Campaign Finance

Political Speech is a "Fundamental Right" When You're Defaming Private Citizens, But a Threat to Democracy When You Spend Money in Support of Your Preferred Causes or Candidates

Sheldon Adelson strikes back

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paying a price for exercising his rights

Sheldon Adelson has made good on his promise to sue organizations promulgating the unsubstantiated claim that he profited off prostitution at his Macau casino. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee retracted their accusations and apologized to Adelson last week. The National Jewish Democratic Council did not, and today were slapped with a $60 million lawsuit by Adelson. The NJDC's defense, via CNN:

"This is not Putin's Russia, and in America, political speech regarding one of the most well-known public figures in our country is a fundamental right. One would think the person making greatest use of the Citizens United ruling would understand this"

And yet, this fundamental right to political speech has been identified as an enemy of democracy, with the Obama campaign's primary fundraising pitch consisting of pointing out how many much the right to political speech is being exercised by the president's opponents, and how unfair it is to him, and won't you send $3 please?

Political speech regarding our most well-known public figures in the country is, indeed, a right. And the most well-known public figure in the country is the president of the United States, who also has access to the bully pulpit, the most well known amplifier of political speech. Restrictions on that fundamental right to political speech, via campaign finance laws, are the danger to democracy, not the lack of them.

I previously explained the positive influence of money in politics here, here and here.

Your call as to how related: Sheldon Adelson's Las Vegas Sands is apparently being investigated by the U.S. Attorney's office in Las Vegas.

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  1. And the most well-known public figure in the country is the president of the United States

    I guess with this audience, maybe. Wait, maybe I don’t understand the definition of “public figure”. Is that only people with a gov’t paycheck, or just anyone in the “public-sphere”, which would include celebrities, which was my original point.

    I’m sure there’s people out there to whom Chocolate-Rain-Guy is more well known than our current excuse for a president. And god help you if romney gets elected. This is his second run for president, and I bet you could find at least 10million Americans who still don’t know who he is.

    1. DON’T TALK SHIT ABOUT TAY ZONDAY

      1. I’m not clear how claiming that he’s more popular than the Pretzldent Of The USA is talking shit, but jeez, sorry.

        1. LEAVE CHOCOLATE RAIN GUY ALONE. JUST LEAVE HIM ALONE. I’M SERIOUS.

          1. I don’t know how to properly end the crying gay dude meme, HELP!

            1. DON’T TALK SHIT ABOUT CHRIS CROCKER

    2. fried wylie| 8.8.12 @ 8:12PM |#
      …”And god help you if romney gets elected. This is his second run for president, and I bet you could find at least 10million Americans who still don’t know who he is.”

      AFAICT, *he* isn’t sure who he is.

  2. If any of those Chinese hookers dies seven years from now, it’ll all be Adelson’s fault. He just doesn’t care.

    1. In a proper world, they’d be eligible for worker’s comp or something.

      1. Most depressing movie I spent some time watching was about the unionization of a strip joint. Heartless zombie union bastards despise joy itself.

  3. I’ve heard absolutely nothing about this guy.

  4. OT/not OT:
    Scrawls on billboards with hanged manikins:
    “While nobody has publicly claimed responsibility for the signs, the Occupy Las Vegas group, which is affiliated with the larger Occupy Wall Street movement, posted photos of the displays on its website. Its caption says the Nevada governor’s budget has slashed social programs and aid to suicidal adults.”
    http://www.sfgate.com/news/art…..772106.php
    It’s political speech, but then it’s defacing private property. And, of course “Occupy X” has zero interest in private property (except if you were to confiscate their I-things; that’s different!).

  5. I swear I’m losing my goddamn mind.

    Could someone please explain this article to me and give me an idea as to where I should point my rage-boner?

    1. I can’t help you. It’s… oblique.

      The article, not (presumably) your rage-boner.

    2. This seems to make it clear to me:
      “This is not Putin’s Russia, and in America, political speech regarding one of the most well-known public figures in our country is a fundamental right. One would think the person making greatest use of the Citizens United ruling would understand this”

      The claim by Adelson is that the statement is false and defamatory. Whether defamation should be actionable is open to question, but the statement is in no way equivalent to any result of the CU ruling as the NJDC hopes to use as cover.

