Citizens United for subservience to tyrants

The Supreme Court decision in Citizens United is probably a greater catastrophe than the Mass. Senate election.  In effect, it allows corporations to put unlimited amounts of cash into influencing elections.

One aspect of the ruling that hasn’t gathered much attention:   as far as I can tell, the analysis doesn’t distinguish between domestic and foreign corporations.  Not that it would matter much, since a foreign corporation can always establish a domestic subsidiary, or buy an American company:   Cities Service, for example, is a unit of PDVSA, the Venezuelan state oil company.  So the ruling allows Hugo Chavez to spend as much money as he wants to helping and harming American politicians.   If the Russian, Saudi, and Chinese governments don’t currently have appropriate vehicles for doing so, you can count on it:  they soon will.

Nor is this a problem that can be handled by “disclosure.”  The ad on TV praising the opponent of the congressman who did something to annoy Hugo Chavez won’t say “Paid for by Hugo Chavez.”  It will say “Paid for by Citizens for Truth, Justice, and the American Way,” which in turn will have gotten a contribution from “Americans for Niceness,” which in turn will have gotten a contribution from a lobbyist for a subsidiary of Cities Service that no one has ever heard of.

The United States has a $13 trillion GDP, and total annual campaign spending is on the order of $2 billion.  Buying influence on the American government has to be the highest-leverage activity ever invented, and Justice Kennedy and his four accomplices just invited every oligarch and tyrant in the world to play.  This is not just a threat to democracy; it’s a threat to sovereignty.

Somehow I doubt this will be mentioned at any Tea Parties.  But I’m very afraid.

Comments

  1. Brett Bellmore says

    I'm with the ACLU: This was a great victory for freedom of speech. The minority's position would leave the nation's media outlets free only by the sufferance of the government.

  2. says

    How much money is spent on political campaigns would be a trivial issue if people looked at the quality of thought of the candidates — exactly how they piece together all of the inter-connected facts and factors involved in the positions they take. Instead, people present their opinions as though they were carved in stone atop Mount Sinai, and portray contrary opinions as though they were generated by Satan…

    The power of political ads, which are all that money can buy, depends on the absense of critical thought. News media, acting like nothing more than back-yard gossips repeating whatever they hear, magnify the image of this power by imagining it to be substance, the stuff driving decisions, the noise filling the heads of the electorate, such that the people are presumed to act on the noise they hear the most.

    If any of the media would take on the mission of examining in depth and detail the thoughts, proposals and concepts of reality presented by politicians — not the silly "fact check" of whether a particular statement is true, false, or something in between, but a real analysis of how they put together all the inter-connected relationships of facts and influences, of people, of power, and so on. Does it make sense? Does it rely on Enron's former accountants to balance its books? Is it built on a social construct of greater sophisitication and fundamental fairness than "four legs good, two legs bad"?

    Once anyone starts doing this, campaign spending will rapidly diminish in value. Go ahead, blow a million on an ad, people will look right through it and see the putative puppeteer trying to pull their strings. Americans have a lot of different attitudes about a lot of different things, but one thing we all have in common is that we seriously resent being taken as a fool or used as a tool. Even by people we like.

    So, if you're worried about people buying influence, you should get beyond the tactical solution of suppressive controls. Flank 'em, get in their rear and make the most of their greatest vulnerability: exposure!

  3. Brett Bellmore says

    He's not worried about people buying influence. He's worried about people he disagrees with being able to get together and be heard.

    You can't buy influence. You can only buy the opportunity to influence. If you fear other people's speech, it's a blatant admission you think your own speech isn't very persuasive, and will prevail only in an artificial absence of contrary voices.

  4. says

    The fact that Tylenol exists, when acetaminophen can be had just as safely for a fraction of the price is testament to the power of manipulation via advertising.

    And the fact that this ruling is brought to us by conservative/libertarian though, triumphant bearer of the Free Will banner, is all the more ironic.

  5. says

    It's not a matter of "fearing" other people's speech; it is a matter of one side having the "opportunity" to drown out everyone else's speech. Corporations should have no political "voice" whatsoever, because they are not citizens, and should not be accorded the rights of citizens because they have none of the responsibilities. While it is reasonable to expect politicians to focus on the betterment of the country, it is illegal for corporations to do so (since they are mandated by law to maximize profits to the exclusion of any other pursuit). Meanwhile, everyone within the corporation has every right to behave as a citizen, so why should this right be magnified simply by virtue of their being part of a corporation?

