Citizens United

Trump Attacks on Washington Post Illustrate Importance of Citizens United

If corporations weren't treated like people, it would be far easier for the Trump administration to silence its critics.

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President Donald Trump does not like The Washington Post, which has made critical coverage of the Trump administration a selling point and adopted a new motto, "Democracy dies in darkness," for the Trump era. Trump dislikes the Post so much, in fact, that he's suggesting its owner, Jeff Bezos, is using it as a lobbying tool:

Gage Skidmore/flickr

Trump, you may recall, is the man who boasted at a presidential debate that if he managed to reduce his tax burden to zero, that made him "smart."

Thankfully for the Washington Post, and despite the paper's aversion to it, the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United makes it harder for Trump to use the power of the federal government to silence them.

"Because speech is an essential mechanism of democracy—it is the means to hold officials accountable to the people—political speech must prevail against laws that would suppress it by design or inadvertence," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority. "If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for engaging in political speech," he wrote further down.

Absent this protection, the federal government could decide that the Washington Post, as Trump claims, was a sort of lobbying arm of Amazon, and thus muzzle their election-related speech.

It's not theoretical. Before Citizens United, as A. Baron Hinkle has pointed out, campaign finance laws "regulated not just donations to candidates and political parties, but also 'electioneering communications' made within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of an election."

Such laws are regularly used by those in power to silence their critics. In Ohio, Hinckle notes, a local Republican leader targeted a blogger who criticized him. That politician argued that because the activist spent $40 a month to maintain the blog where he posted his political criticisms, he had to register with the state and be regulated as a political action committee. Hinkle also mentions a Missouri man who was fined for calling himself a "citizens lobbyist" and heading a group, Missouri First, that sought to influence public policy. Missouri First was not a lobbying firm, and it had no clients. Nevertheless, the professional association of lobbyists brought a complaint against him. In Nevada, another group was targeted for handing out two flyers critical of a Democratic politician.

Without Citizens United, political editorials from newspapers like the Washington Post, and even critical coverage of politicians from such papers, could be considered "electioneering" by election officials, who are ultimately selected by the politicians in power.

Regulation of political speech will, by definition, always be conducted by those already in office, strengthening an already powerful incumbency advantage. Undoing Citizens United would open the door for the Trump administration to go after critical coverage as electioneering communications or even in-kind campaign contributions.

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  1. Enough already trump.

    Just go to work one day trying to shrink the government and shut the fuck up. .

    1. He apparently wants people to pay more sales tax now, and have private companies act as tax collectors, so I’m not holding my breath.

      1. I was wondering what his tweet was saying. Woulda been nice for the author to explain it.

      2. We can’t have a company providing cheap products with speed and efficiency all the while not charging us for shipping. That is cause for a hearing.

        1. Granted that Bezos is probably one of the largest receivers of govt subsidy in that he gets guaranteed rates from the USPS for his packages to the farthest reaches of the country. Most of his packages are very light weight and he can take advantage, quick cleverly, of the idiotic usps cost structure which is such a massive loser for the tax payer.

          1. Sounds like a government problem, not an Amazon problem.

      3. If he’s talking FairTax, I’m all for it. 50,00 out of work armed thugs who only looked to harass citizens is always a good thing.

    2. Well, he’s making curate in a number of cabinet level organizations. So that’s something. Certainly more than his last several predecessors.

      1. ‘Cuts’ dammit. Fucking squirrels.

        1. have recipe for curate. yum.

      2. He proposed cuts to some organizations offset by increases elsewhere. And he rolled over on his first budget battle so that none of that was even implemented. I have no more hope that it will be implemented in the next battle.

  2. But…corporations!

    1. But, do corporations have gender?

      1. They should. Then we could mutate this moronic shit even further and get all of the pussies more outraged about stuff.

      2. Apparently, many of the German equivalents for “corporation” are feminine.

      3. Obviously they are white males

      4. Except the Kock *cough* Koch Brothers.

    2. Big corporations!

      Something my commie aunt likes to exclaim from time to time.

  3. Who is Justice Anthony Kennery?

    1. Must be related to these people.

  4. Justice Anthony Kennery wrote for the majority. “If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for engaging in political speech,” he wrote further down.

    Oh yeah? I would like to see Kennedy walk onto a college campus and shout “All women should be in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant” at the top of his voice. Then he would know exactly how much force the first amendment has. About as much as the second.

      1. Just give him some change and don’t make eye contact.

    1. Or he could just walk up to some chick and yell ‘quit your bitchin’ and get back to the kitchen!’

    2. On most college campuses the result would be that he couldn’t get any dates going forward. On a few small liberal arts campuses he might be shouted down and shoved. The worst would be that some pretext would be made up to eject him from school. However, he wouldn’t be jailed by the state or federal government for that speech.

  5. It IS smart to reduce your tax bill to zero. A ‘libertarian’ would know that.

    And Trump’s not trying to overturn Citizen’s United (unlike the Post) so what’s the point of this piece? Just to let everyone know you’re still an idiot?

