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Citizens ruling: an intellectually dishonest power grab

In opening the floodgates for corporate money in election campaigns, the Supreme Court did not simply engage in a brazen power grab. It did so in an opinion stunning in its intellectual dishonesty.

Many of those commenting on the decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission have focused on the power grab part. I agree. It was unnecessary for the court to go so far when there were several less-radical grounds available. It was audacious to seize the opportunity to overrule precedents when the parties had not pressed this issue and the lower courts not considered it. It was the height of activism to usurp the judgments of Congress and state legislatures about how best to prevent corruption of the political process.

"If it is not necessary to decide more, it is necessary not to decide more," a wise judge once wrote. That was Chief Justice John Roberts -- back when -- and dissenting Justice John Paul Stevens rightly turned that line against him.

As bad as the court's activism, though, was its shoddy scholarship.

First, the majority flung about dark warnings of "censorship" and "banned" speech as if upholding the existing rules would leave corporations and labor unions with no voice in the political process. Untrue. Under federal election law before the Supreme Court demolished it, corporations and labor unions were free to say whatever they wanted about political candidates whenever they wanted to say it. They simply were not permitted to use unlimited general treasury funds to do so. Instead, they were required to use money raised by their political action committees from employees and members. This is hardly banning speech.

Second, in the face of logic and history, the majority acted as if there could be no constitutional distinction between a corporation and a human being. Untrue. The Supreme Court has long held that corporations are considered "persons" under the constitution and therefore entitled to its protections. For more than a century, Congress has barred corporations from making direct contributions to political candidates, with no suggestion that it must treat corporate persons the same as real ones; that prohibition stands, at least for now. The "conceit" of corporate personhood, as Stevens called it, does not mandate absolute equivalence.

That corporations enjoy free speech protections does not mean they enjoy every protection afforded an actual person. Is a corporation entitled to vote? To run for office?

Third, misreading its precedents and cherry-picking quotations, the majority acted as if the chief case it overturned was an outlier. In that 1990 case, Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, a six-member majority came to the unsurprising conclusion that a state law prohibiting corporations from making unlimited independent expenditures from their general funds was constitutional. The court dismissed this ruling as "a significant departure from ancient First Amendment principles." Again, untrue.

In a 1982 case, the court -- in a unanimous opinion by then-Justice William Rehnquist -- noted that Congress, in writing campaign finance law, was entitled to "considerable deference" in taking into account "the particular legal and economic attributes of corporations and labor organizations" and had made "a permissible assessment of the dangers posed by those entities to the electoral process." Four years later, even as it carved out an exception for nonprofit corporations, the court reaffirmed "the need to restrict the influence of political war chests funneled through the corporate form."

The Citizens United majority relied heavily on a 1978 case overturning a Massachusetts law that prohibited corporations from spending their own money to defeat certain referendums. But that case specifically noted that "a corporation's right to speak on issues of general public interest implies no comparable right in the quite different context of participation in a political campaign for election to public office."

Fourth, the majority bizarrely invoked the "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" defense. Under the Austin ruling, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy argued, lawmakers unhappy with being lampooned in the movie "could have done more than discourage its distribution -- they could have banned the film." Beyond untrue. There is no scenario under which works of art about fictional lawmakers could be limited by campaign finance laws.

That the majority would stoop to this claim underscores the weakness of its case -- and the audacity of the result it has inflicted on the political process.

By Ruth Marcus  | January 22, 2010; 2:17 PM ET
Categories:  Marcus  | Tags:  Ruth Marcus  
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Comments

The FEC did itself no favors by construing the law in the broadest terms possible. As the Post itself recently noted, at oral argument the FEC even asserted that the law permitted it to ban books that happened to mention candidates if the books were published within a certain period in advance of the election.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/21/AR2010012103582_2.html?hpid=artslot

The simple fact of the matter is that to ensure truly free speech, we must live with the "evil" of having some of that speech be funded by giant faceless corporations. What terrifies liberals about this is the dual assumption that 1) corporations are evil and 2) the average citizen is a mouth-breathing knuckle-dragger who simple absorbs everything he or she is told with the unthinking passivity of a taco-filled starfish. This despite the fact that left-leaning entities such as ACORN and the UAW are legendary for their ability to creatively navigate the shoals of election laws.

In short, the decision is radical only to those who think the American citizenry is a pack of helpless babes that must be sheltered from malignant corporations and instead spoon-fed only the brilliant insights offered up by the extremely liberal-leaning media. If you want to talk about true Supreme Court radicalism, I'd love to see a column about how the same four Justices dissented in both the Heller and Ricci decisions, arguing that the 2nd Amendment is merely a "collective" right to own guns (stored under government lock and key somewhere) and that the racial makeup of a public works department matching precisely that of the surrounding area is more important than the actual competence of the members themselves. In other words, in the liberal dream world you can't defend yourself, and the police and firemen sent to defend you are incompetent. But hey, at least you'd be protected from any films trying to convince you not to vote for Democrats.

Posted by: zippyspeed | January 22, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

What is a corporation but a group of people pooling resources together for a common purpose?

Under the previous laws some such groups were allowed to spend money and others were not. This ruling simply levels the playing field.

What this ruling also says is that the majority opinion of the Supreme Court trusts the American Public to be able to make thier own choices regarding elections. The dissenting opinion seem to believe that the American Public is incable of thinking for itself or is unprincipled enough to allow thier votes to be bought.

Posted by: BradG | January 22, 2010 2:59 PM | Report abuse

What is intellectually dishonest is to believe that this new ruling will actually change the political landscape. Last presidential election, obama spent what? - a couple of hundred million or more for his campaign and jumped ship from the public financing promise. If you honestly believe that he got all of that money from Mr./Mrs. Jones' $10 contributions, then you have no business writing on intellectual-anything.

The point of mine is this, if we are to see the presidential campaign go from $400 million spent to $600 million or more, then what's the diff?? Once you are past a certain amount, the small candidate is left FAR behind!

Posted by: familynet | January 22, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

The Court only made one error that should be corrected by Congress.

The American corporation that is making the campaign contibution should have a set % of American citizens as shareholders and CEO . Say 88% US Citizen shareholders and 88% on the Board of directors and A stock list.

Without that shell "entity" a corporation can be 100% Taliban.

Correct and define the designation of those able to contribute.

Posted by: dottydo | January 22, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Do not vote for any one with a big war chest.
Find and invite the unfunded little guy to be your representative.

Posted by: dottydo | January 22, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

I have not followed the details of this case. But the concept of limiting political contributions has always seemed to me like a fundamental violation of our basic rights. The operations of corporations are impacted substantially by legal regulations. Why should they not be able to promote laws that will make their operations more effective? Our whole economic system is predicated on the concept that our society wins when more effective decison makers accumulate the wealth that enables more scope for their decisions. Why should they not be free to use their wealth in promoting their political views? Of course, it should be clear who is funding the political process. But it is hard to understand the value of democracy if the voters are so stupid that they cannot make decisions without limitations on the freedom of some legitimate participants in the political process.

