Free Speech? Ya right: Mitch McConnell Is a Poopy-head!

Granted, Jane Mayer had only 7,200 words to work with in her latest New Yorker feature about how Citizens United has imperiled democracy. But is this the best an acclaimed reporter can do with the legitimate First Amendment objections to regulating political speech?

Conservatives cast their opposition to campaign-finance restrictions as a defense of free speech, but one of the cause's biggest champions, Senator McConnell, occasionally revealed a partisan motive. McConnell once opened a college seminar by writing on the blackboard the three ingredients that he felt were necessary to build a political party: "Money, money, and money." In a Senate debate on proposed campaign-finance restrictions, McConnell reportedly told colleagues, "If we stop this thing, we can control the institution for the next twenty years." In the end, McConnell decided to wage his battle through the courts. He and a conservative lawyer, James Bopp, Jr., founded the James Madison Center for Free Speech, which mounted a legal challenge on behalf of Citizens United—yet another outside spending group created by McCarthy’s partner on the Willie Horton ad, Floyd Brown.

The case reached the Supreme Court, and its ruling, issued in January, 2010, rolled back a century of legislation limiting corporate money in federal elections. Citizens United argued, successfully, that political spending was a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment. In the past, the Court had balanced the free-speech argument against the need to protect American democracy from corruption. In Citizens United, a 5–4 decision, the Court essentially ruled that elections wouldn't be corrupted by independent expenditures made by outside groups. They could spend all the money they wanted, as long as the contributions weren't made directly to the candidates' campaigns.

Here's me in July 2010 on the faulty concept of "balancing" the First Amendment against other concerns.

Having once (shamefully!) held Mayer's precise position–free speech objections to campaign finance regulation are specious because screw that Mitch McConnell!–I'll reiterate my recommendation (which occasionally works!) to those who are still in that camp:

Check out the free-speech objections by people who don't want Goldman Sachs to take over the West Wing, or Wal-Mart to bulldoze private residences. I'm talking about anti-corporatist crusaders like Tim Carney, anti-eminent domain-abuse litigators like the Institute of Justice, or even former Federal Elections Commission chief Brad Smith.

And for those many who claim to be First Amendment absolutists while also supporting McCain-Feingold--I'm looking at you, some of my fellow journalists--here's a question that the former begs of the latter: What if you're wrong?

Presuming of course that being wrong about an important topic is actively embarrassing to journalists.

Reason on Citizens United here, including's three reasons not to sweat it:

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  • sarcasmic||

    Didn't you guys write a book or something?

  • ||

    the three ingredients that he felt were necessary to build a political party: "Money, money, and money."

    Sure, if the entire point of your party is cronyism/rentseeking.

  • ||

    Ideas sure are scary.

  • Ska||

    The tortoise seems to have an easier time smiling.

  • Jeffersonian||

    "Congress shall make no law" == "Congress shall make all the laws it cares to"

    Fair is foul and foul is fair. The world upside down.

  • Tim||

    Nick and Hillary both dress in black.

  • Zeb||

    There are a lot of dumb sentences in the excerpt, but this one really jumped out at me:

    In Citizens United, a 5–4 decision, the Court essentially ruled that elections wouldn't be corrupted by independent expenditures made by outside groups.

    The court did no such thing and she damn well knows it. The court ruled on the issue before them which was the constitutionality of a certain law. The court (somewhat amazingly) ruled that the first amendment means what it says.

    This shit is so aggravating. Of all of the hot issues right now, this one really pisses me off the most. There are just so many dishonest arguments against it and so much false bullshit that gets spread around.

  • ||


  • Justice Chase||


  • The Real *||

    You live in a bubble sustaining an eggshell.

  • ||

    Whoever chose the turtle picture deserves a Pulitzer.

  • Pedantic Ass||

    It's not a turtle, it's a tortoise.

  • Tim||

    It's the Senate Majority Leader.

  • ||

    Minority Leader.

  • Mitch McC-dawg||

    I'm down by law!!

  • AlmightyJB||

    That's almost as good as the Oberman squirrel thing.

  • ||

    That's almost as good as the Oberman squirrel thing.

    I didn't catch that one, was it recent?

  • AlmightyJB||

  • Jeffersonian||

    That never gets old.

  • ||


    I still like the photo above, though. The beauty lies partly in the simplicity (one still shot versus a video), but mostly in the fact there's a very real resemblance between McConnell and the turtle.

    (Or tortoise, or whatever it is)

  • ||

    I agree, excellent choice of pics. He also looks a lot like Tippy the Turtle, who was on the backs on comic books and could get you a scholarship to art school if you drew him.

  • Zeb||

    I think that the Democratic establishment is scared of this because it will reveal that they are just as beholden to big money interests as the Republicans are. I'm sure they know that there will be plenty of pro-Democrat super PACs. And I'll never believe that a politician woudl refuse money purely on principle.

