People Are Indeed People, and Their Right to Talk About Politics Is Guaranteed by the First Amendment

Saturday marks the two-year anniversary of Citizens United v. FEC, the 2010 case in which the Supreme Court lifted restrictions on political speech by unions and corporations. In a story describing pro-regulation agitation tied to the anniversary, The Washington Post helps perpetuate a common and pernicious misreading of the decision, referring to "the Supreme Court’s judgment that corporations have the same rights as people when it comes to political speech." What the Supreme Court actually said is that people do not lose their free speech rights when they organize as corporations, including nonprofit interest groups as well as businesses. The Court said the First Amendment bars Congress from telling the people who run the NRA, the ACLU, Greenpeace, the AFL-CIO, or Walmart that they may not sponsor ads mentioning federal candidates close to an election (the ban on "electioneering communications" imposed by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002) or that they may not explicitly support or oppose a candidate's election (the pre-existing ban on "express advocacy"). To put it another way, the Court said the First Amendment guarantees people the freedom to pool their resources by forming corporations that engage in political speech. These are rights of people, not corporations.

Yet critics of Citizens United bizarrely insist that individual freedom is not impaired by the restrictions they favor. "It's time to stop the unlimited flow of corrupting money into our elections," says a petition circulated by Common Cause (a corporation!). "To do that, we need a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United and declare that only people are people." By endorsing this misrepresentation, Post reporter Dan Eggen in effect sides with the decision's opponents in what is supposed to be an evenhanded news story.

Eggen also misreports the regulatory changes advocated by Mitt Romney, saying the Republican presidential contender "has argued in recent days that contribution and spending limits should be removed for candidates as well." There are no spending limits on candidates (unless they agree to them in exchange for public funding). That is hardly a minor point, since the Supreme Court has been saying since its 1974 decison in Buckley v. Valeo that restrictions on spending amount to restrictions on speech (since you can't communicate a message to a mass audience without spending money) and are therefore inconsistent with the First Amendment. That principle helps explain why the courts have held that "the unlimited flow of corrupting money" decried by Common Cause (referring to advertising by "super PACs") is constitutionally protected.

As I argue in my column this week, the rejection of spending limits also casts doubt on the contribution limits that the Supreme Court upheld in Buckley. The Court's distinction between spending and contributions is like saying the government may not dictate The Washington Post's budget because that would violate freedom of the press but may control the flow of money to the Post (a corporation!) from shareholders, subscribers, and advertisers. In this context, restricting a speaker's income clearly amounts to restricting his speech. The same analysis should apply not only to super PACs, which are free to accept unlimited contributions thanks to court and FEC decisions condemned by Common Cause, but also to political candidates, who are still constrained by contribution caps.

I considered the overwrought reaction to Citizens United in the December 2010 issue of Reason.

Addendum: In a recent interview with Salon, legendary First Amendment defender Floyd Abrams corrects several misconceptions about the decision's impact.

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  • ||

    People have free speech rights. Even people in groups. Why that's hard to understand, particularly when the amendment protecting speech includes the right of association as well, is beyond me.

    Also, some associations bad, some good is logically confusing. I don't know how people keep up with that sort of reasoning.

  • J_L_B||

    A few months ago over at the ABA Journal, I went back and forth with a guy who advocated restricting speech based on how compatible the interests of the speaker(s) is(was) with the general public.

    Of course, that would require someone to determine what is in the interests of the public; there was no mention of who would do that.

  • ||

    PRESENT!

  • ||

    Almost the entire thrust of free speech protections is aimed at protecting minority viewpoints. In fact, it's arguably the least democratic right set forth in the Constitution (leaving aside legacy language about slavery, of course).

  • Cass Sustain||

    I volunteer my services. I love gates, and deciding who gets in and who gets out. Just give me a magic rainbow bridge and I'll just stand there guarding all in my infinite wisdom.

  • Michael||

    If someone manages to organize any significant number of consenting individuals with the expressed intent of promoting a certain opinion or desired outcome, then doesn't that action by its very nature exemplify compatibility with the "public interest", even if only to a limited degree?

