyway.)

Institute for Justice lawyer Bert Gall chronicles the shirt-rending in The Daily Caller and offers a tidy response:

Democracy 21, which lobbies for strict restrictions on free speech, warns ominously that the decision “is a disaster for the American people.” Common Cause asserts that the decision has created a “political crisis.” On its Web page, Public Citizen proclaims, in huge red lettering, that “SUPREME COURT UNDOES DEMOCRACY.”

This hyperbole betrays a belief—common among proponents of restrictions on political speech—that Americans, like lemmings, are merely dull creatures who can be easily led off a cliff. Thus, unless the government “protects” us from hearing corporations’ speech about politics, we’ll always vote in ways that benefit corporations because they will spend lots of money to convince us to do so.

This conclusion is as ridiculous as it is patronizing. If corporations are capable of making the public do their bidding, then why isn’t everyone driving their Edsels to Circuit City to purchase Betamax video recorders?

The answer, of course, is that Americans are not imbeciles who mindlessly succumb to corporate advertising campaigns. We are fully capable of evaluating corporate speech on its merits; thus, we do not need “protection” from it.

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  • ||

    "The answer, of course, is that Americans are not imbeciles who mindlessly succumb to corporate advertising campaigns. We are fully capable of evaluating corporate speech on its merits;"

    Exactly. And people like Common Cause know this. And they also know that they and their policies are generally unpopular. So, the sollution is to keep the other side from saying anything.

  • ||

    This is what I find confusing and I suspect others. First, I am a 1st amendment absolutist and I think there should be no restrictions on speech, but I am unclear what it means for a corporation to have rights. Is it anymore meaningful for a corporation to have "rights" than for a state to have "rights". Isn't there at least a hint of distortion in the meaning of the word "rights" when we start assigning them to abstractions such as corporations? We all, every single one of us (it is supposed) have 1st Amendment rights, including every single member of every board of directors of every corporation. Why does the corporation itself need to have rights? I think there is no avoiding confusion in general when we start making abstract entities equivalent to persons.

  • Invisible Finger||

    A corporation is an association of people. Should they NOT have rights? If not, then there is no freedom of assembly.

  • ||

    If you're having trouble understanding what it means for a corporation to have "rights," then the Supreme Court's decision in New York Times Company v. Sullivan (which held that the Times could not be held liable for libel unless it knew what it was publishing was false or recklessly disregarded the possibility that it might be false) must really puzzle you.

  • ||

    Very well put DWCarkuff. I would like to re-post your comment if you are ok with that.

  • Joe M||

    We need protection from government speech.

  • Mike in PA||

    I do have a question about this issue, perhaps someone can help me.

    While I don't want to limit anyone's free speech, I guess I don't see a problem with making sure only individuals can donate to campaigns. No unions, no corporations, no pacs. You can give whatever amount you like, as long as it's yours. How would that infringe on anyone's rights?

    Really, I just have a sense here that I'm missing something, I just can't figure it out.

  • ||

    Because what good if freedom of speech if it is completely separate from freedom of association? If I can donate money, why can't I band together with other people and do the same thing?

  • ||

    You can all agree to individually donate. The Moneybombers didn't need to form a corporation to donate all those millions to Ron Paul.

    Part of what the ban on corporate giving does is that it prevents people who are in charge of corporations from circumventing the individual donation limits.

  • ||

    What if I think the individual donor limits are immoral/illogical/unconstitutional?

  • ||

    But did that ban apply to unions? I don't see much reason to treat unions and corporations differently.

  • ||

    You can all agree to individually donate. The Moneybombers didn't need to form a corporation to donate all those millions to Ron Paul.

    Yes, it's always much better giving your money to a politician (even Ron Paul) then banding together and spending it yourselves.

  • ||

    The Moneybombers didn't need to form a corporation to donate all those millions to Ron Paul.

    Yes they did. They needed Ron Paul to form a corporation for his campaign committee, so that they could donate the money to that and ensure that it would used for that purpose, instead of Ron Paul just taking the money for his own enrichment.

  • ||

    I think the difference would be voluntarily banding your money together with others for a political purpose (e.g. a PAC) versus being in an ostensibly non-political group (a corporation or a union).

    If corporations are capable of making the public do their bidding, then why isn’t everyone driving their Edsels to Circuit City to purchase Betamax video recorders?

    My next sig!