Posted by: dnjake | January 22, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse


Another media ding-dong with no regard for the First Amendment political speech rights of anyone who isn't in the liberal-dominated media.

The FEC once ruled that a TV issue ad was actually express advocacy (therefore bound by hard money limits) because the background music dropped an octave and the imagery was unflattering to an incumbent. That was the Christian Action Network case.

The government can't be trusted with the power to restrict the speech of American groups, whether or not they are incorporated.


Posted by: DagnyT | January 22, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

From the beginning we knew that "President Chaney's" Supreme Court nominees were agenda driven with no concern for our country. For the Post to suggest that maybe the Supreme Court is only being aggressive in this instance is a joke.
My question to Chief Justice Roberts and his cronies is what about the American public. That is the people that the constitution was written for to protect their freedoms. "We the People" have lost our free speech in this government. No one will listen to us when millions of dollars are talking to our "representatives". And "We the people" are now at the mercy of all the lies and propaganda that corporate America wants to spew at us.

Posted by: cswgew | January 22, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

If a corporation is the same as an individual, then a corporation can only contribute $2,500!

Posted by: ns3k | January 22, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Too much whining by Ms. Marcus and her liberal friends. Surely didn't bother you when George Soros set out to exploit existing campaign finance laws by setting up multiple front organizations to elect Barack Obama. And we can see how well THAT turned out.

Posted by: SavingGrace | January 22, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

This has got to be one of the most exasperating decisions handed down by the US Supreme Court. At this time in history it seems the American political machine is bought and paid for by corporate money. (bribed politicians, infinitely moneyed lobbyists)
Just recently the State of Mass elected a Republican Senator and the current Democrats and pundits have their shorts in a twist over not being filibuster proof anymore. (super majority crap)
One way to slow up bribes somewhat (at least make bribes even more expensive) would be get rid of the "super majority rule (it isn't in the US Constitution)Then the corporations and lobbyist would have to bribe another 10% of the legislators
To open the flood door of corporate influential money even more is just plain insane to me.

Posted by: jws2346 | January 22, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

This is NOT a liberal vs conservative issue. This case should strike everyone with concern because the activism by the justices. As a moderate voter, activism on the bench has no place whether it is liberal or conservative justices. Precedent is there to be followed and the Court has upended and disregarded years of case law established by both "conservative" and "liberal" justices. I find this truly sad that these justices stretched this case beyond what necessary. I was a fan of John Roberts judicial restraint, but that has now been thrown out the window.

Posted by: DCJUSTICE | January 22, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

For years, we ahve heard about the problem with judicial activism. Code words for liberal judges making laws that conservatives don't like.

Conservatives will need a new code word -- this was as activist at it gets.

Posted by: zcezcest1 | January 22, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Too much whining by Ms. Marcus and her liberal friends.
_______________________________________
I love it... for years "Cons" (for Conservatives, since you're going to continue to label us "Libs") have been railing about the left's "judicial activism"... well this is going waaaay beyond activism, with this one decision the Supremes, specifically the Cons who promised in their Congressional hearing NOT to be activist, may have blown up representative government as we know it; how can politicians represent the people when they are going to be totally beholden to the millions being contributed by these corporations?

Posted by: PeterPamZ | January 22, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Hi,

Let me agree with some of the previous writers. The campaign law did nothing to cease the flow of money from anyone willing to give it. Also there is no difference between the Democrats and Republicans in writing a campaign law that favors each other.

Thank You.

Nuff Said...Dennis

Posted by: dgiansante | January 22, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

*The simple fact of the matter is that to ensure truly free speech, we must live with the "evil" of having some of that speech be funded by giant faceless corporations.*

But we already live with that. The problem with this ruling is that we will now have unimaginable, unholy amounts of money spewing out from corporations into political coffers that will blot out all other voices the way a skyscraper blots out the sun. It's not a free exchange of ideas if one party has the resources to permanently drown out all other voices. That's an oligarchy.

And don't tell me different corporations support different issues, they don't. They support deregulation, tax cuts and union-busting. All of them.

You, as an individual, used to be able to check corporate power through your elected representatives. But since the right has convinced everyone that WalMart, Exxon and AIG are beneficent Rayndian demi-gods and government should be abolished, corporations will now run your life.

Welcome to the future, a giant boot stepping on a human face, forever.

Posted by: crblaisd | January 22, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Let's see. If a company gives money to a conservative candidate, that is bad. But if a union gives money to liberal candidate, that is good. Hmmm. Sounds like a plot to make sure only the liberal candidate gets the money.

Posted by: mock1ngb1rd | January 22, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Corporations are state entities, not individuals, as the Constitution called for. So, save your "corporate free speech" silliness. It was a blow to the individual American. If you're pleased with that, then I'm sure you love the Patriot Act.

Posted by: jckdoors | January 22, 2010 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Arguing why the Court may have gotten it right:

http://protectingthesource.blogspot.com/2010/01/citizens-united-v-fec-decision.html

Posted by: rarcamona | January 22, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

*Let's see. If a company gives money to a conservative candidate, that is bad. But if a union gives money to liberal candidate, that is good.*

There are no unions that can come anywhere close to competing with your typical corporate entity dollar for dollar. So that's pretty much a non-issue. Unions have been so neutered since the seventies that they're a nonentity. It's just a convenient strawman for idiots to point to when they want to defend their faceless corporate overlords.

Posted by: crblaisd | January 22, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Three things stand out for me after the Citizens United decision.

The first is how it underscores the specialization of the Court's membership. We know that all nine Justices came to the Court from the appellate bench. Seven served as appellate judges in just one area of the country, the Northeast. None of them had had experience in private business outside the law. Two-thirds of Justices now serving even have the same religious creed (they are Catholics). And not one of the Justices now on the Court has ever run for, let alone served in, elective office. That a Court with such a narrow range of experience should have an incomplete understanding of how electoral politics actually work in this country should not be surprising. The fact is, this incomplete experience is reflected in the majority's reasoning in Citizens United.

The second thing that jumps out is how Justice Kennedy did in Citizens United essentially the same thing he did a few years ago in Lawrence. Given an opportunity to overreach, overturn a Court precedent and change laws he did not like, Kennedy took it. Deference to Congress and elected state legislatures as well as stare decisis went right out the window in both cases, in Lawrence because Kennedy decided he did not like the idea of morals laws and in Citizens United because Kennedy decided corporations should be able to spend as much money as they wanted on election campaigns.