    1. Do you like need a trigger warning for anything about Trump that isn’t pure bootlicking, or?

      Where do I suggest it’s not smart to reduce your tax bill to zero? I am pointing out Trump understands reducing your tax bill is good but then complains that Amazon should pay its fair share.

      The point of the piece would pretty clear if you read it!

      1. “The point of the piece would pretty clear if you read it!”

        Despite being a long time contributor, you’re clearly new around here.

        1. Despite being a long time contributor, you’re clearly new around here.

          And yet he reads the comments….

          Such a conundrum.

          Perhaps Ed writes articles that he himself doesn’t read and then reads the comments instead.

          1. That’s what i would do.

      2. I am pointing out Trump understands reducing your tax bill is good but then complains that Amazon should pay its fair share.

        Trump’s point is probably that Amazon are hypocrites. However, I don’t want to take up for him, and it’s just as likely that he’s a hypocrite on this himself.

        1. And I don’t think Amazon is making editorial decisions for WaPo. It seems like Bezos has pretty well allowed them to remain editorially independent.

          1. The Washington Post isn’t an Amazon mouthpiece as much as it is an “intelligence community” mouthpiece. Obama and his pal John Brennan had the foresight to effectively buy themselves a newspaper with taxpayer money, using Bezos as a subcontractor under the bogus guise of providing “cloud services”.

            By the way, it’s probably one of the biggest cases of crony capitalism combined with government corruption in American history, and a slimy arrangement that deserves far more scrutiny than it has received.

            1. Oh my god you guys Simple Mikey actually yelled at a Cloud

          2. Not to mention that Amazon has been collecting sales tax for a number of years now, which is the only thing I can think of that Trump is alluding too. It wasn’t them not paying the taxes it was the citizens who used their service but didn’t pay their respective states the taxes due. Not that anyone here would do that.

            1. Are you suggesting that Donald Trump – DONALD TRUMP – would ever speak extemporaneously without being in possession of the facts?

      3. Lol, epic burn. Ed, what do you expect from an amorphous blight of nethermost confusion which blasphemes and bubbles at the center of all infinity?

        1. an amorphous blight of nethermost confusion which blasphemes and bubbles at the center of all infinity?

          That’s almost Agile Cyborg-ish. Did you find his stash? If so, quit bogarting the good shit and share with the rest of us.

      4. Yes. The ‘point’ of the piece.

        I guess you missed–“Trump’s not trying to overturn Citizen’s United”

        The Washington Post’s attacks on Trump illustrate the importance of the thing THEY want overturned…..and you managed to turn that into what you thought was a good kick at Trump.

        It wasn’t.

        Because Trump’s not trying to overturn Citizen’s United.

        1. The Washington Post’s attacks on Trump illustrate the importance of the thing THEY want overturned

          This was, in fact, the point of the piece, though i understand why a hypersensitive Trump fan might feel the need to leap to the defense of the World’s Loudest Oompa Loompa over it.

          1. By suggesting that Trump wants to repeal Citizen’s United the same way the Democrats do–

            Thankfully for the Washington Post, and despite the paper’s aversion to it, the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United makes it harder for Trump to use the power of the federal government to silence them.

            Neither Trump nor the Republicans are trying to use the power of the federal government to silence them.

            The Democrats, and the media are trying to–as weird as it sounds to use the power of the federal government to silence Trump, the Republicans and anyone to the right of Stalin.

            This creates a false narrative–one that the ‘libertarians’ at reason can add to their contention that Trump wanting libel laws altered so celebrities only have to prove libel at the same level as non-celebrities is him wanting to gut the First Amendment–something it’s been pushing for a while now.

            I may blaspheme and burble in my palace at the Center of All Things, but I can still keep up with continuity at reason–no matter how loud the piping gets.

      5. You mentioned Trump, which means this was an attack on Trump, because Reason is ridiculously anti-Trump, as demonstrated by how often they mention Trump.

      6. The point of the piece is a straw man:

        Without Citizens United, political editorials from newspapers like the Washington Post, and even critical coverage of politicians from such papers, could be considered “electioneering” by election officials, who are ultimately selected by the politicians in power.

        Yes, and an alien brain slug could be taking up residence in Trump’s hairdo. But normal people would consider such an idea preposterous, just like your idea and point are preposterous.

        Prior to Citizens United, editorials and critical coverage were not considered “electioneering”. And should CU be overturned and should we get European-style political speech restrictions in the US, they still wouldn’t work by letting the president declare press editorials as “electioneering”, they work in simpler, more effective ways.

    2. And Trump’s not trying to overturn Citizen’s United (unlike the Post) so what’s the point of this piece?

      That opposition to Citizen’s United misses the point that it allows for resistance movements like what the WashPo has engaged in?

      Of course, that’s only a guess based on literally the entire text of the article, without exception. I haven’t passed it through my Trump Fellatio Filter yet to find out how mean it is to not suck his little orange balls in every breath, though, so I don’t have your insight on the totality of circs.