  • J_L_B||

    the expressed intent of promoting a certain opinion or desired outcome

    I remember a few others arguing agianst this point about how corporations' political advocacy is both secondary to making a profit; even then, this all requires a declarative statement that any person/organization whose speech is only secondary to other concerns should have their speech restricted.

    I'm still wondering how exactly vast amounts of corporate speech are going to effect elections? Are there people who pledge to cast their ballot based on political ad spending? Don't the events of yesterday (SOPA, PIPA) prove that no matter how deep the pockets of its advocates, and how much they're willing to spend to promote their position, it is no guarantee of their success?

  • ||

    Based on the comments of my anti-CU Facebook friends, it's because corporations will buy elections and then we'll all be enslaved by plutocrats.

    I've pointed out that churches aren't people, either, but they still have the right to freedom of religion just like individuals, but nobody gets it.

  • ||

    The whole issue about influence begins and ends with the concept of limited government. If government is truly limited, then the opportunities to peddle influence will be limited. If it isn't, they won't be. No amount of legislation and hand-wringing will change that.

  • killazontherun||

    ^this. The very heart of the matter.

  • Zeb||

    And newspapers are corporations. I just don't get how anyone can simultaneously believe that corporations aren't protected by the first amendment and that freedom of the press has any meaning at all.

  • juris imprudent||

    it's because corporations will buy elections and then we'll all be enslaved by plutocrats.

    I believe Ron White can tell you what is wrong with them.

  • ||

    corporations will buy elections and then we'll all be enslaved by plutocrats.

    Thank god that all of Bush's deregulation eliminated that enslavement.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Remind them that if their proposition were true, Meg Whitman would be governor of California and Linda McMahon would be a Senator.

  • ||

    I do, but they don't hear it.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Remember:

    The Citizens United case *only* went to the Supreme Court, because a group of people made a movie critical of a Democrat.

    That's all you need to know.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    "Congress shall make no law..."

    Emphasis added.

  • sarcasmic||

    Unless you have a PHD in Constitutional Law, you have no business interpreting what complex legal language like that means.

    Leave such tasks to the experts.

    Now run along. Scram.

  • sarcasmic||

    Rush 2112!

  • o3||

    that would be even better entertainment than mere radio yucks.

  • ||

    These assholes are going to be wanking about Citizens long after we're gone. Look how they still cry that Bush the Lesser stole the election.

  • ||

    There's a bonehead friend-of-a-friend on Facebook who blames Prop. 13 for California's budget woes: if only the government had more money by taxing retirees out of their homes, the budget would be balanced!

  • ||

    There's another example of a dog with a bone. Didn't that pass back in the 70s?

  • ||

    My aunt and uncle who lived in Annaheim for many years blamed Prop 13 for their shitty public schools. Like being the richest state in the union and having some of the highest taxes wasn't enough to afford decent schools.

  • ||

    Haha, I was just reading some silly bitching about that not too long ago.

    Prop 13 is the mid-70s Republican-minority power-grab that explains why California is the 8th largest economy in the world but has a public education system that consistently ranks 49th out of 50 in the country.)

    Those dastardly Republicans and their generations-ago power grab that the utterly helpless California Democrats can do absolutely nothing about. Kulak wreckers syndrome.

    I think jwz is a great writer and I like the DNA Lounge, and his tale of renovating it and dealing with the legal nightmares is both informative and entertaining, but I'm afraid he didn't seem to learn as much from the experience as he could have.

  • killazontherun||

    What the Supreme Court actually said is that people do not lose their free speech rights when they organize as corporations, including nonprofit interest groups as well as businesses.

    That can't be stated often enough. What else could the ruling possibly mean without the person doing the interpretation spouting anthropomorphically irrational nonsense? People are quite willing to sound like idiots so long as there is a clique of like minded souls they can point to to back them up.

  • killazontherun||

    er, right, homies?