That leads to the third salient thing about Citizens United. In brief, this decision makes clear that Republicans and conservatives arguing for judicial restraint, from the Chief Justice on down, are doing so in bad faith. As a Republican who believes in judicial restraint, this is a big and bitter pill for me to swallow. I have to assume that Republican advocates of judicial restrain, of deference to elected legislatures and to precedent, and of judges interpreting law rather than making it, either do not mean what they say or are so abjectly ignorant of the subject that they can repeat plainly misleading slogans over and over without being aware that this is what they are doing. A Republican Party that does not believe in judicial restraint is just a Democratic Party that wants to change different laws from the bench.

Posted by: jbritt3 | January 22, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

It's nice to see that stup1dity affects all levels of the DEM party. Marcus is suppose to be a bit smarter but after reading this kitty box liner it's clear she's just as f^%kinf stup1d as the rest.

Posted by: askgees | January 22, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

mock1ngb1rd, whether it's a corporation or a union, this is just plain bad for the individual voter such as yourself; as another poster said (that I agree with wholeheartedly) this is not a liberal vs. conservative issue, this is about the people with the deepest pockets literally paying for elections. You thought lobbying was bad now, just wait!

Posted by: PeterPamZ | January 22, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

The Court only made one error that should be corrected by Congress.

The American corporation that is making the campaign contibution should have a set % of American citizens as shareholders and CEO . Say 88% US Citizen shareholders and 88% on the Board of directors and A stock list.

Without that shell "entity" a corporation can be 100% Taliban.

Correct and define the designation of those able to contribute.

Posted by: dottydo | January 22, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

You’re pretty dense aren't you? LOL the only change made by this ruling is they can now spend as much as they want on TELEVISION ADS. Contributions are still limited and must be disclosed. Try paying attention dumb@zz.

Posted by: askgees | January 22, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

This is nothing but a desperate attempt to institutionalize the Republican Party in power (the Rovian dream), using the Bush cartel in the Supreme Court-something worse than the Bush-Gore decision. It will go farther, for it transfer our social, political and economic sovereignity to local and international corporations, giving them the power to undermine ourv electoral process for their needs domestically and internationally.
The next step will be to put our "elected representatives" on the DOW. Everything and everyone in America is now for sale-its official.

Posted by: lionelroger | January 22, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

mock1ngb1rd, whether it's a corporation or a union, this is just plain bad for the individual voter such as yourself; as another poster said (that I agree with wholeheartedly) this is not a liberal vs. conservative issue, this is about the people with the deepest pockets literally paying for elections. You thought lobbying was bad now, just wait!

Posted by: PeterPamZ | January 22, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Well the both of you combined still equal stup1d. All this does is level the advertizing field. It appears the LEFT is shaking in their boots. WHY??? Could it be that they have realized that their people are stup1d and more than likely will fall for what ever BS TV ad they see. LOL Talk about lack of faith in one's party. LOL

Posted by: askgees | January 22, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Marcus, Dionne and other partisan Democratic pundits would be singing a very different tune if corporations gave most of their contributions to Democratic candidates or if unions raised more money than businesses. They would be finding all sorts of reasons why the Supreme Court ruled in such an intellectually honest and fair way.

Please, most of us who are independents, are tired of the hypocrisy from Democrats and Republicans.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | January 22, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse

This is the worst decision I have ever seen made by the Supreme Court and will be a political disaster unless Congress passes legislation to moderate Corporate spending and control of our government. The idea that corporations are people is ignorant, magical thinking; corporations are usually businesses with the goal of a profitable bottom line, even if it overworks people, wrecks their families and their relationships. Its just business. Watch Wall Street's detachment with Main Street.

Posted by: drzimmern1 | January 22, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Many forget that large corporations do what the share holders tell them to do via their votes. Profits help the shareholders and shareholders keep jobs via investing in the business (large or small). In the past few years I have seen share holders revolt against the executive large pay packages and it has worked. These big pay outs effect earnings. Now why is no one complaining about Fanny and Frankie government funding system. WHY?

Obama is no business man nor most of the WH he has working for him. How many can you name in the WH that has ever owned or ran a business? Think hard now..

The democrat's are the ones with Fanny Frankie that started this financial problem back in the 90's. They wanted everyone to get money with NO watchdogs on who got the money. GREED crept in for the brokers and people who didn't even have a job got BIG bucks to buy houses that they would never ever had under the original banking rules. THINK ABOUT THAT. Study what REALLY happened. Just as they voted to take our Social Security back in the 50's and started putting it in general funds and using for every Tom, Dick and Harry that came along. They seen that pot of money and just had to get their hands on it. If they had left alone AS IT WAS SUPPOSE TO BE WE WOULD HAVE NO SS PROBLEM TODAY NOW WOULD WE...

Any one should have the freedom to be able to give as they want to including a business (large or small)Unions etc. this is equal for all. As long as it is not tax deductible which it isn't.

Oh, I am not defending what Bush did this man spent as now one I ever seen until Obama came along. We must STOP this spending.

Posted by: drdavisdr | January 22, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

I do wonder if the $2500 limit will somehow be imposed. And what about the limitation on non-citizens? Many corporations have foreign ownership and many of them have a US subsidiary. I'm not singling them out for anything but look at Siemens or Unilever as two examples. Many banks have the same setup. McCain/Feingold seems to have been largely gutted, according to what I've been hearing. Since the concept of corporate personhood began as a misspoken headnote on a case, it has taken on a life of its own and that's too bad for us, it seems.

While many experts on Constitutional law say the decision was in part correct, the fact that any antisocial bozo CEO can take a corporate asset and deploy it against us in the public square frightens me. Olin, Richard Mellon Scaife and others who have taken huge inherited assets and turned them on us already, to bad effect like the Swift Boaters, show us the power of that money to turn heads. Tea Baggers very existence grew from the misinformation that is Fox "News". That is already a form of corporate speech, as is MSNBC, quite frankly. So is the WoPo, if you want to get down to it.

What I believe the only thing we can do short of a Constitutional amendment or review by an actual non-activist Supreme Court, will be to limit what can be said without proper attribution. If the money came from the So-and-so Corporation, they should be made to disclose it without the hideyhole of a shell entity like Americans For Free Beer when it is really from SXZ Brewery. After all, isn't that what political candidates ads must do?

Posted by: BobfromLI | January 22, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

This is the worst decision I have ever seen made by the Supreme Court and will be a political disaster unless Congress passes legislation to moderate Corporate spending and control of our government. The idea that corporations are people is ignorant, magical thinking; corporations are usually businesses with the goal of a profitable bottom line, even if it overworks people, wrecks their families and their relationships. Its just business. Watch Wall Street's detachment with Main Street.