      1. So if you believe that libel is protected speech the article would be clearer?

        1. Uh, not sure; want to try again?

          1. In the article it seemed like libel and political speech were being equivocated is all I meant. At least I think it was that way, as said above this post is ‘oblique’.

            1. General Butt Naked| 8.8.12 @ 11:18PM |#
              “In the article it seemed like libel and political speech were being equivocated is all I meant”

              See below; pretty sure we’re in agreement.

        2. Lemme try this:
          There is an argument that your ‘name’ really isn’t your property; that defaming your ‘name’ shouldn’t be actionable. I remain unconvinced.
          Regardless of that, the NJDC (and the DCCC) made claims of Adelson’s (or his business’) involvement in prostitution.
          Adelson denied that and brought action. The DCCC retracted that claim, while the NJDC hasn’t, and is now claiming protection under the CU ruling.
          At least that’s my understanding; I’m willing to hear others.

          1. Okay, that’s pretty much where I am at on this. It seems like the author veered a bit after the blockquote that’s all.

            Forgive me, I have been drinking and getting ready for a trip all day. I am a little out of it.

            1. Wasn’t trying to equivocate libel and political speech, or stake a position on libel (I’m agnostic, I guess?) I just think it’s the height of hypocrisy for the party hysterical about campaign finance deregulation to have someone on that side turn around and say libel is a “fundamental right” of political speech. And the description of Adelson as a “well-known public figure” is just a complete disconnect from reality.

  6. Let me get this straight: Sheldon Adelson, a man of whom I was completely unaware until now, is “one of the most well-known public figures in our country”?

  7. He was the Grinch’s sugar daddy. Didn’t like the Ron Paul supporters in Nevada.

    1. WHO!!?? What the hell is going on here? Is this real?

      1. General Butt Naked| 8.8.12 @ 10:54PM |#
        “What the hell is going on here?”

        Team blue sees team red money-bags and hopes (re: shithead) that innuendo and false equivalence is sufficient to discredit team red money-bags in case t-r-m-bs has a chance to gin-up some team red election chances.
        And hopes to do so by (re: shithead) ‘false equivalence’ claims, and the innuendo that the guy’s business had to do with prostitution.

        1. Does he mean that the casino owner guy didn’t like the Nevada Paul supporters?

          1. I didn’t see a word about that, so I have no comment.

  8. Hopefully he wins and sets new precedent.

    The scum bag media needs to be liable for libeling people.
    Spreading lies and destroying a person’s reputation, and then using that fact as a claim that he is a public figure and therefor they are immune to libel is utter bullshit and undermines respect for the 1st amendment.

    1. Er…”The scum bag media”, in whole or in part, aren’t really part of this thing. It’s one guy suing a political organization, in this case the National Jewish Democratic Council. “The Media” is just reporting on it; they aren’t involved.

      Also, someone being a “public figure” has never made them immune to being libeled; it’s just that the standard for proving it is somewhat higher. The reason for this is to keep politicians and celebrities from crushing anyone who takes a shot at them under massive lawsuits.

  9. “…political speech regarding one of the most well-known public figures in our country is a fundamental right.”

    The only thing I want to add to what has already been said here is that the NJDC knows very well that it’s defense is a crock of shit. If they were libeled they would be howling and screaming foul. They would then make a very clear distinction between free speech and libel.

    The same is true of all of the left in general. Union money and political endorsements are fine. The NRA and corporations doing exactly the same thing is evil and corrupt.

    The left’s sophistry is a wonder to behold.

  10. The quotes available from the CNN is that the National Jewish Democratic Council defense of their allagations is that they have a right to say anything about even minor political figures with impunity, whether true or not. They do not seem to be defending their allegations as truth. They are claiming that the 1st amendment permits you to lie.

  11. Of course he is a public figure. He appeared in a news story, after all.

    I, for one, can’t wait until we have disclosure for all contributions.

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