Corporations, people, money, and speech - Page 2

Just about everyone wants to overturn Citizens United. But it's not so simple

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Corporations corrupting the political system was a major concern of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY YAEL CHANOFF

In fact, the groundwork for modern sleaze was set a long time ago, in 1976, when the Supreme Court ruled in Buckley v. Valeo that, in effect, money was speech — and that any rich individual could spend all he or she wanted running for office.

What the Supreme Court has done, though, is set the modern political tone for campaign finance — among other things, invalidating a Montana law that barred corporate contributions to campaigns. And in the majority ruling and the assenting opinions, the court made clear that it doesn't think government has any role in leveling the campaign playing field — that it's not the business of government to decide that the money and speech of rich people and big business is drowning out the opinions and speech of the rest of the populace.

SO NOW WHAT?

So now that every decent-thinking human being in the United States agrees that there's too much sleazy money in politics and that it's not a good thing for government to be for sale to the highest bidder, the really interesting — and difficult — question comes up: What do we do about it?

There are a lot of competing answers to that question. And frankly, none of them are perfect.

That may be one reason why the ACLU is mostly on the sidelines. When I contacted the national office to ask if anyone wanted to talk about the efforts to overturn Citizens United, spokesperson Molly Kaplan sent me an email saying "we actually don't have anyone available for this."

But on its website, the organization — in a nuanced statement on campaign reform — notes: "Any rule that requires the government to determine what political speech is legitimate and how much political speech is appropriate is difficult to reconcile with the First Amendment."

In an ACLU blog post, Laura Murphy, director of the group's Legislative Office in Washington DC, argues that "a Constitutional amendment—specifically an amendment limiting the right to political speech—would fundamentally 'break' the Constitution and endanger civil rights and civil liberties for generations."

But David Cobb, one of the organizers of Move To Amend, which is pushing a Constitutional amendment, told me that "the idea that spending money is sacred is part of the problem, the reason that we don't have a functioning democracy."

There are two central parts to the problem: The notion that corporations have the same rights to free speech as people, and the notion that money is speech. Eliminate the first — which is immensely popular — and you still allow the Meg Whitmans and Koch brothers of the world to pour their personal fortunes into seeking political office or promoting other candidates.

Eliminate the second and you open a huge can of worms.

"It would be a disaster, in my view," Scheer said. "As a general principle, I'm frightened by the concept of tampering with the Constitution."

Money may not equal free speech, but it's hard to exercise the right to free speech in a political campaign without money. And there are broader impacts that might be hard to predict.

But Peter Schurman, one of the founders of MoveOn.org and a leader in Free Speech for the People, told me that "it's a false premise that money equals speech. The point is to get a level playing field."

THE PROPOSALS

Move to Amend and Free Speech for People are promoting similar approaches, Constitutional amendments that, in fairly simple terms, would radically and forever alter American politics. Several members of Congress have offered Constitutional amendments that include similar language.

Comments

Perhaps it's because I deem the 1st amendment as trumping just about all other considerations.

But mostly because corporations need to have a political voice too. They don't get to vote and yet are affected by politics. The CU decision levels the playing field between those who can vote and those who can inlfuence in other ways.

Moreover, it doesn't just benefit corporations but also unions, which are some of the biggest funders of lobby and campaigning.

The CU decision ensures that voters can't just vote to rob blind corporations and the wealthy of their means in a form of legal mugging. It ensures balance, equity and fairness.

CU isn't going away but, more importantly, it shouldn't go away.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 02, 2012 @ 9:05 am

Nearly 80% opposed civil rights and wanted to keep segregation back in 1965..

SCOTUS is often ahead of the curve.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 02, 2012 @ 9:08 am

incorporated, cities, unions, colleges, newspapers, non-profits, bands, private clubs... pretty much any entity that involves money changing hands in any way shape or form is a corporate entity. I look forward to our progressives defining good and bad corporate entities. Removing 1st amendment protections from all these entities would be a disaster, while the progressives would just laughably cherry pick to their own advantage and be obvious in their idiotic scheming.

The progressives are convinced that if they were the only voice to be heard the stupid peasants would suddenly fall for the version of crazy they represent. That is of course not true, and plainly stupid on their part.

Most people don't like money in politics, because they think the lack of money would have America's "sheeple" voting their way. Just ask a right winger who thinks that the liberal media is keeping the truth of creationism and abortion from the masses..

The progressives are selling something that no one wants all that much in the USA, they think that if they could just change the rules, (RCV, state funded elections, for example) the idiot voters would wise up and go along.

Posted by matlock on Aug. 02, 2012 @ 8:08 pm

how many folks noticed that when they look at the ballot they discover they never heard of most of the candidates? Why?
the corporate news/propaganda media has a golden rule; Buy Advertising and get a story.
The corporations only give money to candidates that will represent their interest and those candidates are the only ones who can buy advertising.
To a lesser extent the public employee unions also do this.

Proposal, ban all paid political advertising on the public airways and give every candidate, who manages to get on the ballot for an office, FREE EQUAL TIME to inform the electorate about why the electorate should vote for them..

Posted by Guest on Aug. 16, 2012 @ 10:19 am