Posted by: drzimmern1 | January 22, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse


You should stage a protest. Maybe you and the rest of the LIB T@RDS of American can quit your jobs. After all how could you possibly take a pay check from these evil corporations? LOL

Posted by: askgees | January 22, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

drdavisdr has it wrong. While this thread is about free speech, it would be remiss of me to let his statement about raids on Social Security Trust Fund go unchallenged. It began under Richard Nixon. It was done in earnest under Reagan and continued thereafter. The fund is effectively an IOU. The problem is that the general fund will have to begin at some point to make payments through Social Security to recipients which WILL raise our taxes. This has been a typical Republican method of lowering taxes. It is, clearly, all smoke and mirrors but it satisfies anyone who doesn't actually look at the facts.

About the spending: Obama is not spending much at all. What is happening is that the government is LOANING money in many cases. Also, the Federal Reserve has created a large loan facility for member banks. The Fed is not a government agency, only government chartered.

Of course, some of Stimulus money is coming from debt we are creating. The problem is that our economy must have liquidity in it to get people back to work. The original plan put forward by Obama called for more money and less tax relief but it was compromised. That is what is keeping unemployment high. We know that the return on each dollar spent in Stimulus will ultimately put about $1.43 into the economy and actually generate tax receipts to help pay for itself.

Since most small business does not pay taxes (other than payroll taxes...our Social Security) tax relief doesn't help them or the economy. It does favor larger business which is also better able to abet its own tax avoidance and has demonstrably done so.

About whether WH people ever owned a business...who cares? I have and I probably cannot do anything or add anything to their deliberations. Can you?

Posted by: BobfromLI | January 22, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Shame on them. They may get to keep their seats for life, but I believe in Karma.

Posted by: martymar123 | January 22, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Everyone is saying this is activism. I don't quite understand why people consider Strict Constructionalism is activist. To me this is undoing decades of activism since 1937.

Posted by: BradG | January 22, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

So the Corporation that owns the Washington Post, or MSNBC should be the only ones with unlimited Political Speech? CITIGroup No, GE Yes, Disney Yes, Wal-Mart No! Who gets to Choose?

Posted by: Florida_Navy_Chief | January 22, 2010 5:26 PM | Report abuse

This decision goes beyond extreme judicial activism. It is judicial inventionism. It is factually ungrounded. It is dishonest. It illustrates the postmodern trend in recent conservative legal thinking. For example in the conservatives' view waterboarding isn't torture if they say it isn't, despite longstanding understanding in the West to the contrary, going back to the Spanish Inquisition. This decision represents more postmodernism. "Corporations are people" although they aren't. How stupid do the five justices who voted for this view think we are?

Posted by: Steve62 | January 22, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Money usually finds a voice.

I've seen FEC reports that show everyone in a law firm -- top to bottom of the payroll -- maxing out. Plenty of those contributions were straw deals designed to exert influence beyond the intent of the FEC laws.

McCain-Feingold is a tricky piece of incumbent protection too. Among its provisions is a fundraising limit exception for congressmen who are challenged by multi-millionaires that self-finance. Incumbency is such a great power itself that only the threat of a multi-millionaire can make some congressmen (and women) responsive. All that's gone.

When everyone games the rules, only the fools play in good faith.

Posted by: blasmaic | January 22, 2010 5:45 PM | Report abuse

I am a liberal Democrat. I am not opposed to the results they achieved. Every time a campaign finance law is passed, the smart lawyers find a way to circumvent it.

However, I do not appreciate the intellectual dishonesty of the "original intent" argument that several of them have made over the years, because they obviously do not believe in it. Ms. Marcus covered judicial restraint, and I have nothing to add to her argument. Finally, I believe the chief justice blatantly lied to Congress in order to be confirmed. If conservatives believe they need to be dishonest in order to advance their agenda, they have a hard fall coming.

And for the person who said a corporation is merely a group of people formed for a common interest: do you have limited liability acting on your own or with agroup of unincorporated citizens?

Posted by: BuddyK | January 22, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Can we now form an LLC for every American and forget campaign limits at all?

Seems if you can afford an s-corp or LLC you get unlimited campaign donations.

Posted by: ravenshroud | January 22, 2010 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Wow, I am amazed at these comments. After decades of wage stagnation and decline, unlimited outsourcing and H1-B, illegal immigration resulting in low wages here, and on and on - so many of you want to continue the fiction that corporations are just 'persons' and should influence our elections with the same free speech rights as any person?

Corporations want to send jobs overseas, for starters. They have billions in their war chest. I want to restrain their influence, not expand it.

We had a financial crisis because we gave the financial industry everything it wanted. This ruling just erodes the ability of the citizenry to vote for representations who will legislate in our interest. It erodes the checks and balances our political system was designed to protect.

The insanity of this ruling is shown in how it will actually allow Iran, Venezula, Russia, China, to set up shell corporations here and influence our elections!

IBM is an 'international' company now. They have 70% of their employees overseas. IBM has interests in many cases that go against what is good for American citizens. It is not good to let them use their big bucks to sway elections.

I can't believe this is not obvious. It looks like our country will have to decline to an even lower place economically then it is now, before people understand that the dominance of corporate elites is not good for our lives or our democracy.

Posted by: mminka | January 22, 2010 5:54 PM | Report abuse

One more comment: there is nothing in our Constitution that defines a corporation as a person. Nothing. That was a legal construct that arose in the late 19th Century.

A strict constructionist approach to the constitution would do away with the corporation=person idea entirely.

Posted by: mminka | January 22, 2010 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Yes, every American should become an LLC and forget the limits on advocating for the election or defeat of candidates.

Even today though, candidates are such public figures that any individual can buy ads and not need the corporate entity to shield their assets from lawsuits by losing candidates.

Posted by: blasmaic | January 22, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

The ruling does nothing but to allow corporate America and the fat cats to elect the president AS IN THE PAST. Corporate does NOT care about middle America or any part of America. It's fueled by lobbyist and special interest groups. That's how Wall Street and the Banks were able to do what they did to US. Banks and mortgage companies KNEW they were giving loans to people who couldn't pay back the monies. You can't read, write or speak English but you could get a $500,000 mortgage Loan? The credit card companies are truly screwing us. The cable companies are screwing us, the cell phone carriers aren't even using Vaseline.

My fellow Americans, lets forget all the lines that separate us and make our politicians respond to us. Not by using fear and non-inclusiveness. Let's ALL become in the middle Independents. Not conservative independents but people who want this country to prosper, to be fair, and to be a world power again WITHOUT war.

Exhausted with the fat cats running everything and looking down on main street. The power should be inclusive of the trailer park types, Urban types, Collegian types, family's and etc. Not talking about Tea Bag crap...just the everyday joe.