  • sarcasmic||

    People are quite willing to sound like idiots so long as there is a clique of like minded souls they can point to to back them up.

    That's what liberalism is all about. Principals.
    Spout something stupid and point to the principals who agree with you.
    Principles? Not so much.

  • o3||

    so the gop campaigns & congressional reps who also decry CU are teh lub-rahls?

  • Colonel_Angus||

    "ytufgdf fggh rerr jujjkjkjmjnj [*licks window*] pppppfdsqqwqwc"

    -You

  • o3||

    pedantic boars r boring

  • o3||

    derp de derpity derp

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    It's not a liberal/conservative thing - or at least it shouldn't be. It's a get it/don't get it thing.

  • ||

    "What the Supreme Court actually said is that people do not lose their free speech rights when they organize as corporations, including nonprofit interest groups as well as businesses."

    Words - how do they work. Oh yeah, black is white, true is false, oppression is freedom.

    It is astounding to me that those who paint themselves as progressive advocate less political speech.

    We live in a big country with lots of people and lots of interests. Until the second coming, money is part of that society, and how resources are distributed - preventing resource distribution is an even more effective method of censorship.

    "Express advocacy"...well yeah, if thats not what the first amendment is, what is it????

  • ||

    You'd think the WaPo, which is a corporation after all, wouldn't be saying stupid shit like this.

    If a corporation formed by rightwing fundie nutbar fascist racist Obama-haters has no free speech rights because it is a corporation, then neither does WaPo, Inc. Quoth the Iron Law:

    Me today, you tomorrow.

  • tarran||

    The Supreme Court could have applied the law to all corporations.

    The wailing and gnashing of teeth among journalists would have been awesome as a majority of papers instantly went out of business.

  • cynical||

    True. If corporations don't have freedom of speech, there's no good reason for them to have freedom of the speech. All (corporate) reporting on elections should be considered verboten.

  • ||

    Someone tried to argue with me that the difference is that journalists are stating their opinions as individuals.

  • cynical||

    True. It should only be illegal to pay them.

  • ||

    The stupid, did it burn?

  • ||

    It always does.

  • rhofulster||

    I have mixed feelings about this.

    I absolutely agree that, in general, people don't loose their free speech rights when they act as a group.

    EXCEPT PERHAPS

    when that group is granted limited liability by the government. I believe that once any kind of enterprise accepts limited liability they are rightfully subject to whatever rules the polity deems appropriate eg

    the enterprise must not discriminate in service or hiring.

    the entity has restrictions on speech

    the entity's leaders must hop on one foot for an hour each day

    My thinking isn't fixed on this, but it seems that accepting the favor of limited liability from the state should subject one to whatever rules the state deems appropriate.

  • killazontherun||

    They have no more authority to restrict free speech as a condition than they do to impose a rule that you must hire left handed Baptist.

  • Zeb||

    So you think that the government should be able to control the content and publication of newspapers, then.

    Do you know what limited liability means?

  • Colonel_Angus||

    "I have no idea what limited liability means."

    -You

  • #||

    But thats not generally how rights have been enforced. The state cant take your free speech way because you accept food stamps or you send your kids to public school. You cant tie rights like that to strings if they are fundimental.

  • cynical||

    "when that group is granted limited liability by the government."

    All individuals are granted limited liability by the government through bankruptcy law. Can we assume you think the government can use this as an excuse to strip away due process, equal protection, and protections against censorship from individuals?

  • robc||

    People who oppose limited liability support debtors prisons.

    If they are honest, which usually they arent.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    And again, yet another meme from those who know nothing of how corporations and state corporation laws work.

    "Granting limited liability" does not, in any way, mean the corporation - or even its officers, directors and managers - will not be held liable for wrongdoing.

  • CrackertyAssCracker||

    So, anybody who has ever declared bankruptcy loses their right to try influence other people's political opinions?

    Because declaring bankruptcy is having the government limit your liability. I just don't see what that has to do with using a gun to make you shut up.

