Supreme Court

What's Worse, "Disingenuously waving the flag of the First Amendment," or Burning it?

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As I hinted at in my CNN.com column of yesterday, those self-identified free-speech champions who are crying in their Cheerios today over Citizens United v. the FEC are able to get to what many of us think is a contradictory position by pretending that the free-speech objection to campaign finance reform is a smokescreen for enabling the Corporatey Corporates (and their puppets, the Republican Party). For instance, The New York Times editorial board:

Disingenuously waving the flag of the First Amendment, the court's conservative majority has paved the way for corporations to use their vast treasuries to overwhelm elections and intimidate elected officials into doing their bidding. […]

[A] conservative majority has distorted the political system to ensure that Republican candidates will be at an enormous advantage in future elections.

Or The American Prospect's Scott Lemieux:

The central line of argument in Justice Kennedy's majority opinion—that the First Amendment does not permit distinctions based on the identity of the speaker—is superficially attractive. The problem is, there's no reason to believe that any of the justices believe it.

Lemieux at least points to other Supreme Court cases to build a case for hypocrisy, but what's striking here is the inability to even pretend to take debate opponents at face value. When arguments are disingenuous, that apparently obviates the need to engage them. Thus, petulant hand-waving like: "Libertarians agree that letting corporations have more influence over the political process than ordinary citizens is excellent for the cause of freedom."

Ordinary citizens like…Russ Howard and Steve Cicero, who launched an unsuccessful grassroots recall campaign against a politician they considered corrupt, then were given a fine for campaign finance violations eight times the amount of money they had raised for it? Or how about (of all things!) the Supreme Court case in question, where documentary filmmakers faced jail if they broadcast a movie that made a politician look bad during election season? Or how about this description in yesterday's decision of what regulated political speech looks like in practice?

Campaign finance regulations now impose "unique and complex rules" on "71 distinct entities." These entities are subject to separate rules for 33 different types of political speech. The FEC has adopted 568 pages of regulations, 1,278 pages of explanations and justifications for those regulations, and 1,771 advisory opinions since 1975. In fact, after this Court in WRTL [the 2007 Wisconsin Right to Life case] adopted an objective "appeal to vote" test for determining whether a communication was the functional equivalent of express advocacy, the FEC adopted a two-part, 11-factor balancing test to implement WRTL's ruling.

This regulatory scheme may not be a prior restraint on speech in the strict sense of that term, for prospective speakers are not compelled by law to seek an advisory opinion from the FEC before the speech takes place. As a practical matter, however, given the complexity of the regulations and the deference courts show to administrative determinations, a speaker who wants to avoid threats of criminal liability and the heavy costs of defending against FEC enforcement must ask a governmental agency for prior permission to speak.

The plight of "ordinary citizens" is precisely the reason why non-Republicans like me (let alone many conservatives who refused to support John McCain) opposed the campaign finance laws struck down yesterday. When a law requires any group of two or more people who raise $5,000 for the purposes of making a political statement to adhere to a blizzard of federal regulations subject to fines, that law by definition chokes off the "voices of everyday Americans" that President Barack Obama, in his ridiculous reaction to the decision yesterday, expressed outrage on behalf of. Free-speech campaign-finance enthusiasts are willing to censor or chill those small voices for the greater purpose of attempting (and largely failing) to blunt the political activity of hated Corporations (or "Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests," in the words of a president who has been bailing out Wall Street banks and crafting legislative deals with health insurance companies and other powerful interests for a year now). What campaign-finance supporters are not willing to do, at least most of the time, is admit that they're making any tradeoff on political expression at all.

Watch former FEC chairman Brad Smith break it down, on Reason TV.

NEXT: Exorcising the Ghost of Che Guevara

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  1. You get three Stanley Cups in your swimming pool and suddenly you think you know everything.

  2. Let’s amend the First Amendment to limit the ability of some corporations to exercise speech rights.

    After that, let’s amend the First Amendment to prevent flag burning.

    After that, let’s amend the First Amendment to limit press rights to companies registered and officially recognized as being part of the “press.”

    After that, let’s amend the First Amendment to end the protection of speech that offends other people.

    After that, we won’t need to amend the First Amendment, because freedom of speech will no longer have legal protection.

  3. “[A] conservative majority has distorted the political system to ensure that Republican candidates will be at an enormous advantage in future elections.”

    Why does that make it a bad decision? Is it not possible that something can be both Constitutional and advantageous for Republicans? Or is it the case that in the New York Times’ view, anything that is advantageous for Republicans must be unconstitutional.

    1. What’s worse is that it’s not even true. Goldman Sachs gives $2 to Democrats for every $1 it gives to Republicans. A huge number of big business-PACs are either even-handed or favor the Democrats.

      1. It’s a commonly held, but incorrect view, that big business hates big government.

        1. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite case. And, of course, it’s also false–100% false–that Democrats are somehow anti-big business. Where does a bunch of their money come from?

    2. Big Corp doesn’t make campaign contributions on ideological grounds.

      Big Corp makes campaign contributions to whoever it thinks will win. So it can get favors later.

      Period.

      Never forget the Iron Law:

      Money and power will always find each other.

      Campaign finance laws did nothing to keep big money away from politicians and their campaigns. These laws functioned mostly to keep the small players smothered under a layer of bureaucracy, to the benefit of incumbents and the big players.

