Supreme Court

Reason Writers Around Town: Matt Welch at CNN.com on Citizens United v. FEC

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Over at CNN Opinion, Reason Editor in Chief Matt Welch tries explaining to those saddened by today's landmark Supreme Court ruling that this case truly was about restoring constitutional protections to free political expression. Excerpt:

Free speech really does mean free speech, and the laws that the "Citizens" ruling overturned directly and heinously restricted the stuff. […]

Citizens United, a conservative 501(c)(4) nonprofit that has funded a dozen political documentaries over the years, produced a critical documentary about Hillary Clinton in 2008 entitled "Hillary: The Movie." By a decision of the federal government, which was enforcing the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (known more broadly as McCain-Feingold), this piece of political speech was banned from television.

Let's boil it down to the essential words: Political documentary, banned, government.

Read the whole thing here.

NEXT: The Right to Free (Taxpayer-Funded) Speech

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  1. Good column. I think the lawyer arguing for the upholding of the M-F restrictions sunk his case when, under questioning by the Justices, said that the federal government could ban a book if it contained a single sentence advocating the election or defeat of a particular candidate for office. Logically, he was entirely correct, and the Court knew it. Thank God that five Justices blanched at the thought of federal agents storming a bookstore or library to confiscate banned volumes therein. And shame on the other four.

  2. For an organization touting individual rights, you certainly don’t seem to have a problem sticking up for group rights when that group aligns with your interests. The former law was not an assault on corporations or groups ability to produce documentaries, it was a designed to limit corporations and unions from buying every piece of advertising space to promote a candidate. Government and political force is not the only means of power that should be regulated. Even Adam Smith recognized this (read Book V of WN). Anyone who believes the first Amendment only applies to the individual should be very worried about this ruling.

    1. The first amendment also applies to the collective: the press. Good Night!

      1. The press refers not to “journalists like Murrow” but “the guy handing out pamphlets”.

        1. …the price of tea in China? Press refers to an organization expressing a viewpoint whether underground zine or CNN. Don’t paint artificial borders. It’s a whole universe of press, mang.

    2. For an organization touting individual rights

      Is this close enough? I want to drink.

      1. I think it counts. Drink!

    3. it was a designed to limit corporations and unions from buying every piece of advertising space to promote a candidate

      …which is a violation of their right to free speech. How is this difficult for you to understand? It really isn’t that hard.

      1. Not only that, but it doesn’t really matter much what a law was “designed to” do. What matters is what the law actually says, and in this case an “assault on corporations or groups ability to produce documentaries” is a pretty good description.

    4. drew,

      If your evil MSM lackeys were not ignoring me when I want to out bid unions on air time we would not have this problem now would we?

      Now, where is my federal handout to outbid the unions. Free speech as in free to me, right?

    5. “For an organization touting individual rights, you certainly don’t seem to have a problem sticking up for group rights when that group aligns with your interests.”

      A. The only individual right libertarians favor is the right to drop-dead from lack of health care.
      B. Don’t be so tough on them about supporting groups that align with their interest: Peter Pan didn’t want to pay taxes either. Let them get back to their games because they won a battle against Captain Coakley and they are in a tizzy. There hasn’t been so much excitement since Jean-Luc Picard survived Borg assimilation.

      1. Funny you should mention the Borg… you sound like a Democrat, which is basically a low-tech version.

        1. Resistance is futile. Grow up Peter Pan

          1. You grow up, prick.

            1. “You grow up, vagina”.FIFY

    6. “The former law was not an assault on corporations or groups ability to produce documentaries,…”

      Except in the case before the court, that’s exactly what the law did and what it did flowed logically from the purpose of trying to prevent corporations from buying political issue adverts. That’s the problem, you cannot narrow cast restrictions on certain kinds of speech in the real world, whatever utilitarian value you think such a restriction would have. Funding a documentary that has a political message is fundamentally the same as funding a political advertisement.

    7. Whats a documentary?

      If a corporation wants to buy the air time to run a 30-second documentary about a politician the corporation thinks you should consider voting for, this law would have banned it.

      So, yes, it was an assault on documentaries. And the press.

    8. And “you certainly don’t seem to have a problem sticking up for group rights when that group aligns with your interests.” e.g. the NYT.

    9. Anyone who believes the first Amendment only applies to the individual should be very worried about this ruling. pull his head out of his ass and go back and read the actual text.

  3. If you start saying that “corporations aren’t people, they don’t have rights, they shouldn’t have a right to free speech”, you might find yourself in a weird situation where you just came out and said that the government has the right to censor CNN because CNN is a corporation and it doesn’t have rights.

    There are roads you do not want to go down.

    You’d think “liberals” would be happier.

  4. For an article CNN, it has a lot of vowels.

    Fine. I can drink by myself.

  5. The comments there are spectacular. I love when idiots are earnest.

    Guest
    When our founding fathers wrote the 1st amendment I’m sure they had no idea that there would be a bigger threat than the one a government might present. This threat is the corporate monster that has gorged on the resources and peoples of the world. Now it will feed its gargantuan lust for that improved bottom line by fully controlling this country because, yes, too many of us ARE sheep. (This is why the founding fathers created the Electoral College) Why else are so many millions (billions) of dollars poured into the 501s? How will my $25 contribution matter compared to that of United Heath Care, for instance? There won’t be those $10 donations from the masses anymore anyway, because there is soon to be no real news. Our media outlets are being bought and paid for too.