  • robc||

    Not just declaring. We all have limitied liability due to bankruptcy laws whether we ever use them or not.

  • David Chess||

    It actually isn't that simple. A corporation isn't just a bunch of people who decide to get together to do some stuff; it's a bunch of people who decide to get together to do some stuff, AND who make an agreement with the government that they will subject themselves to considerable additional government oversight in exchange for the very valuable benefit of limited liability.

    That benefit is HUGE (note the number of people who have decided it pays to take advantage of it, despite the rather large costs).

    The question in Citizens United isn't about what people, or even ordinary groups, can do with their own money.

    It's about what people who have asked the government for this very special beneficial status for some of their money should be allowed to do with THAT money.

    Not expressing a view here one way or another on the decision itself, but I think it's important to get the question right...

  • killazontherun||

    A corporation isn't just a bunch of people who decide to get together to do some stuff; it's a bunch of people who decide to get together to do some stuff, AND who make an agreement with the government that they will subject themselves to considerable additional government oversight in exchange for the very valuable benefit of limited liability.

    Congress does not possess the authority to add speech restrictions as a condition in legislation. Sorry weasel, there is no getting around 'shall make no law.'

  • ||

    Limited liability should have nothing to do with speech rights. If the entity does something that isn't protected--fraud, defamation, whatever--it's liable. If a shareholder exerts such control as to direct that speech, he can be potentially be held liable, too. However, liability really doesn't matter--a poor guy has the same speech rights as a rich guy. The system doesn't generally allow prior restraints on his speech just because he might not be able to cover the costs of his speech.

    In any case, the advocates of restricting speech rights for corporations exclude certain types of corporations and other types of organizations--most of which have some sort of limited liability, too--so that argument is mostly a red herring.

  • Zeb||

    I'll just keep repeating this: Newspapers are corporations. You want to restrict speech from corporations? Then you must allow that congress can regulate the content of newspapers.

  • rhofulster||

    I don't know if all newspapers are limited liability corporations, but for those that are - yes, under the regime I suggest they would be subject to the same rules as other limited liability entities. I think this is a very powerful criticism of the arguments against CU.

    If you don't mind my asking, do you think it's ok to call upon those who have limited liability to abide by the civil rights act. I think it is, but I'm willing to listen to to arguments to the contrary.

  • ||

    I'd be shocked if they weren't (and, certainly, all of the big ones are). Papers get sued for libel and all sorts of other reasons, so limited liability should be the first order of business for owners.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    I don't know if all newspapers are limited liability corporations

    As compared to what other type of entity?

    Enlighten the rest of us, please. Exactly what is a "limited liability corporation"?

  • Colonel_Angus||

    All associations are limited liability. An individual member of an organization can not be held liable unless the member has personally done something wrong. Personal assets are separate from the assets of an organization.

  • adam||

    Only if it's incorporated or in another limited liabily for (LLC, LLP, etc.) If you form in a traditional partnership (which is not limited liability) then all partners are personally liable for all debts of the partnership.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    Except that many states have created a limited liability partnership (LLP), which is the form that a lot of law firms use - including the one I work for.

  • adam||

    Yes, I'm well aware of that. His claim was that "All associations are limited liability." That's not in fact true.

    I purposefully said "traditional partnership" and "or in another limited liability form (i.e. LLC, LLP), LLP standing for limited liability partnership. Despite the existence of LLPs in all/nearly all states, one can still form traditional partnerships that don't have the limited liability feature.

  • Zeb||

    I don't mind your asking. But I don't quite understand your question. The CRA has been upheld as constitutional. I may from time to time explore the arguments against the parts that apply to private people and companies, but I don't have a very strong opinion about that since it isn't going away and racists suck and can go fuck themselves, so I'm not going to spend a lot of time defending their right to be dicks (even if I think they have one). In general, I would say that the CRA ought to apply the same to any sort of business. And remember, corporations themselves don't have limited liability, the investors have their liability limited to the amount that they invested.