Our country can NO LONGER BE RUN BY CORPORATE...they SENT your jobs to other countries with the president and his buddies approval. (BUSH) Let's take our country BACK....by voting for Fairness for EVERYONE....African Americans, white Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans ans SO ON....

Signed,
Bring it

PS: am disgusted with the party of "NO"....

Posted by: lindarc | January 22, 2010 6:23 PM | Report abuse

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable rights--

My Creator is a divine and mystical being using the most subtle of tools has created me as a conscious, thinking, emotional and rational being.

A corporation is nothing, a piece of paper, an ink blot. There is no intelligence, no rationality, no emotion. A corporation cannot be held accountable, be brought before the bar, held in chains, compelled to service. A corporation does not vote, it does not hold citizenship.

To grant this power to a corporation is to grant this power to a Dog, an Ape, an AI program, a monkey.

Shall the Supremes grant corporations the right to serve on Juries? To Vote?

Is the dissolution of a corporation now an act of murder?

Posted by: patb | January 22, 2010 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Like many lawyers I have no respect for the members of the Supreme Court. They are political "hacks". That they are intellectually dishonest is a given. I expect that the next election will be much more interesting because of the ability of corporations, unions and others to spend more freely. It has been clear for many years that our government leaders are chosen by the rich and the powerful. This Supreme Court ruling doesn't change that fact at all.

Posted by: jimeglrd8 | January 22, 2010 6:51 PM | Report abuse

"If a corporation is the same as an individual, then a corporation can only contribute $2,500!" - Amen, ns3k.

I hope it works out that way. I am as demoralized as mminka.

The worst thing that ever happened in the history of this country is that we did not have the guts to storm the Supreme Court after the 2000 Bush v. Gore decision, haul them out and try them for treason for perpetrating a coup.

Posted by: edismae | January 22, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

It may take a lot of corporate money to do some things in which I part company with other liberals, like the necessity of some kind of tort reform. I don't think this is a stupid decision at all and it's very much in-line with what the Founding Fathers would have envisioned, now that corporations are the dominant form of business.

The Supreme Court has made many other logically-inconsistent decisions, but this doesn't rank as one of them. However, if the Court can overturn up to 100 years of statutory law in this ruling, it might also overturn 35 years of case law regarding Roe v Wade, and I think that is what has a lot of liberals worried.

Posted by: ripvanwinkleincollege | January 22, 2010 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Well, the Supremes did us in. Corporate contributions to electoral campaigns is not FREE speech. It's PAID speech. Of course they know that. They also know that there's no way for ordinary people to sue the Supreme Court. So now what?
Is the entire country supposed to sit quietly and watch our rights disappear to the point where we are mere slaves to a corrupt political and economic "system" where all the benefits automatically float up to the top 3% of the people? Are we stupid? Or cowardly? Or what?

Posted by: jeangerard1 | January 22, 2010 7:02 PM | Report abuse

This information should have been on the front page of every news paper in the country. The Supreme Court ruling will effect every American not just the Democrats. The people have the right to know that the Corporations have replaced our voice and will be the determining factor in all our elections for the rest of our lives.

The people of America no longer have a vote thanks to the Supreme Court's decision. Well I am sure Russ Limbaugh, Gene Beck, Hannity, Sarah Palin will be looking for a job in the unemployment line soon along with the rest of us. Guest what the corporation is not going to need them to do a job they themselves can do for less money - spread lies and deceit.

Posted by: sun52shine | January 22, 2010 7:21 PM | Report abuse


"If a corporation is the same as an individual, then a corporation can only contribute $2,500!"

Sorry, the contribution limit has already been thrown out. Now they just say that if that limit is exceeded, the opponent can also solicit more from contributors. Good luck with that. The widow and her two mites' donation have been run over by the Mack truck of the rich once again.

----------
No, what the SC has done is make it imperative that we pass a clarifiying Constitutional amendment. Here's my suggestion:

Donations to campaigns and PACs must come from US registered voters (real people!) ONLY, and for-profit and non-profit organizations are prohibited from being active in politics except through formation of a PAC. The amendment should also limit the AMOUNT of the donation to one week's gross salary at the minimum wage (currently about $300), and the AMOUNT candidates can donate or loan to their own campaign to 10 times that amount (all per election cycle).

We might consider a limit on the total amount any one registered voter can donate, perhaps 100 times one week's gross salary at the minimum wage. Otherwise there will just be a proliferation of PACs.

No mere law is going to help. It has to be in the constitution to stop the corporate takeover. (Same applies to restrictions on banks, look how those laws put in place during the 1930's have gradually been eliminated.)


Posted by: dotellen | January 22, 2010 8:10 PM | Report abuse

There something even more elementary here.The corporations by virtue of having deeper pockets get to pick and choose who wins national elections. Doesn't this sound like the rich get to choose whilst the poor lose their voice?

Now big business can campaign against any presidential candidate who may try to control them like poor Obama is trying to do to Wall Street now. The Message is every president better be pro-business as otherwise they stand no chance. So where are the interest of the people in this?

Posted by: cchipikiri | January 22, 2010 9:00 PM | Report abuse

Re-read the 1st Amendment, and tell me where it distinguishes between corporations, groups, individuals, etc. People don't give up their right to Free speech just because they engage in their right to peaceably assemble into a group (union, nonprofit, corporation, religion, etc). Corporations have a constitutional right to free speech. Lawyers and law firms have been the biggest political contributors to the current election cycle, and 83% of them donate to Democrats. The 1st Amendment restricts Congress from making a law to restrict speech - period. Good ruling and long overdue.

Posted by: mock1ngb1rd | January 22, 2010 9:02 PM | Report abuse

Newspapers run free editorials every day of the week supporting or tearing apart political positions held by our elected officials which, if that space was purchased as advertisements, would cost corporations many millions of dollars. Is it that newspapers with some sort of self declared omnipotence and purity that makes it fine to sway citizens with voter recommendations but is an opportunity that corporations must never be given?

What about politicians such as Bloomberg and Corzine spending scores of millions of their personal wealth in their election campaigns for self promotion? What about the scores of 527’s utilized by folks like George Soros?

It’s OK for newspapers, individual politicians, but not a corporation? It would seem they have every right to tell their story too. They employ millions of Americans and what’s good for them is usually quite good those who depend on those companies to support their families.

I say salute free speech, and let the American public decide for themselves. After all, we have had newspapers, rich politicians and hidden 527’s telling us who to vote for throughout every campaign for many years.

Posted by: Midwester | January 22, 2010 9:12 PM | Report abuse

Well, if corporations are the same as individuals, then I'll be expecting them to pay the exact same tax rate we individuals do. Let's not cherry pick what part of 'individual' we define corporations as.

Posted by: semantic1 | January 22, 2010 9:28 PM | Report abuse

>>Under federal election law before the Supreme Court demolished it, corporations and labor unions were free to say whatever they wanted about political candidates whenever they wanted to say it.