  4. MFin’ word! Excellent job, Matt. Although, I sensed some vitriol in both your posts. I am very sensitive to this.

  5. …finance reform is a smokescreen for enabling the Corporatey Corporates…

    I always wondered why The New York Times Corporation, the Tribune Company (also a Corporation), General Electric Corporation (parent of NBC and MSNBC) et.al. had speech rights that other corporations lacked under the laws that were just struck down. Were there specific exemptions given to “press” Corporations under the previous speech laws? If so, I think I can understand why the NYT is whining like a bitch right now.

    1. But they are journalists BP. They will use their undo influence responsibly and for the right causes. Don’t you understand that?

      1. I see. So journalists are actually the High Priests of this secular religion known as government, the only ones worthy to be the gatekeepers being so pure of intent?

        Sounds more like the Eleusinian Mysteries to me.

        1. “So journalists are actually the High Priests of this secular religion known as government”

          So we kill them first when the Revolution comes?

  6. It’s amazing how quickly companies have acted on the decision. Last night I was already seeing political messages funded by the world’s 12th biggest corporation. They hired a smooth-talking guy who conveyed messages about issues and candidates. It was eye-opening! Interestingly, one of the positions advanced during this block of corporate-funded political messaging was that the Supreme Court decision was really, really bad.

    So it was hard not to draw certain conclusions about the smooth-talking guy onscreen. (This is where I was going to cleverly insert a link to the dictionary definition of “hypocrisy,” except this idiotic new comment software apparently limits us to two links…)

  7. It’s amazing how quickly companies have acted on the decision. Last night I was already seeing political messages funded by the world’s 12th biggest corporation. They hired a smooth-talking guy who conveyed messages about issues and candidates. It was eye-opening! Interestingly, one of the positions advanced during this block of corporate-funded political messaging was that the Supreme Court decision was really, really bad.

    So it was hard not to draw certain conclusions about the smooth-talking guy onscreen. (This is where I was going to cleverly insert a link to the dictionary definition of “hypocrisy,” except this idiotic new comment software apparently limits us to two links…)

  8. [A] conservative majority has distorted the political system to ensure that Republican candidates will be at an enormous advantage in future elections.

    It’s a good thing that no labor union would ever try to distort the political process to ensure that Democrats are at an enormous advantage in future elections.

  9. [The President:] “I am instructing my Administration to … talk with bipartisan Congressional leaders to develop a forceful response to this decision.”

    “A forceful response.”

    Like this?

    1. Wasnt that towards Hillary though?

  10. Matt, I don’t know what Reason pays you, but I see no reason why you shouldn’t get together with Chad or Tony and make sure your pay is commensurate to your needs based on whatever arbitrary, liberal amount comes to mind! Don’t get too excited; by liberal, I don’t mean generous – I mean irrational, hysterical, and delusional.

  11. If you guys (Reason) are going to let regular user’s contributions get caught up in spam filters, could you please at least inform us what the various spam criteria are, so we can avoid it in our posts?

  12. OK, so does anything get through the spam filter? Jesus.

  13. I keep looking for a liberal (or, frankly, any) reaction akin to: “Well, the likely outcome of this is going to suck, but of course it’s the constitutional thing to do, so that’s that.” That would match my own reaction. Am I being naive here?

    1. Ooh, nice rhetorical question.

    2. I feel similarly. Though I’m not sure its going to “suck.”

      And Yes. That type of reaction is often the best indicator that you are talking to a rationale person. A person who can realize its not best for them immediately, but is best long term or by their principles.

      So, obviously, you haven’t seen much of it.

      1. Well, my definition of “suck” is “I am going to hear a lot of goddamn noise which I will have to ignore like I always do, and then watch an election where I hate the candidates and the outcome and feel depressed for weeks afterwards.”

        Though actually that is generally the Libertarian view of pretty much any election I guess.

    3. Why should liberals agree that the constitution requires it? On the face of it, it appears absurd to conclude that a corporation has all the legal (or constitutional) rights of a person because it is owned by persons. As Stevens pointed out in dissent, it does not: Corporations cannot e.g. vote in elections. And Kennedy et alii explicitly punted on a core problem of their interpretation: Can foreign corporations claim 1st Amendment rights too? As I pointed out at unbossed.com, most large corporations are at least partly owned by non-Americans and therefore those owners cannot logically be granted 1st Amendment rights. The basic legal problem is that a “corporation” is a physical body in the same sense as a “chair” of a committee is upholstered.

      1. Your blog is toolish. Be gone, government lover.

      2. Stevens is a tool. Voting is not a constitutionally* protected right, free speech is.

        *Voting has statutory protections, the application of which can fall under “equal protection”, but you have no inherent right to vote for any officer of the US government.

        1. Voting rights are constitutionally protected. The constitution guarantees a republican form of government for the states, which in the political thinking of the 18th century meant that adult male citizens had a right to vote (excepting those whose past actions had made themselves ineligible).

          Various amendments refer to “the right to vote” and clarify further details. The 14th takes away congressional representation to the degree that adult males are denied their right to vote. The 15th confirms that former slaves and non-whites have the right to vote. The 19th says that the right of US citizens to vote cannot be denied based on sex. The 24th says that the right of US citizens to vote in national elections may not be denied based on poll taxes. The 26th says that the right of US citizens over 18 to vote shall not be denied based on age.

          None of this has meaning unless there is a right to vote for adult citizens, with obvious and limited exceptions.

  14. A brief stint working at the Federal Election Commission made me the libertarian I am today. The whole thing should be abolished.