  • ||

    I get the impression that many anti-limited liability leftists have this idea that companies are somehow limited in their direct liability, as opposed to the shareholders.

    No company I've ever worked for has behaved under the assumption that since the shareholders can only lose their investment, it's Festival time! Maximizing shareholder equity means that you're insanely concerned about the liability that the company does have.

  • robc||

    Yeah, take Buffett for an example. Something like 90+% of his net worth is Berkshire stock.

    Yeah, he would be fine with what was left over, but while his liability is limited, its still a huge amount and I dont think he wants it to go away.

  • CrackertyAssCracker||

    So, you want to make the New York Times and Wall Street Journal get all their opinion pieces OK'd by the FEC if an election is imminent? At least you are honest about your fascism.

  • robc||

    Not just them either. As bankruptcy laws grant us all limited liability, even individuals would need the FEC approval.

  • adam||

    Limited liability has nothing to do with the civil rights act. The jurisdicational hook is the commerce clause- i.e. you must participate in or affect interstate commerce to be subject. It doesn't matter if you do that as a corporation or as a sole proprietor.

  • juris imprudent||

    Corporate "personhood" is rooted in a case from the 1830s and limited liability had nothing to do with it. The "corporation" in question was Dartmouth College.

  • ||

    considerable additional government oversight

    As a longtime corporate lawyer, this made me laugh. So did this:

    despite the rather large costs

    I can form a corporation in 15 minutes, online, in Texas. Out-of-pocket cost? Around $200, I think. Costs to keep it legally in place? Virtually zero. Government oversight? As long as I file my annual "report" (another fifteen minutes a year), zero.

  • Zeb||

    I think he must be thinking of publicly traded corporations. Which do have to deal with a lot of extra overhead for that privilege.

  • robc||

    $40 in KY, iirc. That was for an LLC, not a corporation though. I think S Corp costs the same.

    $15 per year when I file annual paperwork, to keep it going.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    $100 in Virginia, last I checked.

  • NotSure||

    If the shareholders of a corporation agree to fund something that upsets your left wing sensibilities, that should be their decision and their right to exercise, not yours.

    Play all the legal gymnastics you want, in the end you want to restrict what a group of people are saying, because they belong to an organisation you do not like. That stinks like free speech suppression no matter how much you want to pretend you support free speech.

  • David Chess||

    Actually no. :) Those people can say whatever they want. But they can't necessarily use that money that they've used corporation law to shield from liability to say it.

    I'd urge anyone who doesn't know what it is to actually read a bit about just what the government gives a corporation. In particular, when you're a corporation you can take risks with your money with a downside that's limited in certain ways; ways that are different than the ways that bankruptcy provides to individuals, for instance.

    We (the citizens) allow corporations to do this, and structure laws to allow (for instance) people to buy stock in a corporation knowing that the stock can never turn into a debt, because we think that it's a good idea to allow that, because (for instance) it lets people use that money more effectively to make widgets, or publish newspapers, or whatever else the corporation is founded to do.

    Should we (the citizens) also make the laws say that corporations can use that specially-protected money to contribute to political campaigns, or make political ads? Maybe or maybe not; the important thing is that this is a different question from whether or not the shareholders or officers or whatever of the corporation have the right to do things on their own behalf.

    I know it'd be nice if the world is simpler. :) But it's not...

  • cynical||

    "But they can't necessarily use that money that they've used corporation law to shield from liability to say it."

    I can't really see any good reason why not. You might as well say a business corporation doesn't have the right use that shielded money to do business. And business isn't even explicitly placed outside of government control in the Constitution. If you're opposed to the existence of corporations, just say so.

  • cynical||

    "or whatever else the corporation is founded to do."

    What if it's founded to promote or attack certain political ideas or candidates?

  • adam||

    So you'd be fine if Congress created a new legal entity called an "unlimited liability corporation," which would be permitted to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on elections and other political causes?

  • Colonel_Angus||

    It is simple. The organization can do what the majority of shareholders are fine with the organization doing. The shareholders that object can divest their shares if it comes to that. Participation in an association is voluntary.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    I can avoid government oversight by NOT forming a limited liability corporation?