    When we can figure out a way to meaningfully imprison or execute a corporation upon conviction for a crime, then I might be amenable to their participating in the political process. Maybe.

    Meanwhile, why does everyone refer to the 5 justices bringing us this abomination as "conservative"? Fascists, perhaps; radical right, definitely; conservative–no way!

  6. ferd says

    Time to abolish 100 years of pro-democratic campaign finance law? Time to abolish the anti-democratic filibuster?

    One right helps to balance one wrong?

  7. sd says

    Of course we already have unlimited political speech by corporations. Just not all of them. The New York Times Company, the NBC division of general Electric, Fox Corporation, etc. can air whatever point of view they want in whatever quantity they want before, during and after any election season.

    Brett is right on this. The decision arouses such antipathy because of "what" will now be said, not because of the fact that there will be broadcast political speech.

  8. says

    This only question is which country will buy the Republican party. I'm guessing Saudi Arabia because of the institutional ties through the oil industry. Or maybe Russia.

  9. says

    "You can’t buy influence." Ha!

    "You can only buy the opportunity to influence." And enough media time to crowd out opposing ideas.

    Remember this on all major networks? Do we really want a lot more of that?

  10. Thomas says

    What an odd concern. Mark believes that every terrorist in Afghanistan has constitutional due process rights, but now he doesn't want to give them — or apparently any other foreign national — free speech rights.

    Kennedy's opinion directly addressed this point, to note that the issue remained undecided. The existing federal prohibition on foreign influence remains in place, and continues to apply not just to corporations but also to individuals.

    Google's been in the news a bit lately. Mark would have the US adopt a novel constitutional interpretation so that we could have a government more like the Chinese.

  11. says

    I agree that it’s a threat to sovereignty. The large multi-national corps are going to have a field day with this. The large state own companies like Saudi Aramco will be able to help elect enough congressmen that they will control congress.

  12. Mark Kleiman says

    Thomas is incorrect. Here's what Kennedy actually wrote, speaking for the majority:

    Section 441b therefore would be overbroad even if we assumed, arguendo, that the Government has a compelling interest in limiting foreign influence over our political process.

    So for now the Court leaves open the question of whether preventing a Saudi takeover of the political process is even a "compelling interest."

  13. says

    'This is not just a threat to democracy; it’s a threat to sovereignty.' In reality, we have warring sovereigns. We have nation states and incorporeal states. The latter's names are etched on rows of brass plaques on four-storey, hurricane-proof office buildings in Georgetown, Grand Cayman.

    I have no idea how this is put to right. I used to think a constitutional amendment would do the trick, but as Halliburton illustrated, all 'American' companies would have to do is decamp from Delaware for Dubai.

    The only good that can come from the Court's action is an awareness of the dilemma we're in.

  14. Joel Levine says

    Ayn Rand, who regularly lectured businessmen regarding the virtues of capitalism and standing up for it, observed that of all groups, businessmen were the least likely to exercise their first amendment right to free speech in the political arena because of a concern that such speech would invite the wrath of the government official resulting in additional regulation making it difficult if not impossible to operate. Think about it, of the top fifty individuals most likely to utter controversial political speech, how many are the heads of corporations?

    Also consider also how corporations in a capitalist society make money and what that means in regard to this issue. To make money, corporations in a capitalist society (at least the successful ones) must produce a good or service that people want. Last I looked, except when government steps in as would have happened under Obamacare, Corporations cannot force people to buy their product. Their success or failure depends on the good will of the public, which is why in addition to advertising their product, corporations contribute to communities or causes which will highlight their community-mindedness. You will rarely ever hear a corporation express political views. Its bad for business. A political message that pleases Republicans will piss off Democrats and vice-versa. McDonald's wants all Democrats and Republicans to pass under the golden arches, not just some. Taking sides or appearing to take sides will only cut into profits.

    That professor is how things operate in the “reality based” corporate community.

    Regarding your fear that corporate free speech will lead to Hugo Chavez infecting and taking over the mind of America, I was going to recommend a good psychiatrist, but after thinking about it I can see your point if you are concerned about the mind of the American academic. But not to worry professor. Once Hugo reads your and your colleagues posts, I’m sure he’ll pass over you as a professional courtesy.