  15. The Voice of Everyday America.

    “The New York Times Company also owns The Boston Globe, the International Herald Tribune, and almost two dozen other regional newspapers in the United States (15 of which publish daily). In 2005, its Broadcast Media Group included 35 web sites, including NYTimes.com, Boston.com and About.com”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_New_York_Times_Company

    1. Some animals are more equal than others.

      1. “Newsspeak good. Freespeak bad.”

  16. It seems to me that the SC’s decision overturning speech restrictions brings to light the slightly older judicial misstep of granting personhood to corporations. Given the logic of yesterday’s ruling, how can they continue to deny corporate “persons” the right to vote?

    I have no problem with the idea of corporations, but denying them personhood would force the directors and employees – and possibly shareholders – to be more responsible (by being personally liable for corporate actions).

    Corporations are not people and should not treated as such under the law. Cure the disease and you won’t have to worry about the symptom (the deleterious effects of money in politics).

    1. Corporations are not people and should not treated as such under the law.

      They are however free associations of individuals, and if an individual has a right to free speech, it follows that an association of two or more individuals who wish to pool their resources in order to make more effective and widely-distributed political speech should be similarly protected.

      1. Nobody’s ever been forbidden from doing that. Now corporations can spend unlimited amounts from their general treasury on advertising for candidates for office. Essentially it means that not only are corporations equal to people in terms of free speech, they are MORE equal.

        1. And just what percent of earnings do you think the officers of a big corporation can redirect to finance campaigns before the shareholders tell them to go fuck themselves?

          If Tony had a brain, he’d take it out and play with it.

          1. Uh, it’s usually a great investment to buy a member of congress, that’s the entire point. Spend a million, get a $10 million contract. What shareholder could possibly object to that kind of return?

            1. Is the candidate running unopposed in your scenario, Tony?

              1. Thank you.

              2. I’m not sure what you’re getting at.

                Often corporations spend on both sides to hedge their bets. But typically the recipients of corporate money have been Republicans, for at least two reasons. One, Republicans invented the system in the first place with Newt’s K Street project. Two, they tend to have less of a problem with being unprincipled hacks.

                1. Tony, do you know the difference between an ad and a bribe?

                2. So Democrats didn’t receive massive corporate donations and win huge in the 2008 election year? They didn’t proceed (along with Republicans) to give enormous handouts back to those same corporations? Way to be a partisan hack, Tony! You’re really outshining yourself today.

                3. You have got to be f’ing kidding me. Republicans invented the system? Are you trying to tell me that in almost a continuous 75 years of a Democratically controlled Congress, they didn’t participate in corruption and graft?

                  Let’s see, O’Neill, Baker, Murtha, even Truman, etc…

                  Making that statement just shows you have blinders on.

        2. An association of two or more individuals who wish to pool their resources in order to make more effective and widely-distributed political speech should be similarly protected.

          Nobody’s ever been forbidden from doing that.

          Ooh ooh, I can think of a good counterexample: Citizens United vs. FEC.

        3. Now corporations can spend unlimited amounts from their general treasury on advertising for candidates for office.

          Like the New York Times and the Washington Post?

    2. Corporations aren’t people. It’s legally convenient to recognize some rights for businesses, understanding that those rights can’t be tied to individuals if we’re to retain the concept of limited liability.

      Largely, the idea that businesses have “rights” stems from the concept that individuals and individuals in groups have rights. And plenty of those rights can’t be exported to the organization, so it’s not like corporations have anywhere near the rights we have as individuals. More power, sure, but not more rights.

    3. Hmm – I don’t think this decision means what you think it means. This is a limitation being applied to congress and their ability to effect the freedom of speach of ANYBODY. And, BTW – did you actually read the case that was being decided? This was a situation where the state was explicitly supressing the political speach of a group of people who lawfully pool resources in order to publish the views that they share. Letting government make the call about the high motives of the corporations doing the “speaking” (in the sense of the corporate media) is the worst possible situation, since it provides a market stranglehold by the guild members of the media.

      They now have a huge profit center being wrested from their control – no more paid media endorsements (in the form of op/ed pieces) from major pundits, and I suspect this will have more impact on the editorial and business models of MSM than we realize. In fact, I have wondered if limitations on political advertising actually serve to drive the monoclonal nature of the media – there was no market force that provided disincentive to being a complete partisan asshole, and I suspect many editors / columnists received quite a bit of greasing from political parties to maintain that patronage relationship. Perhaps if the mercenary component is large enough, MSM political realignment will follow revenue sream realignment. I can only hope there is a libertarian element to the eventual equilibrium…

    4. I have no problem with the idea of corporations, but denying them personhood would force the directors and employees – and possibly shareholders – to be more responsible (by being personally liable for corporate actions).

      Why not deny state governments personhood as well?

      Why not make voters personally liable for government actions?

    5. I have no problem with the idea of corporations, but denying them personhood would force the directors and employees – and possibly shareholders – to be more responsible (by being personally liable for corporate actions).

      Why not deny state governments personhood as well?

      Why not make voters personally liable for government actions?

      1. Personally liable? As in carpet bomb your city as collective punishment kind of personal? It has appeal and the instructive social disincentive would be powerfully delivered (and the newsreels would be spectacular) but it seems extreme for a free speech violation.

        Or are we talking about DC? If so, I take back everything I said about the carpet bombing.

    6. the fact that corporations don’t YET register to vote is cute. since they have b ought and paid for congress why should thye bother???????????????