  • Mike in PA||

    I think you could still band together and donate individually. What happens more often is that you give your moeny for one purpose and it's used for another - so YOUR dollar was "speaking" in a way you did not intend.

  • Tony||

    As others have noted below, you have always had that right. People grouping together pooling money to donate is called a PAC.

    This ruling lets corporations donate directly from their general funds.

  • ||

    People grouping together pooling money to donate is called a PAC.

    This ruling lets corporations donate directly from their general funds.

    No, this isn't about donations. This is about direct advertising and spending.

  • Tony||

    You're right, my mistake. The hundred-year-old law that prevents corporations from donating directly to campaigns is still in place.

    Of course since by far the largest expense in any campaign is advertising, it now amounts to the same thing.

  • ||

    These organizations are groups of individuals whom are deeply effected by the actions of Washington DC and as such have a right to lobby. McCain-Feingold prevented political ads right before elections which is a clear violation of the First Amendment right to free speech. Especially when you consider that there is no shortage of newspaper editorials right before an election which tend to have an anti-corporate bias.

  • Fluffy||

    The New York Times is published by a corporation.

    The New York Times engages in political speech every day.

    For you to say that corporation's speech is protected, but speech by my corporation is not, you have to allow the state to define what is and what is not "legitimate" press action.

    The state is forbidden by the Constitution from defining what is and what is not legitimate press action.

  • ||

    The state is forbidden by the Constitution from defining what is and what is not legitimate press action.

    Where? You're not saying that "freedom of the press" forbids any determination of what the press is, are you?

  • ||

    There's a fairly well-established idea of what the press is, but the point is sound. It's mostly determined by the courts. Blogs reporting "news" are clearly "press" for legal purposes.

  • ||

    Indeed, but Fluffy is blurring the line between freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

  • robc||

    My buying a TV commercial is "press". Especially if Im "reporting" on a candidate. Hell, that is news, not just press. Even, if its slanted news saying vote for FOO.

    Thus, when a corporation buys a political commercial, that is the exact same thing as the NYT printing an editorial.

  • Fluffy||

    Yes, I am.

    In Lovell the SCOTUS defined the press as "every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion". There is no room in that definition for drawing any distinction whatsoever between the plaintiffs and the NY Times, or between CNN and Hustler, for that matter. Or between CNN, the plaintiffs, Hustler, and Exxon-Mobil.

  • Fluffy||

    And the SCOTUS reaffirmed Lovell today, because they specifically rejected the idea that you could legislatively exempt "media" corporations from the corporate restrictions the FEC sought to enforce.

  • ||

    Wait...you're claiming that Exxon Mobil is part of "the press". Did you forget a sarcasm tag or something?

    You don't need freedom of the press to justify this decision. It's perfectly justified by freedom of speech.

  • Fluffy||

    Any time Exxon-Mobil creates any sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information or opinion, they are in that moment and to that extent the press. Abso Fucking Lutely.

  • ||

    More to the point, the definition of "the press" you're using is so ridiculously broad that it makes the freedom of speech redundant.

    Lovell was probably referring to organizations whose primary activity was producing publications "affording a vehicle of information and opinion."

  • Fluffy||

    No, it wasn't. Because the press activity is the publication, and not every other thing you do in your life.

    Otherwise, if the New York Times was bought by Microsoft, it would no longer have any Constitutional protections, because by transaction volume the resulting corporation would no longer have publishing as its "primary activity".

    You might think that you can, using "common sense", identify what is and what is not the press. But your observations would have no place in the law, as far as I am concerned. Any limit you can possibly devise could be employed to attack "real" press organizations. The Court recognized that today.

  • ||

    Let me just second the Fluffster's comments, and thank him for saving me the keystrokes.

  • ||

    Agreed, Fluffy.

    Especially considering how many "real" press newspapers and opinion magazines are money-losing and sustained by either rich benefactors or non-profit corporations. Quite a few of them are sustained for blatantly politically biased reasons.

    Is Reason not a member of the press, because the Reason Foundation publishes it? If it is, why wouldn't NRA News be a member of the press?

  • Invisible Finger||

    +100 Fluffy, -100 Tulpa

  • ||

    excellent 4 point break-down. i will be stealing that...

  • JD||

    Fluffy nailed it in one. Perfectly stated. I was going to say something about, "The NY Times is published by a corporation, so if corporations shouldn't engage in political speech, I guess they're going to stop endorsing candidates, huh?" but you put it better than I could have.