  15. Thomas says

    Here's the full passage: "We need not reach the question whether the Government has a compelling interest in preventing foreign individuals or associations from influencing our Nation’s

    political process. Cf. 2 U. S. C. §441e (contribution and expenditure ban applied to “foreign national[s]”). Section 441b is not limited to corporations or associations that were created in foreign countries or funded predominantly by foreign shareholders. Section 441b therefore would be overbroad even if we assumed, arguendo, that the Government has a compelling interest in limiting foreign influence over our political process. See Broadrick, 413 U. S., at 615."

    So, the issue Mark raised is, again, as I said above, left undecided. And because they left that issue undecided, the existing prohibition found in 441e remains in effect, and continues to apply. I'm not sure why Mark thinks I got this wrong. Possibly it's because Mark doesn't understand any of this.

  16. Christopher says

    Joel:

    Nonsense.

    International arms dealers don't care a whit for what you think of their products, because you can't buy them anyway. Nor do the corporate owners of prisons. And yet both have very compelling reasons to care about who gets elected.

    Worry about seeing the first Senator from Starbucks or Wal-Mart get elected shouldn't cross your mind. There are much bigger things at stake, and much nastier people.

  17. Bruce Moomaw says

    Joel Levine: "You will rarely ever hear a corporation express political views. It's bad for business."

    Ah. So corporations don't try to influence Congress and the White House through providing campaign funds? And — now that the floodgates have been opened through the repeal of limitations going back to 1947 (the pre-TV advertising age, by the way) — they won't also try fervently to influence elections through funding campaign ads themselves, by funding pseudonymic intermediate groups like Kleiman's "Americans For Niceness"?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/22/us/politics/22d… :

    "The Supreme Court has handed a new weapon to lobbyists. If you vote wrong, a lobbyist can now tell any elected official that my company, labor union or interest group will spend unlimited sums explicitly advertising against your re-election.

    " ' "We have got a million we can spend advertising for you or against you — whichever one you want," ' a lobbyist can tell lawmakers, said Lawrence M. Noble, a lawyer at Skadden Arps in Washington and former general counsel of the Federal Election Commission…

    " 'Thursday’s decision, in Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission, 'is going to flip the existing campaign order on its head,' said Benjamin L. Ginsberg, a Republican campaign lawyer at the law-and-lobbying firm Patton Boggs who has represented both candidates and outside groups, including Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group formed to oppose Senator John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign.

    " 'It will put on steroids the trend that outside groups are increasingly dominating campaigns,' Mr. Ginsberg said. 'Candidates lose control of their message. Some of these guys lose control of their whole personalities.'

    " 'Parties will sort of shrink in the relative importance of things,' he added, 'and outside groups will take over more of the functions — advertising support, get out the vote — that parties do now.'

    "In practice, major publicly held corporations like Microsoft or General Electric are unlikely to spend large sums of money on campaign commercials, for fear of alienating investors, customers and other public officials.

    "Instead, wealthy individuals and companies might contribute to trade associations, groups like the Chamber of Commerce or the National Riffle Association, or other third parties that could run commercials.

    "Previously, Mr. Noble of Skadden Arps said, his firm had advised companies to be wary about giving money to groups that might run so-called advocacy commercials, because such activity could trigger disclosure requirements that would identify the corporate financers.

    " 'It could be traced back to you,' he said. 'That is no longer a concern."

    ______________________________________

    As for foreign influence, I hope Thomas is right. I strongly doubt that Hugo Chavez could have any significant influence on American politics through this route, but the Saudi government is a different matter.

  18. Joel Levine says

    Bruce:

    Your comment has nothing to do with the subject matter of the blog. Of course corporations make campaign contributions (normally to both parties) and try to buy legislators good will. But campaign contributions are not at issue and were not affected by the Citizen's case. The Citizens Case is not about money contributed to parties or lobbying; its about political speech, an act that puts the speaker front and center before the public (I think it naive to believe that corporations will try to circumvent disclosure laws by using pseudonyms). For the reasons I expressed in my last comment, I do not think that the Citizens case will result in a deluge of Corporate political spots promoting parties or candidates. They have too much to lose.

  19. says

    Joel, you must be joking! Corporations are masters of public deception, or rather, they have loads of money to spend on people who are masters of deception, aka those whose business is to deceive – or to "conceive"… however you want to polish it.