  17. It’s funny how, over the years, the meanings of words changes. Corporations have always had the right to speak up and say, “I support this candidate.” That is their right to free speech. This Court decision was not needed to uphold that.

    Speech doesn’t mean giving money. Speech means talking.

    If Corporations were banned from giving any money at all to candidates, or banned from sending lobbyists to Washington, they could still exercise their right of free speech, by saying they like some candidates and not others. They’d just have to stay out of Washington and not give money.

    What the Court has upheld is the right to bribe.

    1. The Court stopped the government from censoring a documentary about a politician. Think about how twisted your logic has become for you to think that the 1st Amendment means that it is okay for the government to ban a political documentary based solely on who funded it.

    2. And since when have politicians ever complained about the so-called “bribes” you refer to?

      You can talk all you want about corporations and their money but the problem isn’t corporations and their money. The problem is politicians who will work harder to keep their jobs than they will to represent their constituents. You get what you vote for.

      1. In my understanding, the problem is that we’ve permitted our federal government to ascertain powers far more broad and reaching than anything specifically delegated to it in Article I, Section 8. And in doing so, we have thereby paved the road for rent-seeking behavior on the part of corporations, unions, et. al. to give lavishly to candidates because of the promise to receive even more lavishly from the public trough.

      2. How many politicians have said they just love spending most of their time raising money?

        If money were not as big a factor in elections, politicians would be free to “work harder to keep their jobs” by representing their constituents.

        1. “How many politicians have said they just love spending most of their time raising money?”

          Obama said as much when he renigged on his promis to accept matching federal funds.

          1. :::cough::: I would have used the “reneged” spelling.

            1. Hey, don’t go offending The Art! He tolerates a lot of crap around here already.

              What’s funny is that when I was skimming this, I thought you were making a joke about “renegade” spelling. I thought that sounded like a great idea:

              Commenter 1: “Hey, dude, millennium has two Ns.”

              Commenter 2: “Not for me. I’m a renegade speller.”

      3. “You get what you vote for.”

        I wish that were true. Unfortunately, we all get what special interests pay for. I don’t have enough money to buy my own politicians.

    3. No, the SC said it was Unconstitutional for the Government to prevent anyone (including a group of anyones) from buying air time (or othrwise securing a forum by legitimate means) to air their views just because said views (a) were political in nature and (b) were expressed during an election.

      Specifically, that when the Constitution says “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech..” it specifically does NOT indicate who is speaking. And therefore, the amendment must apply generally unless the speech violates one of the other constitutional provisions.

      Bribery is still against the law, and so is slander.

    4. Speech doesn’t mean giving money. Speech means talking.

      Great! So all Congress has to do is make it illegal to buy any of the following:

      -A printing press
      -A radio broadcast antenna
      -A TV broadcast antenna
      -A web server
      -An email account
      -A megaphone

      No problem, since money isn’t speech, right?

      I often wonder where these fools who believe that speech is only the sound of your unamplified voice are educated.

      1. Actually, his post is worse than that.

        It is clear he assumes that the law prior to this decision ALLOWED corporations to do any of the things you list, and just prevented them from making contributions to a candidate.

        In other words, he has absolutely no fucking idea what the prior state of the law was, or what the issues in the case were.

        1. I thought he was being metaphorical.

          But, it can never be emphisized enough that: spending money=speech.

      2. Amish homeschooled.

    5. No, asshole, corporations have not always had that right.

      Do you even know what this case was about?

      The law challenged by the plaintiffs specifically said that no corporation could engage in any communication critical of a candidate within a certain time frame prior to an election.

      The case was not about campaign contributions AT ALL.

      Why are people so fucking stupid that they show up to talk about a case they know nothing about?

      1. The law challenged by the plaintiffs specifically said that no corporation could engage in any communication critical of a candidate within a certain time frame prior to an election.

        So the New York Times and Associated Press were forbidden from publishing articles critical of elected officials within a certain time frame prior to the election?

  18. How can it be that Exxon Mobil Corporation is not a “person” with First Amendment rights, but the Associated Press is? Are the human members of each organization covered under a different Constitution?

    1. The Associated Press is a cooperative and its 1500+ members are all non-profit news companies with the sole interest of keeping the public informed.

      Oh wait…

    2. And the court references this issue, explicitly saying that under the rule as it was, there was no way to carve out “press” from corporations and that was part of the reason for the ruling.

      And corporations being “persons” helps quite a bit in the legal world. I don’t think you want their personhood status taken away. Do you really want to sue a $2M net worth owner or his $2B company?

      Regardless, the case before the court doesn’t even have to turn on the “person” question. Can the government stop a documentary from airing simply because it was funded by some corporate money? If yes, then take V, BSG, and any other show or movie involving political themes off the air during election time.

      1. Precisely. A corporation can be one person or a million. But as long as they are humans and Americans, their First Amendment rights are guaranteed.

        1. Yes, to be precise, at this time, a corporation made up solely of robots has no rights.

  19. If you read the questioning by the Justices, you will find it breathtaking that the FEC attorney answered a question by Scalia that, yes, yes it would ban books (if it endorsed a candidate).

    Of course, if you can’t talk about candidates, kind of makes you wonder what that whole 1st amendment thingy is all about (but only if you are an obtuse, bigoted, hateful neanderthal)

  20. the court’s conservative majority has paved the way for corporations to use their vast treasuries to overwhelm elections

    The New York Times said this, right?