  • ||

    It's the editorial board that makes endorsements, not the corporate management. Big difference.

  • Space Fiend||

    No difference, and you know it - anyone on the editorial board can be fired by corporate management.

  • ||

    It's the editorial board that makes endorsements, not the corporate management. Big difference.

    The editorial board does exactly what the Sulzbergers wants.

    Is the New Republic not a member of the press, considering how Martin Peretz affects its editorial stance on various issues?

  • ||

    To be heard, people often have to act collectively.

  • ||

    How are political ads funded by corporations any different from those funded by the RNC, the DNC, or the campaigns? They're all misleading and self-serving; that's why they're called "political ads".

  • ||

    Not to mention that some people are missing the right of association piece of this decision. It's not just about freedom of speech and freedom of the press, after all. Ask the NAACP about that (landmark decision involving them and the freedom of association).

  • ||

    At the risk of sounding cynical, I'd say that they're missing the right of association on purpose. They're pointedly selective in their support of that right.

  • ||

    I daresay that's true of many.

  • ||

    This is treason. Take to the streets.

  • ||

    If corporations are capable of making the public do their bidding, then why isn’t everyone driving their Edsels to Circuit City to purchase Betamax video recorders?

    Because stronger corporations, better able to bend the public will, drove them out of the market? If you don't think large corporations can leverage their market power, explain why Microsoft controls 90% of the operating system market.

    That said, I support the SCOTUS decision on free speech grounds. But the argument this guy is making is foolish.

  • ||

    "Bend Public Will"? How about provided goods and services people wanted. Your free to use whatever operating system you want. Advertisements certainly effect peoples decision making process, but in the end you are free to choose or not choose or go without.

  • ||

    Leftist Yoda: "Bend over public will, yes."

  • ||

    Your free to use whatever operating system you want.

    Superficially this is true. In practice, not really. Having a different operating system from the people you have to work with is a pain in the neck.

  • Fluffy||

    Ummmm...that would be a practical reason, then, and not one that would have anything to do with the sweet siren song of Microsoft's marketing.

    In fact, Microsoft's position of market dominance is largely due to speech that IBM engaged in, and not speech Microsoft engaged in at all. So it's not a great example to use to support your argument about corporate speech and market power.

  • ||

    I think when your talking about a work environment companies are even less susceptible to buying an OS because it has the prettiest package or best commercials or whatever. They want their employees as productive as possible and therefore will pick the operating system that will be the most efficient at the best cost.

  • ||

    Having a different operating system from the people you have to work with is a pain in the neck.

    So what you're saying is that using the same system as everybody else is worth a lot to you, more than the advantages of using a system that you would otherwise like more?

    We don't still use QWERTY keyboards because of some on-going corporate conspiracy.

    I might like to use different units of measurement, but I use what other people do. Again, not because of a corporate conspiracy.

    A company can have huge incumbent advantages because of being in the right place at the right time. But those advantages don't last forever; Microsoft has been finding the limits of that recently too.

  • ||

    Yeah, which is why I have to use Redhat Enterprise at work, because everyone else here is using it. I would rather have a real operating system like FreeBSD. I gave IT a nickel but they still refused to upgrade.

  • ||

    Yes, the reason why 6 months ago you couldn't buy a new computer from anyone except Apple ($$$$) without using Vista, is because the public just loved Vista so much.

  • ||

    Yes, the reason why 6 months ago you couldn't buy a new computer from anyone except Apple ($$$$) without using Vista, is because the public just loved Vista so much.

    Actually, even 6 months ago you could buy them without Vista, because consumers hated Vista so much that companies still shipped XP until Windows 7 became available. I know, since I bought one.

    And in any case, whether the public uses Windows or not has very little to do with Microsoft's (horrible) ads.

  • ||

    Every computer made by a Windows-shipping manufacturer came out of the factory with Vista on it at that time. Some resellers replaced Vista with a restore-disk version of XP, and that is what you bought.

    And yes, Microsoft's ads and PR have been terrible for a long time. Which goes to show that you don't need to persuade anyone to get and maintain market power.

  • ||

    ...Windows-shipping manufacturer...

    Um, there's your problem right there! Do you also complain about raisin bran that has raisins in it?

