Recently at Reason.tv: 3 Reasons Not to Sweat Citizens United

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No recent Supreme Court ruling have evoked more liberal fury than Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a campaign-finance case involving government censorship of a political documentary called Hillary: The Movie. The Federal Election Commission prevented the anti-Hillary Clinton film from being shown on television just before the 2008 Democratic primaries, a decision that was upheld by lower courts. Siding with The First Amendment, the Court struck down laws regulating independent political advertising by for-profit and non-profit corporations before an election even as they reaffirmed rules about disclosure and disclosures for ads and against direct corporate giving to candidates.

Critics fear that corporations will now overwhelm the political marketplace with commercials and advertisements that will program citizens to vote for whatever agenda "the corprations" want at a given moment.

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann railed against the decision, calling it "a Supreme Court-sanctioned murder of what little democracy is left in this democracy" and comparing it to the notorious Dred Scott decision, which ruled that blacks had no rights under the Constitution. His fellow corporate media host at MSNBC, Rachel Maddow, exclaimed, "If you are a regular person who has ever made a campaign donation before, forget about ever having to do that again. What's the point?"

Cyberlaw theorist Lawrence Lessig has called for a consitutional amendment to roll back the Citizens United ruling and President Barack Obama called out the Supreme Court during his 2010 State of the Union address, proclaiming to a standing ovation:

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.

Is there any truth to some hyperbolic, doomsday scenarios? In a word, no. The Citizens United ruling increases freedom of political speech, not simply for powerful, politically connected corporations like Citigroup, AIG, and the companies that run The New York Times and other media outlets, but for small-pocketed nonprofits such as Citizens United too. If you want to get bent out of shape about something, direct your ire at a massive and constantly growing government that has its hands in virtually every aspect of economic and social life in America.

"3 Reasons Not to Sweat The Citizens United Ruling" was written and produced by Meredith Bragg and Nick Gillespie, who also hosts.

For Reason.com's archive on the Citizens United case, go here.

Approximately 3.30 minutes. Go to Reason.tv for downloadable versions.

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  1. Lets get this out of the way now:

    Citizens United was not about campaign contributions.

  2. Corporations are being treated like people!!! They’re alive!!! Foreign corporations will buy elections!!!! Arrrrgghhhh it’s the end of democracy!!!!

  3. Funny, Keith doesn’t seem to mind being a corporate shill for General Electric.

    1. It’s even funnier than that. General Electric and Microsoft.

      1. Also, I don’t think Keith is in a position to complain too much about First Amendment absolutists. In just about every single other country on Earth, his Scott Brown rant would have landed him on the wrong end of a hefty defamation suit (and in some democracies, he could’ve faced criminal libel charges).

  4. Lets get this out of the way, too:

    (1) Citizens United was not about whether its a good idea to restrict corporate speech.

    It was about whether the First Amendment (you remember, “Congress shall pass no law . . . .”) permits the government to restrict corporate speech.

    (2) Just because corporations are chartered by the state does not give the federal government any authority to limit what they can do.

    (3) Just because corporations are chartered by the state does not mean that the government at any level can do whatever it damn well pleases with them.

    OK, totalitarian lefty commentariat, have at it!

    1. The lefty logic can be fun, though. By their reasoning (that the government grants benefits to the corporate form, so can impose content-based speech restrictions on them), the Republicans — between 2001 and 2006 when they controlled Congress and the White House — could’ve passed a law allowing corporations to speak, but only in favor of Republicans/Conservatives; and that woudld’ve been constitutional.

  5. “Supreme Court-sanctioned murder of what little democracy is left in this democracy”

    The Democrats control both elected branches of the federal government. Yet, Olberman claims this kills what “little Democracy” we have left. Jesus, if his side winning huge in the last election only represents “a little Democracy” what must this asshole think when anyone else wins. Essentially for totalitarian fucks like Olberman, everyone must do exactly as he says at all times and agree with him at all times or democracy will die.

  6. Dude, you corporate apologists who make apologies for corporations–like anyone can be forgiven for the evils that corporations in their corporate evilness do–fail to realize what’s really going on here. In total and absolute harmony, each and every transnational corporation is pushing an agenda, one aimed at granting, at last, corporations the right to marry, to have children, and to breed. Soon, there will be nothing but corporations! Oh, there may be some people left here and there, but they won’t have any rights. Only corporations will.

    1. Damn this new blog format!

    2. … and the corporations sit there in their… in their corporation buildings, and… and, and see, they’re all corporation-y… and they make money

      1. Fear and ignorance.

      2. 1. Speech
        2. ?????
        3. Profit!

    3. Can you imagine if the companies that make Cialis and Viagra married? Everyone will have erections lasting for more than 4 hours! Little Jimmy will have a non-stop boner! Darling little Cindy will too! Your wife will become a man! The president will be nothing more than an erect penis!

      It’ll be the Priapocolypse!

      1. “The president will be is nothing more than an erect penis!

        FIFY

  7. Arrrrrgggghhhhh!

  8. Sure corporations might have First Amendment rights, but does that mean it is ok for a corporation to falsely yell fire in a crowded theater?