    For example, say I am coal company X, and have a rather large amount of toxic sludge to get rid of. Do I tell everyone about it – specifically my plans to dump it in some nice vacant wetlands? No, I simply create an environmentally friendly "group", say, "Americans for Wonderful Wetlands", and then have them take out ads selling the public on the idea that coal companies in general are wonderful and that protecting wetlands is really where their heart lies.

    What these objectivist free-marketeers don't seem to realize is that people will do evil things if we let them. Especially large, unregulated corporations whose reason d'etre is making profit for short-sided shareholders. They are either incredibly stupid, or intellectually dishonest. Because history is rife with examples of unchecked moneyed interests doing really bad things. The history of regulation has been an overwhelmingly positive thing for the Americans, who otherwise would have been at the mercy of malevolent interests far more powerful than they could hope to take on alone.

    Ayn Rand was absolutely right that selfishness and greed are good things on their face. But she always left a small caveat that destroyed her entire thesis: it must be in the hands of men who act responsibly. This is why libertarianism is not reality based. It rests upon a utopian fantasy in which power never seems to corrupt, and the disadvantaged are magically able to retain freedom against an ever-concentrating elite.

    This is why Republican claims to populist solidarity are cynical and morally bankrupt. Look at the typical Republican! He revels in inequality – he takes pride in it! He pretends that he is what he is due to his own hard work but knows deep down that he is a superior, the fittest to have survived. He should feel no shame. He is a champion. Sure, if one defines populism as "everyone should be like me", then he is a populist. But if one defines populism as "doing what is in the interest of the people", then he is far from it. Repealing estate taxes are not populist. Prayer in school is not populist. Limiting malpractice suits is not populist. Vouchers are not populist. The flat tax is not populist. Eliminating social programs is not populist. Fighting against the right for workers to organize is not populist. Prohibiting gays from marriage is not populist. Racial profiling is not populist. Take any issue where power in the hands of the unrepresentative, wealthy or traditionally powerful few is solidified, and Republicans are for it.

    In the ruling today, no one is pretending that expression will be more fair. No, the powerful interests with the most money will have more power to dominate, not less. But it is the principle that there should be no check on power – they call it "speech", but what is it really other than the solidification of one speech's power over another, via the purchase of delivery. The real anathema to this philosophy is the populist idea that there may be a point at which one man's rights might grow so great that they begin to take away from another. The roots of this impulse are authoritarian in the oldest sense, wherein the monarchist claim might making right the very epitome of what would become known as darwin's naturally selective forces were embraced as socially appropriate.

    We struggled to throw those old chains to the dirt, emphasizing not the old, lazy orders of generations of entrenched power, but instead the idea that every man must be born free. And yet they keep circling back at us like vipers, disguised though they be in populist clothing, pretending to represent the interest of the common man while tightening the old grip of class privilege, ignorance and political disenfranchisement. This is a sad day for America. I fear it may have to get much worse before it gets better. What have her is a massive shift away from democracy and toward a government vastly more corrupted and less able to do what it was originally intended to do: to truly allow freedom for all.

  20. Fred says

    Eli has stated the case very well.

    Perhapse a way for one of the other branches to counter this would be to asert the public's right of way on the public airways and cable distribution. It is not unreasonable to declare (by law or executive order) that the broadcast media is in effect the public square when it comes to political speech. Time for political speech and debate should be provided by license holders as a public service.

    Broadcasters make fortunes on the publicly owned right of way and providing free and fair access to legitimate political debate and policy discussion would be a small price to pay.

    Crisis = Oportunity but if individuals in either branch are going to act they had better not let any grass grow under their feet. Sadly recent experience with the legislative branch is not ecouraging. Would that our president could exercise the audacity he promised on his job application that persuaded so many people to vote for him and his party.

  21. Brett Bellmore says

    "While it is reasonable to expect politicians to focus on the betterment of the country, it is illegal for corporations to do so (since they are mandated by law to maximize profits to the exclusion of any other pursuit)."

    Repeat after me" "This isn't about for profit corporations."

    Citizens United was not a for-profit. If the law in question had applied only to for-profits, I doubt you could have put together five votes for this decision.