    Buy one without any OS. They are available if you look. Or build your own. Or buy a Mac.

  • Brian E||

    You're dead wrong. You could and still can buy a netbook or nettop with XP and no trace of Vista. Many have argued that netbooks and nettops are so popular precisely because they did come with XP.

    Plenty of other systems came with XP preinstalled and Vista restore disks tossed into the box. When Microsoft tried to crack down on it, they started charging a XP installation fee, but kept doing it anyway.

  • ||

    You can also buy them without Windows at all. Not even the notorious hidden "Microsoft tax".

  • ||

    Incidentally, I have a new PC with Windows 7. Quite a good OS, so far. Not CP/M, but what is?

  • Jordan||

    You have no idea what you're talking about.

  • ||

    Please explain my error.

    Linux is not an OS for the average person, if that's your response.

  • Space Fiend||

    Sure it is. Ubuntu is easy enough for a child to use productively.

    Face it, people like Windows, find it comforting, and continue to use it because they enjoy the experience. You are not everyone and cannot dictate the truth to others.

  • Jordan||

    You're error was saying that you couldn't by a new PC without Vista, which you've conveniently changed to people didn't want to buy PCs with anything other than Vista. And you now admit that Vista is in fact superior to the other offerings for the average person. I'm not seeing much trickery here on Microsoft's part...

  • ||

    I roll my own PCs all the time. No OS comes with the hardware.

    I install WIndows, A) because it's what I've always used and like it and B) I get it free from work.

    I could use Ubuntu or Xandros easily if I so chose. I keep saying I will one day, but I figure it will end as my BeOS experiment did: a nicely installed OS with nothing to do.

  • ||

    Microsoft is a special case involving software standards and "lock-in." I suspect you'll have a hard time finding examples that don't involve that sort of thing. On the other hand, GM had huge market power 40 years ago: no lock-in with cars = no bending of the public will.

  • ||

    ford was "driven" out of the market?

  • ||

    If you don't think large corporations can leverage their market power, explain why Microsoft controls 90% of the operating system market.

    It sure as hell isn't because of Microsoft's ads.

  • Attorney||

    No, it's because of Apple's ads. Nebbishy bespectacled men are people, too, y'know!

  • ||

    I'm still not seeing how an ad by Microsoft has some sort of evil magic power over consumers, whereas an ad by a political party does not.

  • Ben||

    If you don't think large corporations can leverage their market power, explain why Microsoft controls 90% of the operating system market.

    Presuming you mean the desktop/laptop market place, then the answer is "because IBM fucked up".

    Actually, MS controls the desktop OS because Office is far and away the best productivity suite. Until someone offers a better productivity suite, businesses will remain married to MS Windows.

    In regards to servers and mobile devices, MS is far, far from being the dominate player in these businesses.

  • ||

    Actually, OpenOffice has surpassed MS Office in recent years. They only thing keeping it back is people not wanting to learn something new.

  • Ben||

    I haven't tried OpenOffice.

    I use MS Office at work and MS offers a special deal where I get a complete copy of office for 10 bucks to use at home because I'm a licensed user at work.

  • ||

    OpenOffice has a great deal where you don't have to pay for it, or even register it, and you can use it work, at home, on the beach, in the mall, etc, etc.

  • Ben||

    That isn't the point really. I must use MS Office 40 hours a week. I get a copy to use at home at a trivial price. Why would I invest any time to learn a new suite?

  • ||

    I could care less what you use at home. Yet to some people you are proof that Microsoft has an absolute unassailable monopoly.

  • ||

    I'm going to install OpenOffice on my new system, though I'll also keep using my older version of Word.

  • Ben||

    Same basic reason I don't have a Mac at home.

  • ||

    I like Open Office.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Can't beat the price, and it does most of the stuff MS Office does. My main irritant is that it's a serious pain in the ass to import OO Calc sheets as tables in OO Base.

  • Space Fiend||

    Open Office has not 'surpassed' MSO by any stretch. If you're typing a letter, OO might be 'as good' but that's it. If you're using spreadsheets or putting together complicated presentations, MSO is better in almost countless ways. Just look at the poor way Calc does formula anlysis compared to Excel '07.

    If I was being generous, I would say OpenOffice is on par with Office 2003, with 2007's ribbon system being far superior and the program being far, far more robust.

