Supreme Court

Citizens United Reaction: Amend that First Amendment!


Public Citizen, on the losing end of today's momentous Citizens United decision, are upset and wanna do something about it. Amend the Constitution! From their press release of woe:

Public Citizen will aggressively work in support of a constitutional amendment specifying that for-profit corporations are not entitled to First Amendment protections, except for freedom of the press. We do not lightly call for a constitutional amendment. But today's decision so imperils our democratic well-being, and so severely distorts the rightful purpose of the First Amendment, that a constitutional corrective is demanded.

We are formulating language for possible amendments, asking members of the public to sign a petition to affirm their support for the idea of constitutional change, and planning to convene leading thinkers in the areas of constitutional law and corporate accountability to begin a series of in-depth conversations about winning a constitutional amendment.

How campaign finance law essentially can make trying to jab at the powerful through the political process a life-wrecking bit of bravado.

NEXT: Who Needs Energy Independence?

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  1. No one is touching the First Amendment–that’s a promise.

    1. Okay Obama, using PL’s handle is a little too much.

      1. It needed saying.

      2. Wait is this something Obama actually said?

        1. No, no, he’s making a joke. I said it, quoting me.

          1. Oh good. Because I’ve discovered anytime Obama makes a promise that something isn’t going to happen, it’s because he’s actively planning to do the exact opposite of what he promised.

    2. What do you think the perennially proposed Flag Burning Amendment is?

      1. Not adopted.

      2. A pathetic attempt by Republicans to rile up their base. Which will never get anywhere.

        1. To be sure, I get massively irritated each time they start talking about a flag-burning amendment.

  2. Wow! That’s ballsy. I hope people get that bucket of cold water in the face feeling from this and realize that something is seriously wrong with what they’re suggesting.

    1. At least they’re not even pretending any longer that they are anything but marxists.

  3. What could possibly go wrong? Also, what is up with the myth that not-for-profits are any better actors in political speech?

    1. Time for a vigorous audit of Public Citizen.

    2. THe idea that political activism is somehow a good in itself is rather puzzling.

  4. It’s about time they overturned this. It was clearly a violation of the the first amendment. I really don’t see how it could have been viewed any other way. Good job scotus.

  5. “Public Citizen will aggressively work in support of a constitutional amendment specifying that for-profit corporations are not entitled to First Amendment protections, except for freedom of the press.”


  6. 1st Amendment attackers, it’s time you met 2nd Amendment practitioners.

      1. Hear, hear!

        At what point do you stop saying “no” nicely to scumbags trying to deprive you of your rights (and I do mean rights here, not some phantom wish that the apparatchiks have decided are rights) and start saying it with an emphasis of a somehwat higher caliber?

        1. Well, that point – wherever it is – just got moved back.

          Every time the SCOTUS actually stands up for a right, particularly when it does so by correcting an erroneous SCOTUS decision of the past, it adds legitimacy to the overall system. And that pushes further out the moment at which direct action could be justified.

          1. And no, Cass Susstein did not secretly pay me to say that.

    1. Talk is nice. When you assacinate Obama you can have a medal.

  7. Something about the fleas of a thousand camels and the members of Public Citizen comes to mind

  8. It’s bad enough having courts and legislatures dilute and damage our rights without agreeing to give them away in the Constitution itself.

    Really, the focus on the corporate bogeyman is the real nadir of the progressive movement. If they’d open their eyes and realize the far greater threat the government poses, not to mention that the power of “Big Business” grows in direct correlation with the size of the government, maybe they’d stop trying to impair all of our freedoms.

    1. They’re trying to kill the person with cancer to kill his cancer.

  9. Any attempt to draw a distinction between a corporation engaging in political speech because they’re “the press” and a corporation engaging in political speech because “they’re mean corporatists” would in and of itself violate the freedom of the press.

    If the state can define who the press is, the press is not free. Sorry.

    1. This.

    2. Yes, exactly this. “The Press” is not just serious journalism (whatever that means). It is any publication of anything through any medium. So freedom of the press must include any political advertisements a corporation wants to publish.

  10. But today’s decision so imperils our democratic well-being, and so severely distorts the rightful purpose of the First Amendment, that a constitutional corrective is demanded.