    But it didn't apply only to for profits, and that was deliberate. Politicians aren't afraid of GE running campaign adverts. GE is for profit, they can be bought off or threatened. They're afraid of non-profit, issue oriented groups like the NRA, ACLU, Sierra Club. Because they care about ISSUES, not money, they're not so easily bought off. They won't shut up, they won't stop bringing up issues the politicians would rather not have to discuss.

    So the politicians got together to write a bill to shut the NRA the hell up, and wrote it to apply to GE, too, so they could pretend they were concerned about GE, not the NRA. And the result was, when the Court upheld the 1st amendment rights of the NRA, GE went along for the ride.

    Well, that's what you get for resorting to pretext, instead of writing a bill to cleanly do what you really want to do: Tell issue oriented groups to shut the hell up.

  22. J says

    Ah, I love it. The Platonic ideal of a Rand-ite.

    "My ideology suggests that corporations should avoid spending money to influence elections. In reality, the US Chamber of Commerce is the single largest donor of campaign cash [1]. Therefore, reality must be wrong."

    [1] "During the 2008 election cycle, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which represents businesses, led all other independent groups by spending $36.4 million, mainly to help elect Republicans to the Senate, according to the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute, which tracks spending by outside groups."

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704

  23. Jackmormon says

    Why on earth would the corporations even bother making public issue ads? Toxic Sludge Company wouldn't have to make "Citizens for Wonderful Wetlands" commercials for campaigning politicians; they would instead make private agreements with the candidates and run whatever kind of ads the campaigns needs funded. If anything, the companies would generally want to disguise the reason for their interest in a particular candidate. ("Oh no, our support has nothing to do with Candidate X's policy on regulating our industry! We admire his support for kittens and motherhood!" or whatever.)

  24. says

    Oh, who knew that nonprofit corporations existed entirely independent of their funders.

    It's actually a little worse than this. Remember that corporations are required to act to maximize profits. That means that any company that doesn't establish fronts to spend arbitrary amounts on "independent" expenditures to influence elections and legislation will plausibly be subject to shareholder suits. ("Business judgement" is going to have a hard time standing against documented ROI.)

  25. Brett Bellmore says

    "Remember that corporations are required to act to maximize profits."

    No, for profit corporations are required to act to maximize their profits. Stop trying to write non-profits out of a case that was ABOUT a non-profit.

  26. Benny Lava says

    Remember when the right was so concerned about corporations marrying government? Why are they now in favor of a Supreme Court ruling that will induce such a relationship? It isn't rational.

  27. says

    Uh, Brett.

    Perhaps you didn't read what I wrote. A for-profit corporation that does not fund any nonprofit groups to make "independent" expenditures to buy it legislation, legislators and judges would not be maximizing profits. (Oh, yeah, and the fact that the case was brought by a nonprofit does not limit the scope of the decision, any more than Gideon limited the right to counsel to poor black men.)

  28. Ed Whitney says

    One thing I want to see clarified: the Court had an option of ruling that the existing law did not apply to the Hillary ad because it was aired as an optional free program on cable pay TV. This would have been a narrow victory for Citizens United. Instead of making a narrow ruling based on the facts of the particular case, SCOTUS struck down the law itself. It is this that would qualify the ruling as evidence of an activist court. The Chief Justice, had he been calling only balls and strikes, would have ruled that the Hillary ad was outside the strike zone, beyond the scope of the campaign finance law. Instead of that, he rewrote the rules of the game.

    Is this approximately correct? A factual response is preferred.

  29. FloydRayford says

    Ed Whitney: The statutory arguments that Citizens United was making were unconvincing to the Court, so it chose to look at the constitutional issue. As I read the court's opinion, it would not have reached the constitutional issue if it thought that Citizens United's actions were permissible under FEC regs and the governing statutes. The choice to hear new arguments on the constitutional issue is definitely activist, in the sense that some conservatives use the term. I don't see what the problem is, though, with undertaking efforts to ensure Congress complies with the First Amendment, any more than taking pains to ensure the police comply with the Fourth Amendment.

  30. Thomas says

    Ed, the possibility of a narrow ruling essentially went out when the Obama administration asserted that the government had the power to ban books. The Court really had no choice at that point but to address and reject that remarkable assertion of power.

  31. Brett Bellmore says

    Yeah, it has to be kept in mind that, according to the losing side's reasoning, newspapers that happen to be corporations, (All of them, in other words.) don't have 1st amendment rights. Neither do book publishers. It really was a remarkably radical attack on the 1st amendment that the Court was facing.