  • Mikey||

    That's exactly why I use OO at home and Office 07 at the office. I don't need to make complicated spreadsheets or presentations at home, but being an engineer, I need to do those things at work.

  • Invisible Finger||

    Presuming you mean the desktop/laptop market place, then the answer is "because IBM fucked up".

    IBM fucked up. And they were blocked by anti-trust deicisions. And Xerox fucked up. And Xerox was blocked by anti-trust decisions.

    My cell phone doesn't have Microsoft on it, and that is a computer I use more than a PC.

    If you have an OS-fetish, or an OS-hate-fetish, you should be seeing a psychiatrist, not a lawyer.

  • ||

    Yes, I meant desktop/laptop. I should have been more precise.

  • ||

    Actually, MS controls the desktop OS because Office is far and away the best productivity suite. Until someone offers a better productivity suite, businesses will remain married to MS Windows.

    You do know that MS Office is available for Mac OS X, right?

  • Space Fiend||

    Which sucks to program on and isn't compatible with most hardware, which is a huge issue for businesses.

  • Ben||

    That would explain all the Macs I see at work, wait, nevermind

  • ||

    If you don't think large corporations can leverage their market power, explain why Microsoft controls 90% of the operating system market.

    I'm a confirmed and dedicated Microsoft hater, but I have to dispute this. Microsoft's success was honestly earned.

    First an aside, Microsoft does NOT have 90% of the OS market. Only the desktop. There's also workstations, servers, embedded systems, specialty systems, mainframes, etc.

    The big reason Microsoft gained its marketshare was genericity. It was targeted at generic PC clones. If there were never any clones we might be arguing over the IBM monopoly instead. But with DOS you had a family of 100% compatible operating systems that would run any any 8086 PC system, from IBM to Compaq to Dell to homebuilt. Contrast that to Mac OS, which ran in expensive non-PC hardware. And DOS wasn't all Microsoft's, it had to contend with strong PC-DOS and DR-DOS competition. Alternatives to DOS were quirky, specialized or disappointing.

    The big non-DOS PC system was OS/2. That was my system for years. It was hard to install, meant for advanced powerusers, and damned expensive. Great system however. It very well could have busted NT's chops. Except IBM fumbled its marketing.

    When you get past DOS and look at the GUI, Windows won because the alternatives sucked in one way or another. I used Geoworks for a while, and while it was very good, it was not extensible. Writing software for Windows was cheap and easy, writing it for Geoworks was a major pain in the butt involving expensive licenses. The other GUI alternatives were quirky and oddball. Except for OS/2 Warp, but see above.

    So Microsoft gets its 90% marketshare around 1995. But at this same time PCs become powerful enough for Unix, and Linux and BSD take off in the server space, largely replaced proprietary Unix and keeping NT at bay. In the past few years Unix desktops have gotten past the sucky stage, you're starting to see Unix more and more on the corporate desktop. In addition, Mac hardware has finally come down in price. Anyone saying that they have no choice in operating systems today is being stupid.

    Microsoft certainly is leveraging their marketshare. They would be stupid not to. But that does not imply they are a market destroying monopoly. They have stiff competition and their position remains largely due to network effects.

  • ||

    100 Quatloos to Brandybuck.

  • ||

    There are serious issues with Microsoft, but most of those, to my mind, concern quality. MS played a huge role in getting PCs into consumers' hands, with useful applications. You know what made Apple successful for a while with the Mac? Word and Excel. Without those, Apple would likely have gone out of business in the late 80s.

    MS may improve now that competition continues to grow. I don't think cloud computing is much of a threat, but that's one angle they have to deal with. All is in flux.

  • Johnny Longtorso||

    Not only are liberals always right, everyone else knows they are always right, and any so-called 'disagreement' is simply a lie. That's why the always right liberals need to protect us from lies meant to turn us from what we know to be The Truth.

  • ||

    The Court explains in great detail why it's overturning precedent. It says flat out that there was no way to avoid chilling speech by leaving those provisions of the law standing. The facts presented in this case made that clear.

    If precedent is God, then Plessy should stand, right?

  • Boss Hogg||

    Damn right!

  • ||

    I think we should take it easy on the left's phophets of doom and gloom here. It's been a tough week for DailyKos acolytes.

  • ||

    Fuck that. Pile on!

  • ||

    word

  • ||

    and kick them in the balls.

  • ||

    Or underdeveloped simulacra thereof!