Not true. McCain-Feingold explicitly banned "electioneering communications broadcast ads that name a federal candidate within 30 days of a primary or caucus or 60 days of a general election; and prohibited any such ad paid for by a corporation (including non-profit issue organizations) or paid for by an unincorporated entity using any corporate or union funds." In short, corporations were muzzled by law during the period when public interest in political speech would be at its highest point.

I'm not sure I agree with striking down all corporate spending limits; but forbidding corporations from even running an ad naming a candidate during an election season is pretty blatant censorship by any standard. Kudos to SCOTUS for striking down that unconstitutional part of McCain-Feingold.

Posted by: mhenshaw | January 22, 2010 9:39 PM | Report abuse

>>Corporate contributions to electoral campaigns is not FREE speech. It's PAID speech.

The Constitution makes no distinction between paid and free speech, or between that of individuals and organizations. It says only that "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." To draw such distinctions is to read into the Amendment some meaning that plainly isn't there.

Posted by: mhenshaw | January 22, 2010 9:44 PM | Report abuse

Dear Ruthie: First pick up your dictionary. The, when you understand what a corporation is, revise your statement about intellectual dishonesty and admit that you are out of your league when dealing with members of the Supreme Court of the United States. Then, affirm for your readers that corporations enjoy all the rights of people,-freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, the right to peaceably assemble, the right to sue, the right to petition for redress of grievances, property rights. Also, there is no personal right to vote or run for office specifically designated for "persons" in the Constitution. In fact...oh,well, never mind, you're not up to it.

Posted by: chatard | January 22, 2010 9:44 PM | Report abuse

The Constitution must be STRICTLY construed. Article III says nothing about Judicial Review -- i.e. the notion that the Supreme Court can strike down a law. It's time to end this insidious perversion once and for all.

Posted by: mnjam | January 22, 2010 9:46 PM | Report abuse

No, not reckless, more than likely blackmailed. Corporations are ruthless and perverted. Look at what they did to Elliot Spitzer. You can bet your bottom dollar that they had something on one or more of those "justices".

Posted by: mibrooks27 | January 22, 2010 9:50 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Ms. Marcus for this very well written piece - it should be front page everywhere. I find it astounding, breathtaking that the Fox fools think this is just dandy.

Do you think they will finally get it when there are no jobs here, we're all homeless, being paid pauper wages to submit to a govt. run by a few, for the few, at the subjugation of many, who can be disappeared in an instant if they become too troublesome? That's where this could one day go. I am so frightened for the young - their future is looking pretty bleak.

Our country is definitely at a crucial time in its history. If only those who think this is great will get their heads out of the quicksand of right wing lies - they need to see the writing on the wall. It will be their children/grandchildren too who will pay dearly for this catastrophe.

Posted by: debsmyth | January 22, 2010 9:54 PM | Report abuse

Hey Ruth, do you really think there's a qualitative difference between "Hillary" and "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"? Of course you do. You wasted that Yale/Harvard education on a dump truck like the Post and now you pretend you're a lawyer. Scalia is infinitely wiser than you, you hack.

Posted by: HookInMouth | January 22, 2010 10:00 PM | Report abuse

who's being "intellectually dishonest" here? Please, do tell, where in First Amendment does it say only some have rights, but not others?

Posted by: silencedogoodreturns | January 22, 2010 10:01 PM | Report abuse

I would go a step further. The right wingers on the Supreme Court are no better than street thugs who are bent on vesting all power with private corporations and destroying this country in the process. The people of this should not show no respect for laws passed such bodies. These epople in the Supreme Court are right criminals.

Posted by: kevin1231 | January 22, 2010 10:05 PM | Report abuse

All that i have to say over this issues that was recently passed by the supremes is that this is a 1000% injustice to the average american citizen as that they are able to afford to contribute aN BUY THEIR SHARE OF THE GOVERNMENT TO TRUELY RESPRESENT THEM AS THE COPORATIONS ARE SO I AM GUESSING THAT THE COPORATIONS AN THEIR HUMAN RESOURCES PEOPLE WILL CONTINUE THEIR TAKE OVER AN THEIR DENIAL OF ANY FORM OF REAL WORKPLACE WORKER RIGHTS FOR THEY HAVE BEEN TRUELY DIMINISHED EVERY SINCE THE GEORGE BUSH ADMINSTRATIONS TOOK OVER AN IT WILL ONLY CONTINUE TO GET WORSE AN YOU WILL CONTINUE TO SEE THE RATES OF WORKPLACE VIOLIENCE CONTINUE TO RISE WITH MORE AN MORE WORKPLACE KILLING OF MANGERS AN EMPLOYEES WITH THE WORKPLACE JUST BECAUSE THERE IS ANYONE OR ANY WAY FOR ANY TO BE ABLE TO STAND UP AGAINST THE OPPRESSION THAT IS AN HAS BEEN TAKEING PLACE WITH THE CURRENT WORK PLACES OF AMERICA THANK YOU JUST MY 2 CENTS WORTH

Posted by: pbjbeach@yahoo.com | January 22, 2010 10:08 PM | Report abuse

THIS RULING BY THE SUPREME IN MY PERSONEL OPINION IS JUST ANOTHER FORM OF SUPPRESSION AN OPPRESSION OF PEOPLES RIGHT UNDER THE US CONSTITUATION AN ESPECEIALLY WITHIN THE WORKPLACE THE SUPPRESEION OF THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH WILL ONLY GROW LARGER NOW AN I AM GUESSING THAT THIS IS WAHT WAS INTENDED REASON BEHIND THE SUPREMES RECENT RULING AN THAT BEING TO MAKE THE U.S.A. WORKPLACE THE EQUILENT OF A THIRD WORLD WORKPLACE ALONG WITH SWEAT SHOPS AN ALL TO COMPARE WITH REAL THIRD WORLD COUNTRY BECAUSE THE AMERICA THAT I LOVE AN GREW UP IN ISN'T THE SAME ANY LONGER IT IS SUPPRESSIVE AN OPPRESSIVE IN NATURE THANK YOU

Posted by: pbjbeach@yahoo.com | January 22, 2010 10:14 PM | Report abuse

This is something that has to be addressed before a single election takes place. I have no idea how the Supreme Court ruling could be completely reversed, but there is something that might help avoid brazen corruption. We need a new law that doesn't interfere with free speach but doesn't tolerate dishonest political speach. If the penalty for knowingly presenting false information to voters was a year in the County Jail, I'm sure we'd start seeing a lot less brazen lies. As it is now, outrageous ads are put on radio and TV that are undeniably untrue. Ads that even the people who commissioned them know to be BS. We need a law that holds people accountable for knowingly putting outrageous lies on TV and radio. When people make a brazen attempt to corrupt our Democracy by introducing total lies into the political conversation we have to have the law come down on them like the proverbial ton of bricks. We have to start treating attempts to subvert our Democracy as the very serious crimes that they are. Who hurts us more, the guy who breaks into the garage and steals a few handtools, or the guy who steals our right to a free, open and HONEST election? If all those Americans who died for our liberty died for anything at all, it wasn't a world where the biggest lie backed by the biggest bank account rules. When people take the time and pay the money to put political ads on radio and TV, they have a responsibility to be honest. Being convicted of introducing disinformation can't be punished with fines. Big business can pay huge fines and not even blink. They probably get to expense them anyway. The only real way to punish the people and corporations that break this law is to lock up whoever is responsible.