    1. Yes, we are all going to die and I find that a comforting thing to know.

  11. MSNBC has a poll. So far 90% thought scotus got it wrong:( I know it’s msnbc but 90%?

    1. Which is exactly why we don’t leave shit like this up to popular vote. Also, MSNBC’s framing would be key, here.

      “Are you in favor of the supreme court’s recent decision, allowing giant corporations to strangle puppies and rape children?”

      1. It’s an on-line poll. I voted for freedom instead of the corporate bogeyman.

      2. “Are you in favor of the supreme court’s recent decision, allowing giant corporations to strangle puppies and rape children?”

        Only if it increases the value of my shares.

    2. They have 10 viewers. Nine of them said the Supreme Court got it wrong.

      1. or 2 viewers. One who clicked no, one who clicked yes 9 times.

        1. ..the one who clicked no thought he was clicking yes.

  12. planning to convene leading thinkers

    Would those be, by any chance, Top Men?

  13. I really hope one of these bastards ask me to sign their petition. I will introduce them to the full volume of my protected speech.


  14. Public Citizen will aggressively work in support of a constitutional amendment specifying that for-profit corporations are not entitled to First Amendment protections, except for freedom of the press.

    So it’s okay to force for-profit companies to swear allegiance to a given religion, then?

    1. Just as long as they don’t peacefully assemble.

  15. On one hand, corporations weren’t declared “persons” until well after the Constitution was drafted, and on the other hand, corporations are not composed of robots. And if you take away corporate free speech, how about we include unions too?

    1. I think it’s funny how everyone is making a big deal out of freedom of speech as a PERSONAL right. The 1st amendment says “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.” It doesn’t say “the speech of individual persons” or anything like that… just “speech”.

      And last I checked corporate speech is speech as much as individual speech is, regardless of whether corporations are legally persons.

      1. I don’t have any particular beef with your analysis, except that legal fictions don’t have the physiological capacity to speak.

        1. Yeah, well, I don’t have the ability to shit a newspaper out of my ass, so the First Amendment doesn’t apply to the New York Times either.

          1. Actually, you do, and the Amendment specifies the press. Why did they specify the press if any corporation had free speech?

            1. Could you possibly be so thick as to have missed my point? I’m pretty sure you mentioned a physiological function not available to a legal construct. Your excessively literal interpretation of the term “speech” reeks of sophistry, and it is this that I mock.

              1. db: I was kidding on the shitting part, serious on the part where I said that freedom of the press is addressed separately from freedom of speech. If newspapers were granted free speech, then why did they need a separate clause. Relax…..otherwise that newspaper will stay in there all day!

            2. The press was specified in part because at the time of the Revolution, the British government sponsored licensed newspaper publishers who acted as mouthpieces for the regime, and they prosecuted newspaper publishers whose stories contradicted the licensed press.

              It’s not an implicit restriction on other forms of speech. Dumbass.

              1. Dumbass? Re-read my 2:56 and your 3:31. If newspapers were granted freedom of speech, then why would they need a separate clause? Your response “because the British prosecuted papers” does not address the issue I raised, nor is it supported in the debates prior to enactment of the Bill of Rights. And while you say that it isn’t “an implicit restriction on other forms of speech” the truth is that commercial speech has ALWAYS been more restricted. Why is this? Has every Supreme Court justice also been a dumbass?

              2. “It’s not an implicit restriction on other forms of speech.”

                And where did I ever say that it was an implicit restriction? I merely noted that there is no evidence that the framer’s considered corporations to be legally protected under the Free Speeech clause in the First Amendment, and in fact, corporations received little to no protections until somewhat recently.

                1. Press: published expression.
                  Speech: spoken expression.

                  Two forms of expression for all, not special protections for a special class of speakers.

                2. Sounds like the same argument the Anti-2nd amendment people use. The second amendment is not explicit enough or so they say….

            3. The first amendment specifically mentions the press because the Constitution is redundant. In fact, we don’t even need a bill of rights at all. Since none of the enumerated powers of congress mentions restricting speech, establishing religions, banning guns, etc, congress already doesn’t have the power to do those things.

              The bill of rights protects specific rights that the government already doesn’t have the authority to legislate away, but were deemed important enough to be mentioned explicitly. So there’s really nothing special about singling out the press as a specific type of speech.