  • Kyle Jordan||

    +∞

    This is great fun to watch.

  • anonymous||

    No, if we keep pushing hard enough, maybe we'll get a mass suicide out of it.

  • ||

    HA!

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "The answer, of course, is that Americans are not imbeciles who mindlessly succumb to corporate advertising campaigns. We are fully capable of evaluating corporate speech on its merits; thus, we do not need “protection” from it."

    But incumbent politicians need protection from it and that's what's causing them to get their panties in a wad.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    "Americans, like lemmings, are merely dull creatures who can be easily led off a cliff."
    Actually, this is true. But First Amendment, fuck yeah! anyhow.

  • TP||

    In my view, it's a stretch to classify money donations as "free speech." Come on. It's not speech, it's money. Not that this should matter--it's not relevant whether the First Amendment includes the "right to donate campaign money" or not--the Ninth Amendment prohibits an implication that just because a right is not included in the Bill of Rights means it is not a right. Further, the primary protection of rights from invasion by the feds was the enumerated and limited powers scheme of the federal government: there is no grant of power to Congress to censor speech, nor to regulate money-donations.

    But the state already puts eligibility conditions on who can run for or hold office--age limits and natural-born citizenship limits for President, non-felony status for other seats, US citizen status, and so on. These conditions are not that objectionable since no one has a right to hold office, or even to run for office. Thus, I view (some) campaign finance regulations as a type of condition of holding office. In effect, a limitation on donations to a campaign can be viewed as a rule saying, to a candidate, "If you accept $$ in the following manner, you may not hold this office." Viewed this way, the regulations are not a limit on the freedom of the donors, but on the rights of the recipient to hold office--but since no one has a right to hold office, this is not objectionable--or at least, not as objectionable as limitations on free speech or the right-to-donate-money.

    Of course, such reasoning cannot be used to prevent donations of money to an independent group not controlled by the candidate. Those regulations simply fall under the Tenth Amendment (forget about the contorted "free speech" argument using the First Amendment) because the federal government has no power to prevent A from donating money to B. But if A donates money to candidate C, the state can effectively limit this donation by preventing C from taking office if he accepts this donation.

    http://blog.mises.org/archives/010646.asp

  • Fluffy||

    If a state, or the federal government using a statute instead of the amendment process, attempted to place additional restrictions on being a candidate for President other than being 35 and a natural born citizen, their action would be unconstitutional.

    The state has no power to set any requirement for seeking public office that is not already in the Constitution.

  • ||

    TP Sorry but your logic is flawed.

    Actually TP, the right to hold office is effectively a right that stems from the right to vote. For example, once women won/earned/got the right to vote they automatically got the right to hold office. The 19th Amendment essentially gave women not just the right to vote but the right to hold office. Since the founding, the right to vote, and by extension full citizenship has been extended to a larger sphere of Americans. Thus, while the states had a great deal to say as to who could vote, the federal government has put severe restrictions on this, for example, no poll taxes, no literacy tests etc.

  • ||

    In my view, it's a stretch to classify money donations as "free speech." Come on. It's not speech, it's money.

    This is only true of you think that your right to free speech protects nothing more than your right to broadcast your views to those within range of your unamplified voice. Reaching any broader audience requires the expenditure of money, after all.

  • ||

    It's money while it sits on your desk or in your wallet. But, it's not money, even though money is literally sitting on a bench in a Geico commercial.

    It's speech the moment you do something with it other than save it.

  • ||

    Clicked too soon.

    Does anyone really want to take the position that State has the power to say:

    "You're free to talk all you want. Just don't buy a PA system, rent a hall, print or distribute flyers to an event, buy ads, or otherwise spend a single penny getting your message out."

  • ||

    "Does anyone really want to take the position that State has the power to say: "You're free to talk all you want. Just don't buy a PA system, rent a hall, print or distribute flyers to an event, buy ads, or otherwise spend a single penny getting your message out.""

    I don't want to say it, but the PA System is so loud that x terrible thing will happen, and the hall is not fire-code compliant, and printing or distributing flyers is against the anti-littering ordinance...etc. There are trumped up "time and place" restrictions for just about everything.

  • Good Old World||

    It's all fun and games until the labor unions use this ruling to dump wholesale piles of bullshit on a gullible and greedy voting public.

    Not that the law (or the campaign advertising) is to blame...it's voter ignorance that does it.