Posted by: fredfawcett | January 22, 2010 10:15 PM | Report abuse

It seems when a Presidential Election doesn't go your way, you simply change the law as the conservatives on the Supreme Court did. If you want to limit individual contributions from George Soros or others I am fine with that but to give corporations the green light to do what ever they please is absurd. Exxon made 80B last year...gee hmmm, what shall we spend it on? Level the playing field? Are you kidding me? This will go down in history as the point our democratic institution was sold to the highest bidder. Nice job Mr. Roberts.

Posted by: stillyman | January 22, 2010 10:31 PM | Report abuse

The unraveling continues, albeit in a different branch.

Posted by: ebundagen1 | January 22, 2010 10:34 PM | Report abuse

I think the court ought next to allow corporations to occupy seats in Congress. Then we could do without the middleman, and go straight to Senators Exxon, Aetna and Monsanto.

Posted by: bertram2 | January 22, 2010 10:42 PM | Report abuse

Why do so many want to repair the problem of oversized disproportionately powerful corporations, by limiting their political speech expenditures.

If they are so overlarge they can be taxed down to size.

There are countless corporate tax advantages in our current Tax Code that can be amended out...and they voila, no more ginormous corporations.

If the public wants more non-profit corporations, the Tax Code as well can be used to encourage these.

Why does no one use the available policy tools.

Posted by: brng | January 22, 2010 10:49 PM | Report abuse

Hey Ruth, look the nonsense you are promoting from America's ignoramouses. Like Fred Fawcett. This guy isn't even smart enough to know how to spell "speech." And he thinks the government should restrict what other people can hear? Thank God for Scalia.

Posted by: HookInMouth | January 22, 2010 10:51 PM | Report abuse

What else can you expect from Reagan-Bush I-Bush II appointments. These are the ultimate intellectually dishonest as is the entire Republican establishment.

Americans are stupid if they stand for this nonsense after 8 years of the Gore v. Bush disaster...

Posted by: gmoore40 | January 22, 2010 11:41 PM | Report abuse

"Many forget that large corporations do what the share holders tell them to do via their votes."

Get back to us when you get a little dryer behind the ears.

Posted by: chaos1 | January 22, 2010 11:44 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the idea that if corporations have the same rights to political "speech" as citizens then they should also be limited to 2500 in contributions.

Posted by: scientist1 | January 23, 2010 12:08 AM | Report abuse

Conservatives: against 'activist' jurists unless, of course, they are acting for the right.

Also pro-life unless it has to do with capital punishment or poverty.

Also libertarian unless it involves other people's genitals.

Posted by: privacy3 | January 23, 2010 3:11 AM | Report abuse

Rave on.

Posted by: gary4books | January 23, 2010 5:37 AM | Report abuse

Roberts has spent his entire life being dishonest about his homosexuality. Why expect him to be honest about anything else?

Posted by: misterjrthed | January 23, 2010 6:10 AM | Report abuse

Gee Ruth, I'm sorry that the law doesn't conform to your view of how our society should be structured in order to be "fair." And I realize it must be frustrating not to impose your will as grand arbiter of "truth" and "justice." You're not a very smart woman, are you.....

Posted by: subframer | January 23, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Thank you so much, Ms. Marcus, for your incisive column, which ferreted out the fallacies underlying the right wing majority's opinion. Few in the mainstream media have summed it up so well, preferring to dwell on immediate repercussions, which in contrast to the GOP's faux populism of late, would appear to favor the Republicans. However, it is short sighted to see one party as the beneficiary, when, in fact, all citizens will suffer, united or otherwise, in deference to corporations, who may have some legal status as "persons", but certainly share few attributes that would define them as human. It is certainly not the job of a corporation to view themselves as beholden to the public; they are beholden to their shareholders to make a profit, which may or may not fit into either party's platform on a case by case basis. Ironically, the exception to that rule are corporations formed solely for the purpose of creating political propaganda, such as Citizens United, the Trojan Horse that allowed lawyers to saddle up using the First Amendment as a decoy. Looking back, it's a shame that Joe Wilson wasn't around during the hearings when Roberts claimed to be an "incrementalist"; "You lie!" would have been an appropriate, First Amendment protected, comment.

Posted by: Koko3 | January 23, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Well, gee, Ms. Marcus: don't you work for a corporation that has been totally exempted all along from the restrictions on corporate political activities the Court struck down the other day?

What the Court is saying is that no longer can MSM corporations be the only ones who have free political speech. Of course, you believe this is a travesty. Your employer has lost its monopoly on political activism, and you are being a dutiful (if unthinking) employee bemoaning such an outcome.

The rest of us may not be so quick to share your dismay.

Posted by: JohnRDC | January 23, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Ruth, Give it up already.
With Brown's win and the courts first amendment ruling, Obama's assault on our freedoms over the last year has been wiped clean in just one week!

Posted by: patrickjd1 | January 23, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

I trust you all realize that the Court's ruling also allows the U.S. subsidiaries of foreign corporations to also get involved in our elections. I wonder what these same countries would think if we got involved in their elections. The Frantic Five did not think this all the way through, but then thinking is not necessarily their major suite.

Posted by: Robert28 | January 23, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse

What this decision does is allow corporate leaders access to a huge amount of money that does not belong to them and use this money to speak politically for thousands of people many of who may not agree with their stance on the issues.

If a CEO or a board of directors uses company money to trash a candidate who proposes a tax raise on the wealthy, what recourse does a worker have who supports that candidate to prevent his companies funds from being used against him?

How is it freedom of speech to allow an unelected few to speak for an unempowered majority?


Posted by: JoeinMN | January 23, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Giving corporations unfettered political free speech rights is insanity.
Consider that a US corporation can be entirely foreign-owned.