  • adam||

    If receiving a government benefit means the government can impose any speach restriction on you, then the following people should lose the right to speak:
    1) all social security recipients
    2) all medicare recipients
    3) all welfare recepients
    4) all government employees and military personnel
    5) all holders of any government license (occupational, driver's, etc.)
    6) all those who have attended public schools or colleges
    7) all those who were naturalized

    That should take care of pretty much everyone in the country. Great, now we've eliminated the First Amendment.

  • David Chess||

    Haha! That is, pretty much exactly what rhofulster just said as I was typing...

  • killazontherun||

    An insane(ly funny) Asian look at American football

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zt7C3XD6LaQ

  • ||

    we'll all be enslaved by plutocrats.

    No change, then.

  • ||

    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.

    To amend this, we merely strike through the "no" between "make" and "law", right?

  • sarcasmic||

    Depends on what your definition of "no" is.

  • T||

    Question for all you limited liability haters: are limited-liability corporations a complete creation of the legislature, or simply the legislature codifying an existing business practice? Think carefully about your answer.

  • sarcasmic||

    How can a business practice exist without being codified?

    Hell, how can anything exist without being codified?

    The Federal Registrar is a sacred script, and if something is not defined in the scripture then it does not exist.

    That's why natural rights are bullshit. They're not defined in the scripture.

  • ||

    Besides that, just where do they think we'd be without limited liability at all?

  • BakedPenguin||

    Exactly. Absent limited liability, no one would ever invest in corporations. If buying 100 shares of XYZ company meant you could lose your house, all because of the decisions (or bad luck) of someone you've never met, what could induce you to do so?

  • ||

    Absent limited liability, no one would ever invest in corporations.

    I think they consider that to be a feature and not a bug.

    Of course, these same people also think that all of their products are created by elves inside unicorn intestinal tracts, are then farted out and delivered on rainbows to their doorsteps. Also, their jobs were created by the gummint and only exists * because* the gummint lets the evil corprayshun keep those jobs.

    Oh, and newpapers aren't corporations in any real sense. They're doing God's work.

  • robc||

    We have covered this before, but it would be easy* to set up alternative structures that provide limited liability for the investor.

    *for some definition of easy.

  • adam||

    That's not quite true. I think it's more accurate to say no one would invest in publically traded corporations. You'd still likely have closely held companies where each owner knows and trusts the other owners, and the enterprise is small enough to keep a close eye on all non-owner employees. Until about 30 years ago, that was how all law firms, accounting firms, investment banks, and medical practices were run. Of course, making the whole economy run that way would be disastrous.

  • cynical||

    "Of course, making the whole economy run that way would be disastrous."

    I'm not so sure. Too many people want the financial benefits of "ownership" without any of the responsibility. The death of the small stockholder might be a boon for wise business management.

  • adam||

    I don't disagree that it would increase wise management. But it would destroy the ability to raise the sums of money needed to run giant multinationals. They'd have to turn to debt financing almost exclusively since the managers and other wealthy individuals wouldn't be able to put up the sums needed.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    "It's time to stop the unlimited flow of corrupting money power into our elections,"

  • killazontherun||

  • COXSWAIN HARDY||

    The Google Anti-Stop-Online-Piracy-Act Statement, Corporate Speech, and the First Amendment
    Following Citizens United, I heard many people argue that the Court was wrong because corporations should not be seen as having First Amendment rights — not just that they do have First Amendment rights but that there’s some special compelling interest that justifies restricting corporate speech about candidates, but that corporations aren’t people and therefore can’t have First Amendment rights at all. (UPDATE: I don’t agree with this, for reasons that include those briefly sketched here, but I set those arguments aside for now.) Let me then ask this question of our readers who take this view:

    Today, Google’s U.S. query page features an anti-Stop-Online-Piracy-Act statement from Google. Say that Congress concludes that it’s unfair for Google to be able to speak so broadly, in a way that ordinary Americans (including ordinary Congressmen) generally can’t. Congress therefore enacts a statute banning all corporations from spending their money — and therefore banning them from speaking — in support of or opposition to any statute. What would you say about such a statute?...