    Would that be the same NYT which, conducting business as a corporation, routinely takes sides and recommends candidates in elections both local and national?

    That New York Times?

      1. -2. No points for cliche.

        Outfits like the New York Times happens to be specifically protected by the first amendment.

        1. Hey! What a coincidence! So am I!

        2. Who decides which “outfits” are like the New York Times and allowed to endorse Democratic candidates and which outfits are not like the New York Times and not allowed to criticize Democratic candidates?

          1. Democracy decides!

            (hurr durr)

        3. Tony|1.22.10 @ 2:37PM|#

          -2. No points for cliche.

          Outfits like the New York Times happens to be specifically protected by the first amendment.

          +USSR

          NYT is protected much like Pravda is protected in its right to the freedom of speech, eh comrade?

        4. Just because the NYT and other news organizations self-identify as “the press” doesn’t mean they are what is referenced in the 1st amendment.

          The press was a device used for printing, and the 1st amendment states that the right to use “the press” shall not be abridged. The press being the prevailing technological means for disseminating information at the time, was specifically mentioned to prevent some jerk from insisting that only vocalized speech was protected. Thus, “the press” referenced in the 1st amendment should be read to include any technological means to disseminate speech, not some favor tossed by the founding fathers to the non-existent news media of the future.

    1. The press consider themselves higher than the common man, with special privileges worthy of their enlightened existence.

  21. I think the ruling sets a good precedent.

  22. Whoa, that’s quite a bias the NY Times editorial board has. There’s nothing wrong with being open about one’s biases, but damn that seems to be quite a leftward bent there.

    1. I recently remarked that either the NYT has gotten worse, or I’ve gotten smarter, or both.

      1. I see up-page that Ron Bailey would probably agree with you, and myself for that matter.

  23. And another thing…

    It amuses me to see Progressives show so little faith in the quality and power of their message that they immediately assume a few “corporate sponsored” ads will magically blow their candidates right out of the water.

    1. Yeah, what’s the deal with that? It’s almost as though they think the public is a mass of empty-minded vessels who will believe whatever message they hear most frequently.

      1. It’s almost as though t They think the public is a mass of empty-minded vessels…

        That pretty much sums up their beliefs in general.

        1. Otherwise known as a winning political strategy.

        2. After the looking at the candidates that our electorate has managed to put into office over my lifetime, I can’t say I entirely disagree with that assessment either. Just sayin…

      2. It’s simply that the people haven’t understood the message. It’s not the message.

      3. Notice how–to a man–they all assume the worst?

        “a blockbuster decision from the Supreme Court today opening floodgates for companies and unions to spend all the money they want attacking political candidates.”
        -ABC anchor Diane Sawyer

        “This is a Supreme Court-sanctioned murder of what little actual Democracy is left in this Democracy. It is government of the people by the corporations for the corporations. It is the Dark Ages. It is our Dred Scott.”
        -MSNBC Psychotic and Serial Hyperbolist Keith Olbermann

        1. Olbermann is an idiot.

          1. True, but I live for his kisses!

        2. “This is a Supreme Court-sanctioned murder of what little actual Democracy is left in this Democracy. It is government of the people by the corporations for the corporations. It is the Dark Ages. It is our Dred Scott.”
          -MSNBC Psychotic and Serial Hyperbolist Keith Olbermann

          Corporations like Microsoft and General Electric?

    2. they immediately assume a few “corporate sponsored” ads will magically blow their candidates right out of the water.

      Well of course they should, since they know better than any the depths of disingenuous and depraved lengths they will go to achieve their nefarious ends. For that matter so-called conservatives should consider themselves on watch as well.

      I see this as a feature, not a bug.

    3. PB, I think the NYT and progressives are just worried that the massive political influence of that financial juggernaut Citizens United will simply outfund their corporate and other constituencies like SEIU, Gneral Electric, Health Insurance companies, Phizer, General Motors, and the rest.

      That Citizens United weilds such disproprtionate power you know.

  24. Finally! Now we are free to really get behind a candidate. Surely, the President will respect this right.

  25. “The central line of argument in Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion — that the First Amendment does not permit distinctions based on the identity of the speaker — is superficially attractive”

    Well, he reveals too much – equal rights are SUPERFICIALLY attractive…yeah, its equal outcomes that are truly beautiful. Sure, we have to saw off the legs of the tall so the short…uh, won’t be short changed, but its worth it!

  26. It amuses me to no end when I see nitwits like Dalia Lithwick make the inane argument that if corporations have a right to speech why don’t they have a right to vote. Can liberals not read?

    The right to vote, such as it is, is contained in the 15th Amendment Article 1 which says

    1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

    Note, it says the right of US citizens. It is talking about individuals. In contrast the 1st Amendment states

    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.

    Congress shall make no law “abridging the freedom of speech”. It is not talking about “citizens’ freedom of speech”. It is talking the “freedom of speech”. Think about it, aliens and foreigners can’t vote. But they sure as hell have a right to free speech under the 1st Amendment.

    Can we please retire this dumb ass argument?

    1. +1

      especially with regard to Dahlia Lithwick who is increasingly getting closer to the Make Me Drive Into a Tree boundary when I hear her on NPR.

    2. Can we please retire this dumb ass argument?

      As long as we can also retire it in regard to holding suspects without charging them.

      1. Key point in that ammendment–freedom of speech and the press are two distinct things. If the press is considered a person, why is it mentioned?

    3. People seem to have trouble with the distinction between Amendments that grant rights and those that limit Congress. I’ve had to reiterate that very point on many a torture and immigration thread.