  16. That MSNBC poll is a scam. It is claiming only 3 people voted to support the SCOTUS decision. There are three people HERE that voted that way. No one else in the country supported the decision?

  17. The Public Citizen press release is basically a call for a gag on their opponents.

    Nothing new here.

  18. I screamed in rage when I saw this!!! It’s absolutely insane!!! Why our our own citizens attempting to deal a killing blow to the very system that’s protected them???

    1. Because progressives are to the body politic what cancer is to the body? Consider the meaning of “progressive” in the context of medicine instead of technology, or car insurance, or whatever.

      1. Retitle progressives “metastatics”

  19. Public Citizen sounds like an organization that could bring about a ’12 Monkeys’ world if they actually got thier way

  20. I fail to see how this ruling being passed is any more a threat to our rights, given the fact that corporations, mostly banks, have been influencing politicians for years. President Obama has given the banks billions of dollars to reinforce the banks lending capacity, which they then kept for their own financial gain. In other words, the large corporations have been ‘buying’ politics in this country for a long time without having to worry about the legalities of their behavior. This implies that with enough money, a great influence is exercised on the decisions governing our rights. The elected officials in office can be corrupted into support for the large financial institutions. This means, because of the natural tendancy in a capitalist state, to be greedy, those with the most money, have the most power and consequently want to keep it. My concern is, no one seems to notice, or if they do, no one seems to care, or if they do, no one is doing anything about it. We should have been angry a long time ago. This lapse in attention, as I see it, has allowed these rulings to pass. I feel responsable for it, as should all those who do nothing to prevent the illegal actions of the corporations generaly and the banks specifically.

    1. Influence in politics is best countered by weakening, not strengthening, politicians and the government. Nobody’s going to bother to bribe (or “bribe”) an official who can’t do anything much in return.

      1. No, no ProL, you’ve got it all wrong. All we have to do is keep tweaking the rules, the Constitution be damned, and one day, it will be perfect.

        Don’t you worry, this wiley problem of solving a deficit of freedom with even less freedom is *this* close to being cracked. We’ll beat the solar and fusion guys by at least a decade.

        1. Maybe someday people will get it.

      2. They will if the populace vote supports the official.

    2. Good performance art. Although, whenever you say corporations, you should say multinational corporations to drive home how evil they are. Also, progressives don’t believe in rights so you should phrase things as hurting society at large. Keep working at it, the illusion of moronic liberal is nearly complete.

      1. I do not wish to paint a picture. I do not wish to phrase things in a manner which best expresses judgement or blame. I wish to prsent my understanding of what I experience and to express that understanding in a way that is accessable to those who do not otherwise ask questions regarding these issues. I understand the lack of respect for the rights of the populace as constituted in this countries foundational precepts, however, I think that responsability falls on the shoulders of the citizens of this nation, to uphold, protect and defend those rights.

        1. Better but again, by mentioning rights you really give yourself away, unless you explicitly use it in the oxymoronic fashion such as right to health care or right to have a job. Play up the populace part, that sounds much more authentic.

          1. I wish to be as forthcoming and translucent as possible with regards to my intentions. I happily give it all away with respect to my considerations, my understanding and my perspective. I am not seeking to be political, contrarily, I wish only to engage in a dialogue with others about things I see and with ideas I understand. Could you please elaborate on what you mean by “oxymornic… such as right to heath care… ajob”,and your assertion of the plausiablity of my “sincerity”?

            1. Pardon me, “authenticity”.


  21. To their credit, at least they’ve been upfront about the fact that their opinion is at odds with the Constitution and requires an Amendment.

    Most other groups (Congress included) prefer to simply ignore or reinterpret the Constitution as they see fit.

  22. I predict that their proposed amendment will pass shortly after my proposed amendment:

    All taxes payable to the federal government shall be due and payable no later than the first Monday of November.* The federal government may not require any prepayment of taxes before this date.

    That would be the day before election day in even-numbered years. Geez.

  23. The consitution says that all citizens are endowed with certain inalienable rights… that refers to individuals, not artificial groups like corporations or unions.

    Question: should we be able to elect Exxon or Pfizer to Congress? Under most interpretations here, why not?