    1. Even worse, corporations will start fires in crowded theaters and charge people to evacuate!

    2. GE yells warming to a crowded planet, and then reeps handsome taxpayer subsidies with their man in the White House. I wonder if they brokered a behind closed doors deal w Obama to keep Keith Goeolbersmann and Leni Maddowstahl on TV to spew the party line. Oh yeah, they’re a media company so its all kosher.

      1. Media companies aren’t really corporations. They’re Warp-Orations.

        1. Akbar Zib! I effed that up. Let’s try again: They’re Warped Orations.

  9. Please, that idiot Oberman didn’t really equate Citizens United to the Dred Scott case, did he? Come on, you edited that tape, didn’t you? He can’t really be that stupid, can he?

    I guess you get desparate when your rating drop 44%, huh Keith?

    1. We’re all coloreds now.

  10. Only if the corporation is 51% owned by foreigners.

  11. In little over a year, Olbermann, Maddow et al have gone from giddy Obama-bootlicking braggarts to disillusioned, angry and whiny Obama-bootlicking apologists, teetering on the brink of insanity. Unintentional comedy! Hooray MSNBC!

  12. Hyperbolberman and Madcow are good in a way. They give lie to the idea that “progressives” are more intellectual than conservatives.

    1. I should point out that my previous comment was not meant to endorse conservative bloviators like Limbaugh, just that the “left’s” constant claims to intellectual superiority are obviously bogus with clowns like these leading the chorus.

    2. Maddow is barely qualified to host a cooking show on Bravo Network.

    3. Progessives are more “educated” than conservatives. Of course, liberal higher education primarily consists of left-wing enculturation and teaching their myths and morals. So, by being exposed to 10+ years of Sunday School year-round as a child, I’m vastly more educated than most liberals.

  13. Has anyone seen this?

    http://economix.blogs.nytimes……-congress/

    Following the Supreme Court decision implicitly granting corporations the right to free speech (by determining that political spending is a kind of speech), a corporation has decided to take what it believes to be “democracy’s next step”: It is running for Congress.

    With more than a twinge of irony, Murray Hill Incorporated, a liberal public relations firm, recently announced that it planned to run in the Republican primary in Maryland’s 8th Congressional District.

    1. The saddest portion of this link is the comment thread showing the profound lack of understanding and ignorance (i.e. failure to read the actual SCOTUS decision) of it’s presumably “enlightened” liberal commentariat.

      1. Wow, Rahm Emmanuel really predicted this one. I should listen to that guy more often.

    2. Comprehension FAIL.

      1. It’s YouTube, where the average IQ rivals that of a rhesus monkey.

  14. Justice Thomas on Citizens United Decision:

    “I found it fascinating that the people who were editorializing against it were The New York Times Company and The Washington Post Company,” Justice Thomas said. “These are corporations.”

    The part of the McCain-Feingold law struck down in Citizens United contained an exemption for news reports, commentaries and editorials. But Justice Thomas said that reflected a legislative choice rather than a constitutional principle.

    He added that the history of Congressional regulation of corporate involvement in politics had a dark side, pointing to the Tillman Act, which banned corporate contributions to federal candidates in 1907.

    “Go back and read why Tillman introduced that legislation,” Justice Thomas said, referring to Senator Benjamin Tillman. “Tillman was from South Carolina, and as I hear the story he was concerned that the corporations, Republican corporations, were favorable toward blacks and he felt that there was a need to regulate them.”

    It is thus a mistake, the justice said, to applaud the regulation of corporate speech as “some sort of beatific action.”

    Justice Thomas said the First Amendment’s protections applied regardless of how people chose to assemble to participate in the political process.

    “If 10 of you got together and decided to speak, just as a group, you’d say you have First Amendment rights to speak and the First Amendment right of association,” he said. “If you all then formed a partnership to speak, you’d say we still have that First Amendment right to speak and of association.”

    “But what if you put yourself in a corporate form?” Justice Thomas asked, suggesting that the answer must be the same.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/04/us/politics/04scotus.html

  15. What’s weird is that if you accept leftist logic that individuals cannot exercise their rights via a collective organization, then the very existence of govt is disallowed. What is The State but an organization we supposedly grant our rights to?

  16. What nitwit thinks any corporation that sells to the broad consumer population is going to run ads endorsing, say, the local congresscritter? “I’m Ronald McDonald and I urge you to vote for our favorite clown in Washington (fill in the name)?

  17. What nitwit thinks

    Indeed.

    1. What’s funny and ironic is that the left is now mired in the same frenzied paranoia with which they’ve been ridiculing their opponents in the Tea Party crowd.

  18. “If you are a regular person who has ever made a campaign donation before, forget about ever having to do that again. What’s the point?”

    For quite a few years all my campaign contributions (they aren’t “donations” in that they aren’t tax deductible) have gone to corporations, mainly the NRA and the Texas State Rifle Association. My representatives know that. It seems to be working just fine.

  19. Play Free Bird!

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