      1. *cough*

        Do you really mean “grant” rights?

      2. amendments dont grant rights…i am not going to cover this again, i promise.

        i-n-h-e-r-e-n-t

    4. Good lord, could you imagine if corporations could vote. If a multi-billion dollar corporation could cast a single vote in an election? Yes, that would surely be the final straw that would crush the back of democracy.

      1. Well, they could make 1,000,000 subsidiaries that could vote….

        1. Just how much money do you think companies have to waste? Why do Progressives think that companies hav an endless supply of cash? Could it be because that just because the government does, then corporations do too?

          1. I was just being a dick for the sake of being a dick.

            I am well aware that even at an administrative cost + minimum tax + state filing fees total annual cost of $1,000, it would cost $1,000,000,000 a year to maintain your mostly useless army of zombie voters. You can do much better things with that money, and only the smallest fraction of corporations could even entertain the idea, with little realizable benefit.

  27. I remember debating McCain-Feingold in (my American) college. I brought up the fact that Canadian election finance rules not only limit how much individuals and corporations can contribute, but how much parties and candidates can spend, and when they can begin campaigning. It’s a serious impediment to free speech, but to many of the corporation-hatin’ lefties in my class, it was the best idea evar.

    It makes me smile to think of them pouting over this all too rare win.

  28. Its telling how those upset are expressing their rage.

    I got into it with a guy on MSNBC who was saying how giving corporations these rights was a travesty. I mentioned that I guess he doens’t mind Unions getting them, then.

    He quickly stated that he doesn’t think Unions should have them either. But it was too late. They are reacting not to the decision, but the corporation part. If this was about a Michael Moore film and the outcome had been exactly the same, they would have no problem.

    1. Obviously, corporations have much more money and influence than unions. This false equivalency bullshit doesn’t change the fact that the real-world consequences will be more corporate control of elections’ outcomes.

      1. SEIU spent $60 million getting Obama elected. Forgive me for thinking that somehow Citizen’s United wasn’t able to raise quiute as much cash for their documentary…

      2. Just out of curiosity, who do you think has the most control over elections’ outcomes right now?

      3. Not to mention Tony, that The Hillary(tm) documentary was unflattering in it’s portrayal of the former first lady. I would think not only would McCain have appreciated the showing of said doc, but also Obama, Edwards and other Dems.

        I am quite sure, all things being equal that opponents vying for same nomination are probably not going to mind opposing party candidates “dirty work” for them. I certainly didn’t see McCain et al. complaining when the Clinton Machine was going after The One (and gave McCain a reason that pretentious “I am running an honorable campaign” shtick).

        It surprises me that none have pointed out that this is not just a team red/team blue/team corporate speech issue regarding elections.

        1. Add “doing their ‘dirty work'”….

      4. Yes, because corporations can run commercials! All those commercials about how they were different sure saved WaMu, didn’t they? Boy, I know all those commercials GM runs have made them the most profitable automaker in the world, haven’t they?

        Corporations can now runny shitty ads about politics in addition to shitty ads about their products. More dreck for the masses to fast forward through, but it’s gonna end democracy, ain’t it?

        1. Yes, because corporations can run commercials! All those commercials about how they were different sure saved WaMu, didn’t they? Boy, I know all those commercials GM runs have made them the most profitable automaker in the world, haven’t they?

          Montgomery Ward and Circuit City are rolling in the dough.

  29. The plight of “ordinary citizens” is precisely the reason why non-Republicans like me [Matt Welch] (let alone many conservatives who refused to support John McCain) opposed the campaign finance laws struck down yesterday.

    I did not realize the extend to which these laws made it very difficult (if not downright impossible) for independent candidates to such big shot posts as Mayor of a small town to be able to campaign, until I saw the John Stossel special “Give Me A Break”, almost his last special before he left ABC. It reminded me of the election laws passed in Mexico to limit the entry of independent candidates, making them affiliate themselves with any of the Mickey Mouse political parties that always spring out before each presidential election in order to collect federal money.

  30. http://www.bing.com/search?FOR…..v=1&q=“supreme court” FEC case arguments&adlt=strict

    JUSTICE ALITO: Do you think the Constitution required Congress to draw the line where it did, limiting this to broadcast and cable and so forth? What’s your answer to Mr. Olson’s point that there isn’t any constitutional difference between the distribution of this movie on video demand and providing access on the Internet, providing DVDs, either through a commercial service or maybe in a public library, providing the same thing in a book? Would the Constitution permit the restriction of all of those as well?
    MR. STEWART: I think the — the Constitution would have permitted Congress to apply the electioneering communication restrictions to the extent that they were otherwise constitutional under Wisconsin Right to Life. Those could have been applied to additional media as well. And it’s worth remembering that the pre-existing Federal Election Campaign Act restrictions on corporate electioneering which have been limited by this Court’s decisions to express advocacy —
    JUSTICE ALITO: That’s pretty incredible. You think that if — if a book was published, a campaign biography that was the functional equivalent of express advocacy, that could be banned?
    MR. STEWART: I’m not saying it could be banned. I’m saying that Congress could prohibit the use of corporate treasury funds and could require a corporation to publish it using its PAC.
    JUSTICE ALITO: Well, most publishers are corporations. And a — a publisher that is a corporation could be prohibited from selling a book?
    MR. STEWART: Well, of course, the statute contains its own media exemption or media —
    JUSTICE ALITO: I’m not asking what the statute says. The government’s position is that the First Amendment allows the banning of a book if it’s published by a corporation?
    MR. STEWART: Because the First Amendment refers both to freedom of speech and of the press, there would be a potential argument that media corporations, the institutional press, would have a greater First Amendment right. That question is obviously not presented here. The — the other two things —
    JUSTICE KENNEDY: Well, suppose it were an advocacy organization that had a book. Your position is that under the Constitution, the advertising for this book or the sale for the book itself could be prohibited within the 60/90-day period — the 60/30-day period?
    MR. STEWART: If the book contained the functional equivalent of express advocacy. That is, if it was subject to no reasonable interpretation —