    1. You understand what a non sequitur is, right?

      The first amendment restricts the ability of congress to prevent speech. Rights might be the motivation for the first amendment, but the legal mechanism is a blanket restriction on all speech laws.

      More to the point — corporations don’t actually exist. They’re a legal fiction. But the speech in question does exist. Therefore, actual human beings had to produce the speech.

      You’re trying to restrict the speech rights of people who belong to corporations, and justifying it by attacking their right of association.

      1. “You understand what a non sequitur is, right?”


      2. This ruling directly speaks to the Fedral Campaign act of 1971. Although this act is specifically in regards to deligate contributions, it also includes lobbiest money and private contributions in the form of ‘caps’ on amounts contributable. The restriction of speech rights upon individuals working within a corporation as you point out, is unconstitutional so long as those restrictions are imposed on the individuals. If the restriction is placed upon the corporation, then it is in keeping with the regulations regarding unbalenced influence through monitary power. In other words, should a group of individuals, a body, if you will, which by definition is a ‘corporation’, actively contribute financially to a political campaign under the generalized nomenclature of the corporation they participate in, and, using said nomenclature in accordance with the corporations charter as a legaly recognized entity to nominally represent them, constitutes a infringment on the amendments proposed civil protection. More, the fact that legal ‘fictions’ as you say, can exist even theoretically, though arguably, represents the case I presented earlier, that we as a people do not fully understand our own systems, and that we do not do what is necessary to maintain that which we have put into place to protect us from totlitarianism, oppression, and constitutional right infringement.

        1. You’re hiding behind legal technicalities. The law creates an impediment to the speech of natural persons. There is no exception in the constitution for “unbalenced influence through monitary power”, nor should there be. Bribery should be illegal, but corporate and individual speakers and campaign donors only have influence over politicians to the extent that campaigns and political speech are able to influence voters.

          You aren’t worried about them influencing politicians, you’re worried about people you dislike influencing your fellow citizen. Your problem is with freedom of speech, period; these excuses are just the rationalization for violating it.

          Undermining one of the fundamental platforms of free society represents a failure to distinguish between oppressive totalitarianism and simple corruption.

          1. I have no interest in hiding, neither do I need to. I simple present the factual technicalities to suport my statements, so as to not be opinionating on things that are of my own coinvictions or imaginings. I am simply attempting to back up my point with the fact of ruling as given in the act I presented. What do you mean”natural persons”? You are correct that the constitution does not make exceptions FOR the unbalenced influence through monitary power, the fact is that due to the 1971 apraisal regarding the first amendment, specifically the right of political speech, with the adjuctive rulling and subsequent augmentation in situationaly applicable cirumstances regarding monitary contributions from corporations and private interests, this adjunct makes an exception AGAINST the unbalenced influence through monitary power, by a referendum, that the supreme court ruled corresponds, without significant alteration to the amendments intention regarding political speech. I am worried about the influence from organizations that are behaviorly direct polmics to the need for the “society at large” to begin to exhibit the control of representation, based upon the precepts as stated in the constitution. So I agree with you, the influence is only so powerful as the campagin is, to affect the decision of the people. I also agree that this is about free speech. I disagree however, that I am using any excuses whatever, as I also disagree that I am rationalizing as a means to violate free speech. I do not seek to undermine anything, rather i seek to point out that in a capitalist society, we as citizens are influenced by greed which speeks to a inate chracteristic of the human condition as we find ourselves today, and, that this greed fed by large corporations to sustantiate, exploit and perpetuate the need for massive acumulation of wealth, should not be a deciding influence in the institution, profession or activation of the inborn and ubiqitous right to human freedoms which the foundational precepts declair and proclaim to support.

            1. Also, do not forget the Bipartisan Campaign Reform act of 2002. I think that perhaps this maybe even more applicable when the new ruling bears its first fruits.

      3. What would prevent, say, a Chinese-owned American corporation that disagrees with a particular Senator’s legislation, from spending $100 million in a targeted media blitz to destroy him/her?

        I love all the circle jerk comments about how this is the greatest thing since sliced bread. But I have yet to see this explained, at all. Why is it good for America? Be specific.