    GARGANTUAN LUST FOR NO MORE REAL NEWS

    1. Corporatocracy! Warty, we must form the Panther Moderns and attack Sense/Net…you up for it?

      1. Tell everyone that we’ll have punch and pie. More people will come if they think we have punch and pie!

        1. I think we need to ask ourselves: what would Brian Boitano do?

  6. Matt, you forgot to alert those of us who are too busy to read the whole giant thing to CNN’s helpful Story Highlights to the left of your column!

    STORY HIGHLIGHTS
    Supreme Court ruling doesn’t represent a step backward, says Matt Welch
    He says the ruling stops government from inhibiting free speech about politics
    Welch says people aren’t sheep; can make decisions about campaign advertising
    He says ruling will allow wide variety of advocacy groups to air points of view

  7. I love how the left claims “NOW corporations can buy votes by giving contributions”, as if they didn’t already do so. campaing finance reform was just a piece of legislation aimed at making it harder for new entrants into politics. Corporations,citizens and non profit groups always could “buy votes”. They all completely ignore the fact that its government who is willing to sell their votes. I think it was sheldon richman who said something to the effect of ” a businessman cant buy favors from a bureaucrat who has no favors to sell”.

  8. http://edition.cnn.com/2010/OP…..qus_thread

    I defended Matt’s virgin honor on the comments section. Check it out.

    1. I tried to read your comment, but I’m lost without Comment Highlights.

      Comment highlights:
      Warty tried to read your comment
      He was unable because of length
      Comment highlights helpful, says Warty

      1. I figured this Highlights was more your style.

        1. They taught educators and parents for a time at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio

          Motherfucker. I’m going out back to burn both my diplomas from that fucking place.

          1. NOOOOOO, not your BS in BS and your BA in Rape

            1. This thread is full of win.

  9. So, it was just a myth that every politician in the time of Washington and Jefferson bought the voters alcohol to vote for them and had their own purely partisan newspapers to bash each other with? The things we learn from the Left these days!

  10. Now corporate law just needs to change to allow shareholders to actually influence the messages “they” are espousing collectively.

    Also, if corporations have free speech rights, are they only allowed to exercise those rights in a way consistent with maximizing shareholder value?

  11. “Guest
    When our founding fathers wrote the 1st amendment I’m sure they had no idea that there would be a bigger threat than the one a government might present. This threat is the corporate monster that has gorged on the resources and peoples of the world. “

    So depressing reading the comments over on CNN. So many people are in full hysterical fear of “the corporate monster.” I wonder where they get these ideas from. Its the unthinking malice that progressive bullshit has created in their minds. That force-weilding bureacrats and lying thieving politicians will be a bulwark against this supposed corporate monster. How fucking depressing.

    1. Sorry guys I didnt see Warty already posted the comment above.

    2. It would be alot more bearable if every single commenter wasn’t fucking dubbed ‘Guest’ by the stupid fucking CNN website. It looks like one crazy guy named Guest having a bipolar conversation with himself.

      1. If that were the case, I’d be even happier than I already am.

    3. Bbbbbuuuuuurrrrrrpppppp!!!!!

      Damn, that was good!

  12. Keep on rockin’, Matt. Nice piece.

  13. Next thing you know corporations will be publishing and broadcasting the news!

  14. Olbermann’s rant last night was particularly psychotic. The only thing funnier was Rachel Maddow’s worshipful gaze as he handed off to her. What a pair.

    1. yes. i loved olbermann’s rant. “now there’s nothing to stop corporationy corporations from buying our elections” he said with a little logo in the corner for the MSNBCorporation.

    2. Really, let’s think rationally about this for a moment. McCain-Feingold is what, twenty years old? Have things been different in any measurable way as far as wealthy people, businesses, nonprofits, unions, and advocacy groups having a disproportionate influence on government officials go?

      If you answered yes, you haven’t been paying attention.

      1. Enacted only 8 years ago.

        1. Oops, feels like 20, I should’ve said. Anyway, same point stands.

    3. After watching Olbermann’s rant, I vomitted. On the transition to that little dude, Rachel Maddow, my penis retreated like a frightened turtle.

      Then, after seeing a commercial where GE is saving the planet with wind turbines for the 48,999th time, I realized we really can cure global warming and vowed to become Keith and that little dude’s 16th viewer. Fuck man! Now with this tragic SCOTUS ruling, a corporation will be able to get entirely behind a Presidential candidate with a news outlet they own. We cannot let this happen. Save us Big O. Save us!

    4. The constant flow of progressive tears sustains me.

      Btw bring your lifejacket if you visit HuffPo.

  15. Where would American political discourse be without overwrought hyperbole?

    It’s interesting that the news sources that oppose the decision neglect to mention how much McCain-Feingold had the effect (likely the intended effect) of making it much harder to unseat incumbents.

  16. Remind me if I ever go into business for myself not to incorporate but to form an LLC. Then I won’t be evil.

  17. “Let’s boil it down to the essential words: Political documentary, banned, government.”

    You are my hero.

  18. The saddest and truest part of Matt’s column is at the end:

    The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Matt Welch.

    Matt is probably the only person involved in any way with the CNN website who really believes in free speech.

  19. Documentaries are not new..they do help politicians publicized their achievements or downfall. I’m currently working on viral videos and have been thinking on how to make it appear less politics-like.

  20. Great article indeed. I have been passing this around to various folks, it makes some great, solid points.

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