    _______________________________
    I implore you to read the rest of it – and think how who and how we get to debate.

    1. Thanks for posting this. Pretty amazing stuff.

      At least Mr. Stewart was honest….

    2. MR. STEWART: Because the First Amendment refers both to freedom of speech and of the press, there would be a potential argument that media corporations, the institutional press, would have a greater First Amendment right. That question is obviously not presented here.
      ————————————–
      scary.

  31. Sigh. The level of ignorant paranoia about corporations continues.

    Corporations are legal “persons” for purposes of contracting and litigation. That’s it. That means that a corporation can enter into contracts and sue and be sued.

    Nothing more.

    SCOTUS didn’t strike a big chunk of M-F because corporations are “persons.” It struck it because the First Amendment contains no exception allowing the State to regulating speech because it is produced or distributed by groups of people rather than a single, lone individual.

  32. Big Corp makes campaign contributions to whoever it thinks will win. So it can get favors later.

    Big Corp’s internal polling must oversample Democrats by quite a bit. You’d think they’d correct that, being so pragmatic about these things.

    Or maybe they have some additional information about who’ll actually do them favors?

    Nah, they’re just bad at getting money.

  33. “Sigh. The level of ignorant paranoia about corporations continues.”

    Dude, get a clue. The “corporations” control the banks and the media, and strongly influence numerous governments. They’ve got all the lawyers, and a lot of the doctors too.

    The “corporations” are secretly using these tools to manipulate powerful government officials and international bodies in order to advance their plans to control the world. Only by giving a leader absolute power to cleanse our society of these parasites can we triumph as a nation.

    1. maybe, we can stop them if we can only find their secret underground volcano island lair.

      1. I think to get to their secret underground volcano island lair you have to swim through the shark-filled moat.

        1. Do the sharks have laser beams?

          1. Well, of course.

    2. Sigh. The level of ignorant paranoia about corporations continues.

    3. So… no one’s taking the bait? Oh well.

  34. I can’t help but wonder if the liberal reaction to this decision would be different if the documentary in question had been a negative take on McCain rather than Hillary.

    1. Not everyone is as nakedly partisan (R) as libertarians. Liberals have long been concerned with the influence of corporations on the political process.

      1. Ha ha ha ha, awesome satire, Tony! You weren’t serious, were you?

        1. Liberals don’t like it especially when Democrats are owned by corporations dipshit. When you’re doing the bidding of big business you’re probably not enacting liberal policies.

          1. Tony, I’ve heard that when you repeat an untruth enough times you come to believe it yourself.

            Which, of course, leaves me wondering which Democrats who keep saying that their party is for the “people” are lying and which ones actually think that bullshit is true.

          2. Liberals don’t like it especially when Democrats are owned by corporations dipshit.

            That would explain Timothy Geithner being burned in effigy, then. And the vigil outside the White House protesting Big Pharma and Big Insurance helping to write the ObamaCare bill.

            1. Not that I’d be surprised, but you don’t expose yourself to the opinions of liberals very often do you?

          3. I’d say you’re probably doing the bidding of big business when you’re enacting liberal policies like regulations that hobble any competition and close the doors to any new market entrants.

          4. dear friend, you are fucking stupid.
            a corporation and a government are the exact same thing: people combining their time and treasure toward some larger goal. somehow i doubt you are angling for the government to not be involved with politics.

            but but but that is different. no its not. you are just a fool.

            1. I don’t get a say in who makes up the board of a corporation. Corporations are mini-autocracies with a singular goal. Governments are accountable to the people and has diverse responsibilities. Those are some pretty big differences.

              1. “I don’t get a say in who makes up the board of a corporation.”

                So buy some goddamn stock in the corporation rather than sitting in your mom’s basement trying to figure out how to get the Cheetos stains off your penis.

                1. Or lobby for reductions in the government protections that corporations have.

              2. “Governments are accountable to the people”

                Comedy gold.

        2. You know, it really is getting tough to tell when it’s actually Tony and when it’s a prankster pretending.

          1. I don’t know why you have to be so mean, Tony. So the Democratic party is actually self-loathing? That would explain a lot.

      2. Liberals have long been concerned with the influence of corporations on the political process.

        Like Viacom in 2004?

        What was the whole thing about forged memos purpoted to be from a Lieutenant Colonel Killian?

    2. I would not been at all surprised if Republicans had used this law to try to suppress Faharenheit 911 if it had been in affect at the time.

      And I would, likewise, not been at all surprised if Democrats had raised the roof screaming “First Amendment”.

      Which makes me wonder, is it different if the corporation financing the film (or whatever) is Disney? ’cause belive me Disney ids about as corporashunny as a corporation can get.

      I’m not sure if the piece of crap came out at election time, but suppose it did.

      OK, now I’m going to go shower and pretend I never brought up Michael Moore up.