        Y’all are ignoring that 99.999% of the country thinks there is already WAY TOO MUCH corporate influence over politics. You are going to have to put forward a very, very convincing argument to stem the tide of fury over what we perceive to be a selling-out of America to foreign corporations.

        What would stop French, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, etc companies from drowning our political process with unmatchable funds? What about the Gulf nations so rich with oil cash?

        What good is my single vote as an individual if a corporation can just tell my congressman and senators that if they vote against the interests of the corporation that they will be destroyed in the next election cycle?

    2. Constitution don’t say that, hoss.

      Nowhere in the Bill of Rights is the word “citizen.” Occasionally some rights of “persons” or “the people.” And a LOT about what “Congress” can’t do to anybody.

      Question: would you think it proper to deny a foreign, legal resident of the United States the right to speak freely? Under your interpretation, why not?

  24. “Question: should we be able to elect Exxon or Pfizer to Congress? Under most interpretations here, why not?”

    Cut out the middle man….I like it.

  25. I’ll sign a petition to oppose United Citizen’s support for a constitutional change.

    1. Only as long as they include unions in their language.

    2. Only if term limits are imposed too.

  26. Here we are debating unaffiliated political advertisements, while Big Pharma writes a 80 million check to the government for protection. There is some sort of disconnect going on here.

  27. Wow – this website is further to the right than Michelle Malkin. Does this site go dark during Glenn Beck’s show?

    I can’t believe how many people in here think it’s a good thing for corporate America to be allowed to use it outsized wealth to influence elections. Goldman Sachs can actually now spend $5 million to defeat a candidate that they don’t like.

    Corporations should not have the right to buy elections.

    This site’s name is an absolute farce

    1. “””Goldman Sachs can actually now spend $5 million to defeat a candidate that they don’t like.”””

      And what these guys fail to realize is that Goldman Sachs is full of Obama supporters so they will be against any candidate who believes in smaller government.

    2. What about unions?

      1. Unions don’t have anything close to the money that the corporations have. The disparity is absolutely huge. Besides, the next phase of this process is for a lawsuit to be brought with some reason for the unions to not count the same way the corporations do and the same 5 “Justices” who voted for the corporations today will vote against the unions then.

        1. lol – Unions don’t have money… during the GM bankruptcy, where Obama used the DOJ to pay off the Unions (here):

          The Treasury has also put a gun to the heads of GM’s lenders. Unsecured creditors owed about $27 billion are being asked to accept a recovery rate of 5 cents, says Barclays Capital, whereas the health-care trust, which ranks equal to them, gets 50 cents as well as a big stake in the restructured firm.

          & here’s just a very small amount unions currently get from just one group (here):

          Today the Department of Human Services siphons about $3.7 million in annual dues to the union.

    3. Corporations can’t vote, they can’t pay people to vote a certain way, or buy election results. At most, they can create advertising that makes a compelling argument for voting a certain way. And what’s wrong with that? If the advertising actually does convince someone to switch sides, it must have made a pretty good argument, which sounds like a good thing to me. And if it doesn’t, the only result is that the corporation wasted some money. Which I guess is a good thing if you don’t like corporations.

      Furthermore, you should remember to look at this from another perspective. As Matt Welch pointed out, if the Bush administration prevented an anti-McCain movie from being released around the time of the 2008 election, and the supreme court struck down that law, most people would probably be thrilled with the ruling.

      1. “If the advertising actually does convince someone to switch sides, it must have made a pretty good argument”

        The top music act is Lady Ga Ga, American Idol is #1 and the current clothing craze is a “snuggie.” Are you so confident that the MAJORITY of Americans are smart enough to see through an expertly-crafted, top dollar ad campaign?

        Heck in the local bond measures here in town you can’t tell up from down based on the ads. They’re contentless emotional appeals to an uneducated mass, trying to dupe enough people into buying what they’re selling to get a bond measure passed.

        Call me a pessimist but I do not share your optimism.

  28. Because all these election spending controls have be so very successful in getting the money out of politics this last decade.

    The money follows the power. And like water, it seeks it’s own level and seeps in through the cracks. All that “campaign finance reform” has accomplished has been to make it harder to follow the money trail, and handed the advantage to which every party finds a better loophole during each election cycle.

