Earlier this week, Ralph Nader took the pages of the Wall Street Journal to attack last month’s Citizens United ruling for its “dire consequences for the nation's constitutional premise of ‘we the people,’ not we the corporations.” University of Illinois law professor Larry E. Ribstein says Nader doesn't know what he's talking about:
Of course, Nader is simply wrong about what the Supreme Court did – it didn't strike down all limits on corporate or other contributions, just laws that single out for-profit corporations. Moreover, his horror stories display in more inflammatory language the same profound ignorance of how corporations operate, and of the constraints they face in participating in politics, as does the Citizens United dissent (see my initial post on the case)....
Nader's suggestions for dealing with Citizens United demonstrate the incoherence of restricting corporate speech. Topping his wish list is a constitutional amendment excluding "all commercial corporations and other artificial commercial entities from participating in political activities. Such constitutional rights should be reserved for real people, including, of course, company employees, to enhance a government of, by and for the people." But "the people" exercise their rights in groups, including non-profit corporations and other associations.
Nader does make one useful suggestion, however, which Ribstein happily endorses:
Nader would refuse "subsidies, handouts and bailouts to any company that spends money directly in the electoral arena." Here I'm not only sympathetic, but I'd take it a step further: let's just refuse subsides, handouts and bailouts period. Nader sees corporate speech as a problem because it helps corporations bend the awesome power of government to their will. One way to deal with Nader's problem is to reduce the awesome power of government. Until that halcyon day comes, we will face the question of government for whom. Everybody, including corporations, should have a say on that.