  • ||

    Occupy Google!

  • Trespassers W||

    Zing.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    It's my experience that most people don't have the slightest fucking clue what the Court actually ruled in Citizens United. Too many people think it's about giving money to candidates or politicians, or to their campaigns. So they say stupid things like "unlimited flow of corrupting money."

    They're not pouring money directly into the candidate's campaign or to the candidate - they're spending money on distributing a message, whether it's a radio ad, TV ad, pamhplet, book, billboard, etc. How anyone could not think that that is the very kind of speech the First Amendment was meant to protect would require some special kind of stupid.

  • ||

    That is a great point. I just changed my facebook status to

    To all of my lefty friends who are rightly outraged by SOPA and are applauding the protests yesterday by Google and Wikipedia. You do realize that without the protections given to corporations by Citizens United, Congress could make such activities illegal?

    I am sure heads will be exploding all afternoon.

  • ||

    But, but, John, that's different!

    We're talking about corprayshuns buying votes with their mind control rays!

  • ||

    It's my experience that most people don't have the slightest fucking clue what the Court actually ruled in Citizens United.

    Whaaaaa....?

    It's self-evident; each dollar a corporation spends on campaign ads counts as one vote, duh.

  • Zeb||

    That's why Steve Forbes and Ross Perot got elected, right?

  • bill||

    popehat: A Question for Critics of Citizens United: Did Corporations Have A Right To Join The SOPA/PIPA Blackout?

    You say that people, not corporations, have First Amendment rights. Fine. Tell me: as a person, how do you plan to exercise your freedom of speech if corporate venues for doing so may be restricted by the government? SOPA/PIPA is actually an excellent example of this. SOPA/PIPA did not merely attack accused pirates directly — it used ISPs as its minions. SOPA/PIPA threaten ISPs and major web sites — corporations — with dramatic consequences if they so much as link to sites that the government (or its preferred lobbyists) disfavor. So. If the government is allowed to use this method, what, exactly, protects us when the government decides to bully corporations into making us vanish from the internet?

  • ||

    What would happen if some evil capitalist got out his checkbook and ran an ad with this message:

    The current field of candidates sickens me; they are nothing but idiots and crooks. I wouldn't pay a single one of them three-fitty to mow my lawn or wash my car.

  • Zeb||

    I don't know. But I'd like to see it.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    RACIST

  • cynical||

    People don't have First Amendment rights. People do have the right to freedom of speech. The First Amendment is a law banning activity that infringes on that right. However, people don't generally refer to their right to life as deriving from the laws against murder, even if those laws are one of the primary legal mechanisms for defending that right.

  • ||

    It's an important point that should never be forgotten--nothing in the Constitution grants us rights. We had them all along.

  • robc||

    And not just We. Those dirty brown people in foreign lands have the exact same unalienable rights.

  • cynical||

    I've been thinking lately that this issue is like gay marriage for the left. That is, part of the problem is an instinctive dislike for a group of people (resulting in the desire to deny them something as simple as equal rights under the law), and part of the problem is a term that carries both moral/philosophical/cultural implications, and dry legal implications.

    If corporations had the same relevant subset of the legal rights of persons, but that status was called something different and innocuous (civil personification, or something), then I think moderate lefties would not get as riled up -- it's the notion that filthy profit-seeking business want to tarnish something sacred and precious like human dignity that bothers them, even though the "personhood" up for debate is not the moral human dignity side so much as the legal protections (due process, equal protection under the law, freedom from censorship, etc,) that really not about empowering the person so much as preventing the state doing bad things.

  • ||

    Let me explain to you how this works: you see, the corporations finance elections, and then the politicians win... and the corporations sit there in their... in their corporation buildings, and... and, and see, they're all corporation-y... and they make money.

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