  • ||

    GOW, the unions have been singularly unrestrained by campaign finance law.

  • Good Old World||

    Under McCain-Feingold (the law in question here, AKA the "Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act"), labor unions were subjected to the same (now overturned) limitations as corporations were. Maybe you, like me, despise our union masters more than you despise our corporate masters, so it didn't track that way?

  • Gilbert Martin||

    Well the unions could always count on the unregulated "impartial" media to carry their water for them anyway.

  • ||

    Never heard about no union getting smacked down.

  • Good Old World||

    oops...this goes here:

    A Washington state teachers' union got smacked down not too long ago, Does that count?

    There was that union infested 527 group/John Edwards brouhaha last election cycle too...

  • Adam||

    And most people don't read past the first sentence anyway.

    [Citation needed.]

  • thumbs up||

    I'm kinda confused here..?

    I've always wondered exactly what difference does money/advertising/spending make in elections. Didn't the Dems/Coakley outspend the Brown campaign by zillions in the recent MA Senate race? Would more ads/signs/rallies by the Dems changed the result?

    Unless the electorate are seen as the aforementioned gullible and greedy public, how does throwing more money at a particular side influence people on the other side, or independents to change their votes/beliefs?

    Seriously curious question - any research info on this?

  • Duncan||

    At what point do donations cross the line to bribery--this is a general problem of money in politics and is not limited to corporations. What's the difference between free speech and a bribe? I think that defining a white line between these two is quite difficult and is one of the major reasons for contribution limits.

  • Ben||

    quid pro quo

  • BakedPenguin||

    If the candidate can use the donation for personal things, that should be suspect.

  • Duncan||

    Isn't earning the power, fame, and money that come with high office something that many people aspire to? There is even more money to be earned after leaving that office to work as a lobbyist. Even if candidates don't directly benefit from cash, the ability to retain or get into high office has a significant value. If someone else paid a bribe that got you a job, how much more likely would you be to do that person a favor?

  • Ben||

    Bribery is illegal and the crime is defined in the statutes. All you need to do is read them, then you'll be able to see that a donation is not a bribe. Ever.

  • Duncan||

    Yes, I understand quid pro quo--I just think that proving it can be nearly impossible.

  • Ben||

    Then your argument is to ban corporate donations because they make you nervous, not because they actually lead to proveable corruption.

  • Duncan||

    My argument is, well, I'm not sure--but I do know that quid pro quo is often implicit, as to avoid violating the letter but not the spirit of the law. I think that failing to accept that there are serious trade-offs between a neutral government and corporate donations is to bury ones head in the sand.

  • Ben||

    FUD is not a legal justifcation to ban corporate activity.

  • Duncan||

    Do you think that corporations donate money not expecting to get a return on their money?

  • Ben||

    Are you claiming that all returns are suspect?

    I suspect my corporation would benefit from a Republican congress more than a Democratic congress -- entirely because of the published platforms of the two parties.

    So as a stockholder (through 401K), I wouldn't find it shocking if they donate funds to Republican candidates.

  • Duncan||

    If your theory were true, then why do most companies donate to whatever politicians are in power?

  • Ben||

    Because corporations are promiscuis, but unions stand by their man?

  • Ben||

    The ruling also removes restrictions on unions.

  • Ben||

    Do you think George Soros expects a return on his donations as well?

  • Duncan||

    Ben,
    I gotta go--it was fun,
    Thanks

  • Duncan||

    Libertarians generally want government to be as neutral and honest as possible when dealing with corporations and the economy--no special favors for any group. At the same time, they want no limits on corporate donations. Companies and some individuals don't donate to candidates because of their ideology. They donate to make more money by seeking contracts, tax breaks, etc. If they donated for any other reasons, they would not be acting in the interest of their shareholders. I think that these two libertarian ideals can't coexist--either limit donations by corporations or expect an unfair advantages for companies that choose to donate over those that don't.

  • Fluffy||

    But if this was true, then we should have seen less rent-seeking from corporations in the time since the first campaign finance "reforms" were passed. And we didn't. We have seen more.

    Speech limits and contribution limits have enhanced the power of corporations and not reduced it. Basically, instead of getting one large check or a couple of large checks from extremely well funded supporters [who could be quirky ideologues, or who could have only one specific interest they're trying to advance, thus leaving the bulk of legislation alone and "uncorrupted"], CFR forces politicians to get a very large number of comparatively modest checks.