  35. What is so scary to people like Tony about free speech for corporations? Lots of books and TV shows and radio programs and websites attacking politicians? Don’t we have that already? Does Tony think that just one more TV show or website that says, “The Democrats suck,” is going to destroy the Democratic Party?

    1. What do you mean “one more“?

  36. Tony

    To kick-off our coverage of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2009 we’ve got Gerard Johnson’s first feature, ‘Tony’, and it’s quite excellent! A week in the life of a lonely psycho-killer with severe social problems and an unfashionable moustache, Tony is a darkly comic take on the horror/killer genre. Peter Ferdinando plays our eponymous anti-hero as a nervous and misunderstood loser, unemployable and on state funded job-seeker allowance for 20 years, but prone to sudden acts of extreme violence against anyone who might torment him.

    Tony’s violent ways aren’t explained, there are no flashbacks or insinuations of an unhappy childhood, he’s simply insane enough to have convinced himself that he’s different, and it works perfectly. My favourite scene and one of the most chilling has Tony staring at himself in the bathroom mirror. He says, “You’re not a criminal, you’re a soldier, you’re gonna die like a soldier.” A brief pause indicates a shift in tone and he looks back at himself, “You’re no soldier, you’re a fly on a pile of shit.” He then lets out a guttural roar that even had the gigglers in the back row quieten down and sit-up. In short, Ferdinando is terrific in the role. Throughout the film a beautiful piano melody plays during exterior shots as Tony walks the streets and observes the filth that surrounds him, these parts of ‘Tony’ feel like a nightmare adapted for the screen by Johnson, as do the scenes where Tony painstakingly separates limbs from torsos to dispatch them in blue plastic bags in the Thames at night.

    1. I want to see this movie so badly. Qu’est Que C’est?

      1. It seems that it won’t be released in the UK until February. It’s anybody’s guess when it will make it here.

        1. Or how long we’ll have to wait for a Criterion Collection release.

          1. The deleted scenes that show him morphing back and forth between Tony and Chad are supposedly horrific.

            1. It occurred to me a while ago that Tony is a sockpuppet of our good buddy joe who is only trying to show what we are missing when we run ‘thoughtful and nuanced progressives’ away from the board.

              Ha Ha Ha

              1. The deleted scenes that show him morphing back and forth between Tony and Chad are supposedly horrific.

                Supposedly H.R. Giger vomited profusely after finishing his design of the Chony Monster.

                alan, even if your (admittedly intriguing) theory is true, explain how Tony is only a slightly bigger hack than joe.

                1. That is why I put ‘thoughtful and nuanced progressives’ in quotes. Between Tony’s mirror and joe’s debating coach, there is a lot of delusion going on that can explain the cognitive dissonance.

                2. H.R. Giger. Excellent touch A-P.O.G.

            2. Saccharin Man, I want the Director’s Cut so I can exhibit it to the next round of Med Students and Surgical Residents.

              A morbid collection of vicerae-twisting, psychotic, revolting media guaranteed to make the hopeful docs-to-be drop like Quincy’s lineup is just too good to pass up.

              This must be the most truly disturbing and graphic example of snuff quality horror.

              Will there be nudity?

    2. When’s the Lonewacko movie coming out?

  37. And another thing…

    It amuses me to see Progressives show so little faith in the quality and power of their message that they immediately assume a few “corporate sponsored” ads will magically blow their candidates right out of the water.

    Conversely, if they believe this gives Republicans an advantage next November, do they also believe they themselves could not have got elected without suppressing the free speech of others?

  38. Say, guys, if corporations can’t participate in US elections as voters, why should they be able to participate as buyers?

    1. People who own corporations are not allowed to vote? Since when?

      1. Since they’re Saudis or Chinese for example. Free speech for Saudis!

  39. I’m watching a program on NatGeo about carnivorous hippos. With anthrax. To me, that should be a whole lot more scary that a few free speech crumbs being dropped from the table of our government overlords. Fuck me. I think I may have pooped a little bit. CARNIVOROUS FUCKING HIPPOS, just in case you missed it the first time. We are so, so doomed.

  40. Are corporations really persons?

    Do corporations think?

    Do corporations grieve when a loved one dies as a result of a lack of adequate health care?

    If a corporation ever committed an unspeakable crime against the American people, could IT be sent to federal prison? (Note the operative word here: “It”)

    Has a corporation ever given its life for its country?

    Has a corporation ever been killed in an accident as the result of a design flaw in the automobile it was driving?

    Has a corporation ever written a novel that inspired millions?

    Has a corporation ever risked its life by climbing a ladder to save a child from a burning house?

    Has a corporation ever won an Oscar? Or an Emmy? Or the Nobel Peace Prize? Or the Pulitzer Prize in Biography?

    Has a corporation ever been shot and killed by someone who was using an illegal and unregistered gun?

    Has a corporation ever paused to reflect upon the simple beauty of an autumn sunset or a brilliant winter moon rising on the horizon?

    If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a noise if there are no corporations there to hear it?

    Should corporations kiss on the first date?

    Our lives – yours and mine – have more worth than any corporation. To say that the Supreme Court made a awful decision on Thursday is an understatement. Not only is it an obscene ruling – it’s an insult to our humanity.

    http://www.tomdegan.blogspot.com

    Tom Degan
    Goshen, NY

    1. So, you’re saying that you find the Constitution offensive? Your delicate sensibilities are duly noted.

      “Congress shall make no law…”

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