  32. says

    Jackmormon, my example wasn't meant to show how company X might influence a politician's campaign, but rather a response to Joel's proposition that corporations shy away from the possible political or regulatory fallout of supporting a particular political issue. The idea that they stay out of politics is on its face absurd, but I thought I'd offer an example of how they do it – with a high degree of deception – all the time.

    However I may have misunderstood his point, being as the one I read is clearly preposterous.

  33. Dan Staley says

    Well, we can stop right there.

    I thought that went without saying.

    Nonetheless, I predict the sales of TiVo-type boxes will explode, as the American Public will seek relief and escape from a hurricane (flood, maelstrom, firestorm, choose your metaphor) of corporate-funded ads this election season. Surely there will be regulation introduced to limit their use, so more ads can be viewed, but we can complain about its passage when we get to that bridge.

  34. Barry says

    Let me rephrase it – I'll stop reading right there, because we know that any opinion citing Rand is full of it.

    BTW – have you apologized to Mark yet?

  35. Jack says

    It occurs to me that if Chavez was feeling a little out there (and come on, this is the same guy who claimed the US had used some secret superweapon to cause the Port au Prince earthquake) he might well put up ads saying "Brought to you by Hugo Chavez" – in favor of the person he liked less. True, an objective analysis would clearly show the purpose, but subtle nuance is not a strong point of the American electorate (or most of the media, for that matter).

    (In practice I would guess that most of the networks would refuse to show such an ad, though; avoiding collateral damage on them if nothing else)

  36. freelunch says

    Corporations are owned by people and other corporations. Not a single person who is protected by the First Amendment was ever harmed by not having a corporation at their disposal.

  37. Ed Whitney says

    Thanks, Floyd. I was not sure if the Citizens United case could have been argued and won on the basis of the Hillary ad's being run in a venue to which the law did not apply. But it still seems that the Court's deciding it as a constitutional issue was not absolutely necessary.

    It does seem that attacking candidates for public office is exactly what the First Amendment is designed to protect. Seen in this way, the decision is not too puzzling. It is difficult to regard that point of view as specious. Since the law applied to some corporations but not others (such as media corporations like Fox News), there would seem to be something very dubious about saying that Rupert Murdoch has rights that the CEO of General Motors does not have. Also, nothing in the ruling seems to preclude future laws to strengthen public financing of elections, it is hard to see how it amounts to a threat of a permanent corporate lock on the election process. Are other (reality-based) remedies available to prevent this from happening?

  38. Joel Levine says

    Eli:

    "The student of public choice is unlikely to believe that government officials are overly concerned with the public interest. Because they operate in an area where information is very poor (and the proof that the voter's information on political issues would be poor is one of the great achievements of the public choice theory), deception is much more likely to be a worthwhile tactic than it is in the marketplace. Therefore one would anticipate more dishonesty in government." Tullock, Seldon and Brady, Government Failure, pg. 14.

    A perfect example occurred at the time Gray Davis was recalled. At around the time most of the country seemed ready to give Ken Lay the chair, Davis was recalled, but no mentioned was made of the fact that within about a month of the recall, the California deficit which had been reported immediately prior to the election at $25 billion zoomed to 35 billion resulting in a downgrading of California bonds resulting in tremendous losses to holders of those bonds. Never any explanation how Gray could have been off by ($10 billion) "innocent mistake anyone could have made," yeah. You have two bad actors each engaged in financial manipulation leading to tremendous losses for innocent investors, yet the very thought of criminalizing Davis' behavior would never occur to you or anyone else.

  39. Brett Bellmore says

    "But it still seems that the Court’s deciding it as a constitutional issue was not absolutely necessary. "

    It became necessary when the Obama administration, arguing before the Supreme court, claimed the power under the BCRA to ban books or movies if they so much as mentioned a candidate's name once. That extraordinary claim of censorious power had to be stomped on with hob nailed boots, and it's to the shame of the Court's liberals that they were just fine with book banning, if they thought it would be a Democratic administration deciding which books got banned.

    This was the case where the campaign 'reform' movement took off the mask, and openly admitted their ambition to impose a regime of censorship on political speech. It's been an eye opener just how few 'liberals' so much as blinked at the admission.