    The $2000 contribution limit, in practice, means that the politician who raises the most money is the one who appeals the most broadly to people who can afford to contribute $2000 each in their own name and their wife's name. It's no surprise that Goldman Sachs is immensely powerful in such a situation, since essentially ALL their employees can be talked into making such "personal" contributions. Or the trial lawyers' groups or what have you.

    I would rather have a situation where a candidate gets one big check from, say, a sugar company, and then is friendly to that company, then a situation where they get hundreds of checks from executives at every company in the Nasdaq 100. The former situation will lead to less "corporatist" legislation than the latter, for the simple reason that once the candidate scratches the sugar company's back he's then on his own time for the rest of his term.

  • Fluffy||

    And I should have included my all-purpose libertarian disclaimer, namely that leaving all this aside, I don't really care about the utilitarian aspects of speech liberty.

    I am not like Mill, who thought that having free speech was good because it led to good outcomes. I don't give a shit about good outcomes.

    I favor free speech because I don't think the state possesses the moral authority to limit speech. Even if free speech was going to lead to Apocalypse and dogs and cats sleeping together, I would still favor it.

  • Duncan||

    I'll offer an alternative scenario--instead of raising a lot of money from one or two companies/individuals, the politician could act like they do now: raise money from many different corporations or individuals--but in much larger amounts than before.

  • Ben||

    Corporate finances must be reported to stock-holders. So corporate donations to campaigns will be traceable.

    You stop political corruption by putting corrupt politicians in jail.

    Campaign finance reform was a smokescreen to make it look like something was being done instead of actually investigating real acts of corruption.

    The consenquences of getting caught are very high for corporations as well.

  • ||

    I think that these two libertarian ideals can't coexist--either limit donations by corporations or expect an unfair advantages for companies that choose to donate over those that don't.

    So are the 24 states that allow direct corporate donations measurably more corrupt than the 26 who don't?

  • ||

    There is some serious hysteria on MSNBC, right now. The Supreme Court has overthrown a hundred years of election finance law!!

    Democracy is doomed.

    Chuck Schumer is outraged, which leads me to believe this might significantly undermine or reduce the advantages of incumbency.

  • Tyler||

    “SUPREME COURT UNDOES DEMOCRACY.”

    And replaced it with nothing? I wish.

  • ||

    Anybody know what happened to the DJs that were charged with campaign finance violations because they advocated a cause on their radio show. The charge was that their speech equaled a monetary contribution. So the libs say money can't be speech but speech can be money?

  • Tony||

    This conclusion is as ridiculous as it is patronizing. If corporations are capable of making the public do their bidding, then why isn’t everyone driving their Edsels to Circuit City to purchase Betamax video recorders?

    The answer, of course, is that Americans are not imbeciles who mindlessly succumb to corporate advertising campaigns. We are fully capable of evaluating corporate speech on its merits; thus, we do not need “protection” from it.

    I think Bert Gall has just called the entire advertising industry completely useless. You'd think the market would have culled such a pointless and expensive endeavor by now.

  • Ben||

    Stone-cold left-overs there Tony, try a little harder. We expect greater things from you.

  • ed||

    A bitterly divided Supreme Court

    Cliché much, NYT? Google "bitterly" and the 4th recommendation is "divided." The mainstream press just can't help itself. It writes (and thinks) like a chimpanzee.

  • Good Old World||

    A Washington state teachers' union got smacked down not too long ago, Does that count?

    There was that union infested 527 group/John Edwards brouhaha last election cycle too...

  • kassie||

    So now it's okay for Hugo Chavez and the drug lords of Mexico to donate directly to our political campaigns and fund their personal interests, as long as the checks are written from their corporations. Thank you "conservative" Justices... other countries' dictators are having a beer and laughing all the way to the bank. Our country is being ruined be ideologues, by people who can't think beyond their dogma.

  • ||

    The story here is not about corporate influence, but labor. Consider OpenSecret's Top 20 breakdown of sponsorship:

    http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/list.php?order=A

    Julian Sanchez (and others) have it down: The First Amendment does not mention people's rights, only a restriction upon the government. Point this out to your lefty friends who complain that "corporations aren't people". Then point out that the Second Amendment *does* state a specific right reserved for the people, and then watch the squirming start.

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