What's Wrong with Free Speech for Foreign Corporations?


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A week ago, the Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment trumped efforts by the political class to control free speech through campaign finance reform restrictions. This displeased prominent members of that class. In his State of the Union speech on Wednesday, President Barack Obama scaremongered:

With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests –- including foreign corporations –- to spend without limit in our elections.  (Applause.)  I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities.

On today's Morning Edition program on NPR tireless progressive opponent of free speech Fred Wertheimer asserted:

"They have opened a loophole here that did not exist prior to the decision," says Fred Wertheimer of the group Democracy 21.

He and other advocates of regulating political money say that foreign investors can get into American politics by buying into U.S. companies.

To NPR's credit, its report did note that other legal experts don't think that the ruling in the Citizens United has any effect on regulations prohibiting foreign involvement in U.S. elections. But let's set that aside for now.

What has astonished me is the jingoism embodied in such statements by the president and other so-called progressives. Is it not the case that millions of Americans work for "foreign" corporations such as Honda, Siemens, GlaxoSimthKline, etc.? That millions of Americans have invested tens of billions of their retirement savings in the stocks of such "foreign" companies? This being so and given the flood of rules, regulations, taxes, and subsidies emanating from Washington, DC, it seems to me that foreign corporations may have something of interest to say to voters about the policies being proposed by would-be "public servants" who are running for office.

But instead, the president and other progressives are attempting to fan the flames of both jingoism and class resentment simultaneously. Corporations = bad. Foreigners = bad. Put them together: Foreign corporations = evil incarnate.

This is what liberalism has come to. For shame! 

Finally, I want to associate myself with my colleague Jacob Sullum's astute observation in his recent column on the Citizens United case:

For the record, I think intelligent extraterrestrials residing in the United States would be covered by the First Amendment.