  40. Joel Levine says

    The "liberal," "progressive" reaction to Citizens is consistent with their traditional interpretation that the constitution should be interpreted in a manner that promotes expansive federal power and narrow individual liberty. Observe where those beliefs lead in "How the Progressives Rewrote the Constitution" by Professor Richard Epstein, who describes the decision of Justice Holmes, arguably the judicial patriarch of the progressive, liberal judicial movement, who's decision in Buck v. Bell, in harmony with the then "Progressive cause of eugenics … allowed the state to railroad a helpless woman of normal intelligence and poor background into forced sterilization," asserting that "three generations of imbeciles are enough."

    In the end, for "liberals" it's not about liberty; it's about "power" – the state's power to control the individual in every aspect of his or her life. Speech that they fear will weaken their power cannot be tolerated. It is so obvious, one wonders if and when we will call a statist a statist instead of capitulating to the fraud each time a statist identifies him or herself as a "liberal." Because Eli is so keen about truth in advertising, I suspect he will be the first one to jump on the "a liberal by any other name is still a statist" movement.

  41. Reader says

    Did anyone see this? "SCOTUS eviscerates campaign finance regulations: What to do about it

    No doubt by now you’ve heard that the Supreme Court’s “conservatives” took an axe to regulations that for a century have limited corporate spending on political campaigns. By the slimmest of majorities, SCOTUS ruled today that corporations and unions may spend without limit on political issues and in support of candidates because they have free speech rights under the 1st Amendment just as any actual human being.

    The ruling threatens to open floodgates to spending on a massive scale by corporations seeking to advance their own interests against the interests of, well, actual human beings. It should also do nicely to enhance the public’s cynicism about corporate influence over legislators (and elective judges). By itself the mere potential for uncontrolled corporate spending will tend to distort political calculations and legislative/judicial decisions – and the public’s perception of those things. The impact could be most severe in congressional elections where corporate spending or its potential will be most likely to overwhelm actual humans’ spending.

    National Republicans are overjoyed at the ruling because they gladly and loudly shill for corporate interests. Democrats are talking about trying to limit the damage caused by this cataclysmic change to campaign financing by enacting new legislation. But what kind? Lyle Denniston expresses skepticism that Congress will be able to find any constitutional and practical solution to this crisis.

    To my mind, however, the first step is pretty obvious. Congress should prohibit any corporation from engaging in this new political spending if it has any non-American shareholders or owners. Because after all, foreigners have no 1st Amendment protections. …", http://www.unbossed.com/index.php?itemid=2797

    Comment: "[1]

    Writing for the "conservative" majority, Justice Kennedy all but acknowledged in his opinion that there exists a truly basic problem with their approach: Can foreigners acquire 1st Amendment rights by virtue of owning corporations? As Lyle Denniston points out at SCOTUSblog, the Court said explicitly it was not going to address the question of whether foreign corporations operating within the US could now claim the same 1st Amendment rights as US corporations. The reason for avoiding it, obviously, is that the issue of foreigness exposes the absurdity of the "conservatives'" position.", http://www.scotusblog.com/2...

    (Responding comment by author: Here I'm not advocating a law simply on foreign corporations, however, but rather legislation that would affect any corporation that is owned in any fashion and even partly, down to the level of stockholders, by a non-American.)

    Posted by smintheus at Thursday, January 21, 2010

  42. Tony P. says

    I have a question for the capitalists among us: are corporations PERSONS or PROPERTY?

    Seriously. We're free to own property; we're not allowed to own persons. Not even pieces of persons. Most of us would like to think of our shares in corporations as our property. Arguing that those corporations we own a piece of are "persons" with rights of their own seems dangerous. Not just metaphorically (as in, that makes us like slaveowners), but practically. Owning property that has rights of its own is a bit like owning … I was going to say like owning a cat, but it's really more like owning a cat that can sue you in court to vindicate its rights.

    It seems to me that persons who want to enjoy property rights in (shares of) corporations should be the LAST people to defend the notion that corporations are "persons".

    –TP

  43. M R J says

    When did Hugo Chavez ever say the US had a "secret weapon" which produced Haiti's earthquake?

    This sort of thing, I think, is best covered by Thomas Ferguson. Give his "Golden Rule" a spin, it's certainly worth the read.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] with happy names, and no one will be any the wiser. The link happy obsidian wings points us to a quote about the implications of this ruling. Bear in mind that most large corporations are, to some degree, multi national. “The [...]