    3. It IS smart to reduce your tax bill to zero

      I’m not sure how smart it is when it involves a business loss of almost a billion dollars. Of course, once you’ve lost the billion, it is smart (as always) to pay as little in tax as possible. The criticism of Trump for using the tax code like any business person would to offset losses was dumb.

      1. This is smart–

        “Reducing your tax bill to zero”

        How you get there may or may not reflect intelligence.

        1. Yeah, fair enough.

    4. Trump doesn’t try and silence his critics. He just hits back.

    5. A ‘libertarian’ would know that.

      True. But a Philly democrat who tells us with a straight face that Bernie Sanders and George Soros are libertarians might not though.

      1. It’s always a joy to see Herp and Derp together.

  6. Thankfully for the Washington Post, and despite the paper’s aversion to it, the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United makes it harder for Trump to use the power of the federal government to silence them.

    In the WaPo opinion writers’ defense, who knew at the time we’d see another non-Democrat in the White House?

    1. Oh, but the WashingtoN Post is legitimately The Press. 1st Amendment protections are not for grubby liittle organizations like Citizen’s United.

      What is the difference? FYTW.

  7. Hey, Fuck Trump and everything, but let’s be real…

    The Washington Post has played themselves so far during his Presidency. They have no right at this point to expect any rational person to invest ANY credibility in them, and they have earned the moniker ‘fake news’ more than any other outlet out there.

    You can’t pretend to be speaking truth to power when all you are doing is explicitly slanting and manipulating your coverage along partisan lines. Fuck Trump, but fuck the Washington Post. They have the right to be dishonest pieces of partisan shit, but let’s not pretend that they are absolutely anything else. They aren’t. They’re Breitbart, with more powerful bosses.

    1. Is this a comment about the article, or are you using this as a soapbox for your feelings about Washington Post? Maybe you should read the article before you comment on it? Just an idea.

      1. Maybe you should read the article before you comment on it?

        You must be new here. Reeding iz 4 faggitz and cucks.

      2. /looks up.

        Whoa. You’re right! There’s an article!

      3. It’s not a comment about the article, no…which is why it in no way references back to any part of the article.

        Of course, I DID comment upon the article above, clearly showing that I read it. Maybe you should read all the comments before you decide to be a shitty little twat.

  8. I’ll believe that corporations are people, when I can sue them in court!

    1. The corporate veil is a garment more sacred in this land than the burqa is in the land of the Saudis. To pierce it is to rape the very sanctity of corporate maidenhood.

    2. I’ll believe that corporations are people when they’re allowed to get married!

      1. same-gender-corporation-marriage now.

        1. That would be funny if a corporation sued the feds on those grounds when denied a merger.

  9. >>>political speech must prevail against laws that would suppress it by design or inadvertence (Kennedy)

    blind squirrel finds lunch.

  10. If Citizens had been decided the other way and newspapers were getting shut down, the newspaper staff would be blaming it on global capitalism and the Kochs.

  11. So apparently Hillary Clinton lost twice. She lost against Citizen’s United and against Trump.

    So, Hillary 2020 then.

  12. The NYT is a multi-billion dollar corporation. Why is their speech any different than that of any other corporation? Ive yet to see anybody angry about Citizens United answer even this simple question.

    1. The NYT is a multi-billion dollar corporation. Why is their speech any different than that of any other corporation?

      Because they used to have the power and influence to lobby politicians to grant them exemptions.

  13. Citizens United has nothing to do with the freedom of our 4th estate. What nonsense. How does Citizens united extend any new protections to the 1st Amendment? First Amendment – Religion and Expression. 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. ** Doesn’t Reason have an editor to check these articles?

    1. It’s not new, they merely recognized that the government didn’t have the right to tell anyone that they couldn’t publish something about a candidate prior to an election (as opposed to before where douchebags at WaPo and NYT thought they were the gatekeepers of all truth).

    2. How does Citizens united extend any new protections to the 1st Amendment?

      It doesn’t, it restores the protection aborted by McCain Feingold.

  14. Ed. Did you go to the archives and transcribe Trump over Obama?

  15. Trump dislikes the Post so much, in fact, that he’s suggesting its owner, Jeff Bezos, is using it as a lobbying tool:

    How preposterous! We know that all corporations are evil, except for the press. The press is obvious unbiased and only ever speaks the truth! That’s because journalists are selfless brainiacs; only lesser mortals become scientists, engineers, or president.

    /sarc

  16. BS!
    Citizens United allowed non-media corporations the same access to the voters through the various mediums as the media conglomerates had, and has nothing to do with the battle between #FakeNews, and the Trump White House.
    Of course, honesty in politics has never been your strong suit.

    1. They are just upset that they cannot suck at Drumpf’s taint directly

  17. RIght. It is only because corporations were people with CU that corporations had no problems existing till then.

    You folks are worse than the Senate Republicans with this Drumpf-sucking!

    Say, any thoughts on the foreign emoluments clause?

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