  • ||

    Reveal? It's been obvious and a matter of public record for decades! They get as much or more "corporate" and "rich people" donations as the Republicans.

    The willful ignorance of so many has led us to this bizarre double-think.

  • Zeb||

    True. I should have said "reveal to the willfully ignorant". Who am I kidding? They have an almost infinite capacity to delude themselves.

  • ||

    By any means necessary. Once you start thinking that way, delusion and rationalization are your core states.

  • wareagle||

    I think folks have smoked out Dems on this score, particularly their money laundering scheme known as union contributions. Funny how the same folks who scoff at "corporations are people" have no problem believing it when the entity is a union. There already ARE Dem superPACs; how many does George Soros fund? Or the Tides Foundation? Etc etc.

  • ||

    The thing is, the Democrats have been getting money from businesses for a long time. Big businesses. Businesses that are unmutual. Rich people.

    Everyone who wants to influence government pays whoever is, or is likely to be, calling the shots.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Yes, the First Amendment was not created to protect polital speech. It was created so that I could reads letters to Hustler out loud sitting in the kiddie pool at the public rec center.

  • Tim||

    Thank you Senator.

  • ||

    These regulations do a lot more to stop new entrants and outsiders, rich or grass roots, than well-established players.

    Take the recent SOPA/PIPA protests. All the media organizations and nice organized PACs in favor of the law that have been pushing it for years would perfectly be able to push their pro-SOPA/PIPA viewpoints regardless of campaign finance rules. (The media organizations, of course, would have a special exemption from most people who favor regulations.)

    But a nonprofit corporation started by grassroots people to oppose it? Or the involvement and direct lobbying and speech of corporations like Google, the Wikimedia Foundation, Reddit, and other groups? That could be shut down.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Though both parties are outsourcing their dirty work to Super PACs this year, the main PAC supporting President Barack Obama, Priorities U.S.A. Action, has raised less than half the money collected by [pro-Romney] Restore Our Future.

    There would be Jane's main objection to Citizens.

  • kiwi dave||

    Right -- more than all the nonsense and intellectual dishonest about Citizens United, arguably the thing that grates me the most is that you damn well know that had it been an anti-GWB movie in 2004 rather than anti-Hillary, or against Palin in 2008, Democrats and the left would have been howling about suppression of free speech etc. It really does come down to "who? whom?" logic.

    By the same tokens, had it been anti-Palin, a lot of Republicans would have supported the campaign finance laws (political Team X hackery applies to both sides).

  • Killazontherun||

    Well, the law did have the name of the biggest Trotskyite commie fuck Republican of all time on it.

  • ||

    Nelson Rockefeller? I thought his name was on the drug laws in NY?

  • ||

    remember also, that the LA times dumped the "gropinator" story right before the CA election, and THAT was ok. apparently, if a mass media journalist(s) was responsible for breaking a story near the election, that's ok. ditto for a watergate scandal

    and of course there is a substantial chance they will skimp on verifying sources etc when time is pressing, "it's a scoop" and the election is near


    but there should be NO distinction between a "story" by a journalist (gropinator/LA Times) and a "documentary" by a PAC or anybody else

    citizens' united help right this double standard where 'professional' journalists get all these privileges "citizen journalists' (iow the "pajamas media" ) don't.

    liberal media elitists HATE this evening out of the field, but it's happened through the internet (upstarts like drudge) and several cases that disallow laws that distinguish between the 1st amendment rights of "journalists" and joe blow ACTING as journalists.

    we are ALL the media

  • Leftist Behavior||

    Nancy Pelosi said on PBS News Hour last night in an interview that the Dems want to amend the Constitution to reverse the Citizens United ruling. Then she said something about money ruining politics without a hint of irony considering that Obama is the best fundraiser of them all and Pelosi herself has a reported net worth of $35.2 million. It gave me quite a chuckle.


    ADVERTIZING – In Economic hard times

    [Day's of Wine and Rose's are gone]

    Now, we grew up in an era of when things such as purchasing on layaway was almost if not the accepted method of purchasing those items that one could not possibly afford if not purchased by the layaway method, the concept of credit cards and high interest rates was not even in the cards and a housewife had a budget provided by the husband and heaven held her if she could not make the household work within that budget. Well, we are now seeing that the concept of the layaway programs are now returning in the modern world wide economic downturn, but much more has to be done by the media to generate sales of their products. The Day's of Wine and Rose's are over, the economic good times have ended, and if companies continue to advertise as if the good times are still in vogue many will join those that have already gone into bankruptcy.

