Citizens United

Remy: 5 Things You Didn't Know About Citizens United


The controversial Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which struck down many restrictions on campaign finance practices, is four years old. When the ruling came down, blowhards such as Keith Olbermann (then on MSNBC) railed that it was "our Dred Scott," likening it to the notorious and despicable antebellum ruling that blacks had no rights whites need respect.

The video above lays out "5 Things You Didn't Know About Citizens United" and should make us all feel a little better about the ruling. It's hosted by Reason regular Remy, produced by Sean Malone, and comes from the Center for Competitive Politics, a nonprofit headed up by former Federal Election Commission chairman Bradley A. Smith (read Reason articles by and about him here).

Shorlty after the Citizens United ruling in 2010, Reason TV released "3 Reasons Not to Sweat the Citizens United SCOTUS Ruling":

That video in turn led to my appearing on Bill Moyers' PBS show, where I discussed Citizens United, campaign finance, and the benefits of anonymous political speech with the host and Harvard's Lawrence Lessig.

Go here for video and a transcript of that conversation. It was a wide-ranging, spirited, and at-times intense discussion that is the very model of excellent public TV. I'm happy to say that I received a lot of email from people who said that I persuaded them to a more libertarian perspective on the issue. Here's a snippet from the end of the appearance:

BILL MOYERS: And in the long run, what do you think we ought to do? 

NICK GILLESPIE: I, well, you know, I think that we should move in the direction that Citizens United is pointing. And to have less campaign finance regulation. Because that will increase the amount and variety of speech. When you talk about having, you know, controlling or taking back our democracy, that means saying, "Okay, you can speak now. You cannot speak now." In the end, it's about the suppression of speech, which is the most dangerous thing. 

I don't like corporations. I don't like politicians. I, for whatever reason, I love free speech. And I see this decision as enabling more of that, which will help me and my, you know, gang of ragtag utopians, hopefully, pull off the caper of the 21st century, and actually work towards a government that, you know, does its proper functions well, and leaves us the rest alone, to live our lives in peace. 

LAWRENCE LESSIG: So, yay, free speech, we agree about that. 

NICK GILLESPIE: Absolutely. 

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Horrible, horrible lobbyist, fundraising Congress. We also used to agree about that, at the end of your video. So, I should think we agree. We should have more free speech and less control by lobbyists or the funders. And have a Congress that cares about the people and not about their funders. 

NICK GILLESPIE: And we can do that now. We don't need a constitutional amendment. What we need to do is to say to our congressmen, "If you vote for this law, if you vote for this policy, you're done. You're fried." And that can happen. And it has happened. And it should happen more. I think we are moving into a world of more engaged politics, more participatory politics, because of the internet. Because of other dimensions of life. Decentralization of power or rather of knowledge, if not of political power. And it will lead to a decentralization of political power.

Again, the transcript and vid is here.

Lessig's main passion these days is a group called Rootstrikers. Check it out.

Bill Moyers' current show is Moyers & Company. Check it out here.

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  1. It sad that this even needs to be explained to anyone. McCain-Feingold was so obviously unconstitutional it should have never seen the light of day. I don’t know how anyone with half a brain thought otherwise.

    1. Money isn’t people! Corporations are not speech!

  2. Remy hated Avatar? He just went up a few pegs.

    1. Yeah, but he hated Twilight too, so back down a few pegs.

  3. But don’t you see? Individuals surrender their rights when they join collectives, and only those collectives that the state approves of should be able to give money because they are good and have the public interest at heart.

    1. Interesting. Because people keep telling me we’re all in this together so socialism is good. So why don’t they think being part of a group is good? Oh not those groups. Got it. Fuckers.

      1. Yeah, unions and other “Team Blue Approved” organizations are all good. Anything that advocates for individual rights, limited government or even takes an insufficiently pro-prog line is evil and must be criminalized and then prosecuted beyond the full extent of the law. Only after full asset-forfeiture of course. Can’t leave any money in the hands of the “wrong” people.

    2. I thought that it was in the days immediately preceding an election, only the politicians are allowed to speak about themselves. All of us are just an audience, we have no voice.

  4. Will this video lead to Remy being interviewed by Moyers? How about Stewart or Cobert?

  5. I don’t give a cr*p about the rich being able to spend as much as they want supporting a candidate/party/movement. What I am concerned is anonymous money flowing through our political system.

    What we have now is the worst of all worlds. Silly caps on how much people can give to campaigns directly AND loopholes the size of Titanic through which people can fund political advertising anonymously.


    2. Transparency sounds good because it allows us to put comments in context of what we already know about whoever is presenting the message. Dick Morris makes a movie about Hillary? Well we know he’s fucking hated her guts for nearly 20 years so he may be a little biased against her.

      On the other hand, the progs have recently shown us that they will use the donor lists to harass those who contributed, in an effort to make them stop donating. “Contribute to a conservative and we will make your life hell”. Let’s see, do I want to contribute to an anti-gay marriage group if that means losing my job and getting my house vandalized and my children harassed? (or maybe even an IRS audit)

    3. There is a very easy way to reduce anonymous money in the system.

      Increase the size of Congress so that districts are smaller. Congress hasn’t increased in size in 100 years. The population has tripled. Larger districts mean the end of retail politics and the exponential growth of wholesale politics. Wholesale politics is lubricated by money.

      Our Congress is now less representative (people/district) than any legislature except India – and theirs was explicitly restricted by their constitution. 25 countries have more elected legislators than we do (so apparently it isn’t that difficult for a large legislature to function).

      Big government spending + few legislators that need bribing + remoteness of legislators from their district = easy corruption by money in the shadows.

  6. “Mr. Lessig, there’s a Mr. Bastiat on line 1. He wants to know how allowing Congress to control political speech will prevent corruption in Congress.”

  7. Nick never makes the obvious argument: lobbying & corporate spending on campaigns will decrease dramatically when the government is reduced to its rightful functions: protecting individual rights. The expansion of rights violations in every sphere of business and personal life makes it virtually mandatory that corporations try to influence government to protect themselves. Corporations then start using the government, not to protect their legitimate rights, but their illegitimate interest–something completely different. For instance hey start using the government as their agent to force rules or give special privileges and violate the rights of their potential competitors. This breeds ever more lobbying and right violations. Government loves this game. They win, win, win. and individuals lose, lose, lose their rights.

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