    Count me unimpressed and unwilling to tinker with fundamental freedoms in hope that the next time out it will, finally, really work, this time fer sure.

  29. The consitution says that all citizens are endowed with certain inalienable rights… that refers to individuals, not artificial groups like corporations or unions.

    Chris, if you don’t mind I’ll ask you to defend two claims from that.

    Firstly that the constitution speaks to inalienable rights of people at any point (rather than establishing the form of the government and placing restrictions on the powers thereof), and secondly that it distinguishes between citizens and other types of people in way substantial related to inalienable rights and or limitation on governmental powers.

    References to the text would be appreciated.

    You see, I think you may have the Constitution mixed up with the Declaration of Independence, and your understanding of Natural Rights theory a little twisted.

    And you still haven’t addressed the Freedom of Association business.

  30. Citizens do not shed their free speech rights if they choose to organize into groups for various purposes. The left, however, would draw a distinction between a corporation using its resources for speech and a group of shareholders from that same corporation acting likewise. While the distinction MAYBE reasonable, allowing government to decipher and classify legitimate speakers ensure only government-friendly voices are heard–a clearly undesirable scenario. Restrictions are appropriate for restricting foreign entities from our electoral process.

  31. I’m afraid you’re mistaken JLB. The left would like to draw a distinction between speech they agree with and speech they don’t, while banning the latter.

  32. The ignorance displayed here constantly amazes me. Of course I shouldn’t be too terribly surprised when libertarians display their complete detachment from reality. That is, after all, the entire basis of their excuse for a political philosophy. Here’s what is really going to happen. A bill is coming up that one or more large corporations with billions of dollars of cash in reserve don’t like. They know that there are enough voting against it with Republicans and conservative Democrats that it won’t take too many switchers to kill it. So at a few meetings in and out of offices on the Hill simple statements are made like “You know, if this bill passes we won’t have any choice except to back your opposition to the tune of $10 million or so. And if you ever mention this conversation I’ll just say it never happened. You also know that my close friend Senator X will back me up on that.”. What then? If you don’t think this is the way it will happen you’re delusional.

    1. You’re the one without a firm grasp on reality if you think this doesn’t already happen.

      1. This argument is kind of like saying we should legalize murder, since ya know it happens anyway and stuff.

  33. P.S.

    How often will they not even have to actually spend the money, just make it clear they’re willing to do it? Think about it.

    1. “Congress shall make no law…”

      Think about it.

  34. It is clear to me that most of the points being made here are presented in the form of defenses regarding one political party or another. It is true that where there are opinions there cannot be truth. I am exhausted reading many of these defenses because I see that this law effects both the ‘left’ and the ‘right’ equally. I think that we are all subject to the implications and are all simultainiously threatened with an influence that has the potential to undermine our ability to audit and elect independant representatives on both sides. By monitary power, this ruling threatens to allow, by implication, ideologies that are beneficial to the increase and prosperity of the financing bodies…i.e. corporations, even multination corporations that may not even be american citizens, wether they be conservative or liberal, right or left.

    I am exhausted by the constant bickering and nit picking when it is clear that this ruling can be used for either case. Moreover, I think that in a dialogue, each view is developed and responded to in a courtious and attentive manner with openess to learning from each other. I see little of that here if I am able to gleen the tone being portrayed. It is very frustrating to have to wallow through dense rhetoric in order to acchieve a moment of focus on the topics presented by one and the other. It is no suprise to me that we as a nation are riddle with confusion, frustration and discomfort regarding politics. It is clear why most people prefer not to entertain conversations of this nature in bars and restaurants… people cannot conduct themselves with forgiveness and patience. Dialogue is impossible when the other person only waits for their turn to speak. perhaps a greater consideration for the other is needed for us to be able to discuss these things constructively. For some, a deeper understanding of the facts would certainly help.

    1. “Congress shall make no law…”

      It’s really that simple. No need to dance around the issue.

  35. “Public Citizen will aggressively work in support of a constitutional amendment specifying that for-profit corporations are not entitled to First Amendment protections, except for freedom of the press.”

    So as a for profit corporation, I would simply donate my money to a non profit that can speak on my behalf. Either we have the freedom of speech or we don’t.

  36. For some, a deeper understanding of the facts would certainly help.

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