    [Selling it]

    It is time to revisit the days of yesteryear, what goes around comes around, things that were done in the past have a way of once again becoming the new waves of the future or present but with a twist, such as cargo pants, cut at the knees are nothing more than the [1950's] [G.I.] Government Issue Cargo Pants of the American [G.I.]. So, what has this got to do with advertizing, it is time for the actors and so called stars have too start hawking products not only in commercials, during their own shows but within the shows themselves, in economic hard times it is suicide not to hard sell the products that support programming. Products must have their labels front and center, both visually and verbally by those who are getting paid by companies to support their living. It should not be just get me a coffee, it should be get me a Starbuck's, it should not be left up to the viewer to look a vehicle and just happen to see its make and model, as an actor points out the options that make it better or have a value added feature, the make and model must be verbally said. Actors, Writers, Producers, within the industry have to get off their high horses and start getting down with the new reality, they must understand that they are going to have to become pitch men, get out their and sell it baby, it's no longer going to sell itself. These are hard times and it take a hard sell to overcome the competition, and beyond just the product a method that will allow the public to purchase it beyond high interest credit, buy now go bankrupt later.


  • ||

    "Conservatives cast their opposition to campaign-finance restrictions as a defense of free speech, "

    and STILL the left (most of them) frame their opposition to citizens united this way, CONTINUING to ignore that the case was brought by a documentary producer whose work was censored (and yes, contrary to a claim in a prior thread, if you forbid release of it until the after the election - that's censorship).

    they also ignore that it was supported by many prominent first amendment scholars, very few of whom could be characterized as "conservative" , not to mention the ACLU

  • WTF||

    Hey dunphy, you're here! What's your take on this.

    Cop shoots man in the head while he was holding his 9-month old grandson.

  • ||

    tough to say... the # of shootings the officer was involved in, while certainly not an indictment of him does make one go hmmm... since statistically speaking, that's very disparate.

    disparate does NOT mean "bad". some people are just profoundly unlucky. kind of like there ARE actually people who have been struck by lightning twice. (contrary to popular belief it DOES strike twice).

    iow, the average officer in a reasonably busy district might be involved in iirc around one shooting every 10 yrs of patrol. so, such a VASTLY disparate # makes you go hmm... as well as why HE was the one who shot. was he in a different vantage point than the other officers? because apparently, none of them saw something that looked like a gun?

    that makes you go hmm too

    the other very relevant factor IS the 911 call. when call(s) say the guy has been walking around threatening people with a gun, then officers (or anybody for that matter) are going to be less judicious in trying to ensure something they see in his hand is a gun when and if he presents it, etc.

    iow, it throws up some serious red flags, but i certainly have no opinion based merely on the article

    i note also that the 911 caller said that when he threatened them he had the baby in his arms as well, so the officers , which is also relevant.

  • WTF||

    Don't you think they should have actually identified a gun in his hand, at least,(never mind threatening/refusing to drop it), before popping him in the head?

  • ||

    yea. in a perfect world, yes. fwiw, i have had a guy pull a gun on me, so i have BEEN there. and the reaction your mind and body goes through is really overwhelming. it's scary as fuck (obviously), but it's really more than that. literally, in the span of fractions of a second, you have multiple voices screaming - "shoot or you are DEAD" "is that REALLY a gun?" "oh, i am FUCKED. proper fucked y0!" "man, if i shoot him and it's NOT a gun, i am FUCKED" . i've also been shotout/been in a shootout, so it's not merely hypothetical for ME. also, my best friend was shot and killed when some gangster fuckstick got the drop on him and plugged him in the head.

    i am suspicious that this is going to be one of those "thought it was a gun, it was actually a phone" ones.

    while that may be a running joke to cop critics, cops make literally MILLIONS of contacts a year with people holding phones and do NOT shoot them, so it's HARDLY common. and when the call is "guy was threatening us with a gun and holding his baby" and you find THE guy holding a baby and you see the flash in his hands of what you think is a gun" and etc.

    don't know if they gave him order to drop it or even had time to, etc. etc.

    this is yet another example where video, ESPECIALLY POV video (it's not just for pr0n people! would be wicked awesome).

  • ||

    the right to free speech needs protection

    corporations like this need to the right to speak their mind too! :)


  • WTF||

    You know, that narrative strikes me a little odd. They say the guy got out of the car and walked off, at which point the officer went to the car and spoke to the kids, who were visibly upset, and then the guy came back to the car, got in and fired up the engine? How the hell does the officer let him back in the car under those circumstances?

  • WTF||

    Because at that point, there were multiple deputies on the scene, around the car - why not physically prevent him from getting in rather than letting him get in and then shooting him?

  • ||

    i had the exact same question and i really don't know. OBVIOUSLY, it IS a question and i want it answered. it was one of the first questions i had.

    i frankly have no idea. i hope there is video, or further reports, witness statements, etc.

    it's simply an OBVIOUS question that occurred to me too

    i don't know if officers were yelling to kids in the car and were a distance from it, looking for him, for example, when he got between them and the car for instance. i just don't know

    OBVIOUSLY, if there was suspicion he was a danger to him, getting the kids out of the car would seem to have been a primary concern, yet it was not done

    again, these are all questions that need to be answered

  • ||

    Cue the "CORPORASHUNS ARE NOT PEOPLE" crowd...

  • ||

    I see Sen. McConnell's picture up there but who's picture is that on the right?


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