Next US President? China, Inc.

http://stevemdfp.blogspot.com/2010/01/next-us-president-china-inc.html

Posted by: SteveMDFP | January 23, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

When the colonies separated from Mother England they rejected the conceit that monarchies are benign and can be counted on to act consistently in the best interests of all citizens.
We established a constitution and mode of governance which considered deeply and sincerely the rights and well-being of the people (except for slaves - a HUGE imperfection in the process - but I digress).
So now, the conceit is that corporations=people and money=speech and that this is in the best interests of our government, constitution and people. Huh? Hasn't anyone noticed that the primary aim of corporations is making profits for investors (and obscene compensation for executives - but I digress, again). Hasn't anyone noticed that corporations have a much greater capacity to amass enormous amounts of money compared with individuals. Hasn't anyone noticed that MORE MONEY = MORE INFLUENCE? People, this is a problem! More money does not equal better judgement, more wisdom, more fairness, consideration or opportunity for all citizens.
Where is the deep, sincere thinking to create a better way to protect our government, contitution, people and way of life from the inappropriate influence of money?

Posted by: nansev | January 23, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

I find the concept of 'corporations' being guaranteed political speech rights a little ridiculous. I am pretty conservative in most things, but this seems quite obtuse. Did the founding fathers really envision a democracy where individual opinions could be buried under the weight of millions and billions of dollars of corporate interests? Really? That is democracy?

I am all for writing clear concise laws. Maybe we need to reexamine some of this stuff.

Are corporations allowed to vote? Isn't that the ultimate expression of your opinion? If they are allowed to dominate elections with their concentrated wealth, why can't we let them vote as well.

Seems only fair.

Poor corporations not allowed to express themselves at election day.

Boo hoo.

Posted by: CFL1968 | January 23, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

CFL1968 wrote:
"Are corporations allowed to vote? Isn't that the ultimate expression of your opinion? If they are allowed to dominate elections with their concentrated wealth, why can't we let them vote as well.

Seems only fair.

Poor corporations not allowed to express themselves at election day.

Boo hoo."

Brilliant insight and sarcasm. I propose a satire-based movement:
Americans for Corporate Suffrage

(modeled after the women's suffrage movement of the last century):
"Government unfair to Exxon!"
"WalMart should vote, too!"
"Equal Rights for Corporations!"
"End Prejudice of Humans against Corporations!"


Posted by: SteveMDFP | January 23, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

I just reread the First Amendment. It says, "The Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech or the press." Granted that no right is absolute under any circumstances, it is still hard for me to see how one can exclude corporations.

It is more than a little lamentable that people who call themselves "liberals" have so strong an interest in limiting political speech.

And, oh yes, the Washington Post happens to be a corporation,

Posted by: hambya | January 23, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

I just reread the First Amendment. It says, "The Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech or the press." Granted that no right is absolute under any circumstances, it is still hard for me to see how one can exclude corporations.

It is more than a little lamentable that people who call themselves "liberals" have so strong an interest in limiting political speech.

And, oh yes, the Washington Post happens to be a corporation,

Posted by: hambya | January 23, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

mharwick wrote:
It doesn't get much to rile up the mob when the mob is ignorant. Audacity is when the SCOTUS took private homes and turned them over to the Pfizer company to build a mall. The homes were not blighted and many occupants lived in them all their lives and didn't want the peanuts the government gave them to move the hell out.
Who said that this was okay? The four liberals and one swing vote. The four conservatives including Sandra Day O'Connor who blasted the majority voted for the homeowners. Years later the homes have been torn down and nothing had been built. So much for taking private property for private use, but calling it public use.
Obama by the way was wrong on every major issue before SCOTUS. They tossed the D.C. ban on guns as violating the Second Amendment. He said said it was constitutional. They upheld the ban on the abomination of partial birth murder abortion, Obama said is was unconstitutional and this case he claims is undemocratic in its ruling. Granting freedom of speech equally to all corporations is undemocratic but extortion, bribery to pass a boondoggle 55% of Americans didn't want is Democratic according to Obama. Try and rationalize that!
1/23/2010 7:27:54 PM
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mharwick wrote:
The SCOTUS MAJORITY WAS CORRECT. This case isn't even close. The First Amendment trumps Congress every time they try to stifle free speech for one but not for another. Corporations owning media were exempt from the ban. Why treat one corporation differently? The wannabee lawyers on this board haven't read the decision and don't know that corporations in the law are treated as persons. That is why they can be convicted of crimes and fined etc. So why try one corporation differently. We all have freedom of expression and we don't have to own this rag to post on this board so what is the problem?
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is a movie some of you may have seen. That movie was almost banned from being shown. Under the bill that was tossed out, it could have been.
Wise up. This ruling allows unions to support their left wing friends and they do and the MSM is in the tank for their elitist orator with the Harvaaaard degree so what's the beef?
1/23/2010 7:19:17 PM

Posted by: mharwick | January 23, 2010 7:29 PM | Report abuse

You are all missing the point. We have had only NINE Supreme Court Justices since 1869; since then, the population has increased twenty-fold.

Let's stack the S. Court to at least 15 justices. FDR almost pulled-it-off, reasoning the Judiciary Act of 1869, also known as the Circuit Judges Act, set the number of justices to nine. There's no reason Congress can't increase the number of justices to keep-up with the population increase.

Posted by: bingos | January 23, 2010 10:05 PM | Report abuse

Republicans are more than merely "intellectually dishonest." They have institutionalized treachery and perjury as standard campaigning tools, and they've been doing it for decades. No more Robert Borks for the GOP. Now you get people like Roberts and Alito who go before the Senate and lie and lie and lie and lie. After they get confirmed, the mask comes off, as it did in this case. This is what Ralph Reed (many years ago) called the body bag strategy. Maybe we shouldn't be so shy about impeaching these people, if they shamelessly lie to get on the bench. At least Bork told the truth. Not any more.

Posted by: rbmurals | January 24, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Does a corporation have the right to bear arms? freedom of assembly? freedom of religion? the right to vote?

How can an entity created by a legal document be a "person"? Does it die? Have heirs?

The Roberts court has just handed our democracy to global entities that don't care squat about American interests. Only their own.

Posted by: athena3 | January 24, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Has President Obama sent a proposed Constitutional Amendment to establish that groups and corporations are not persons to the House of Representatives and Senate for expedited consideration? What is the hold up?

Posted by: gradya3 | January 24, 2010 11:35 PM | Report abuse

"The law’s exception for media corporations is, on its ownterms, all but an admission of the invalidity of the antidis-tortion rationale. And the exemption results in a further,separate reason for finding this law invalid: Again by itsown terms, the law exempts some corporations but coversothers, even though both have the need or the motive tocommunicate their views. The exemption applies to mediacorporations owned or controlled by corporations that havediverse and substantial investments and participate inendeavors other than news. So even assuming the mostdoubtful proposition that a news organization has a rightto speak when others do not, the exemption would allow aconglomerate that owns both a media business and anunrelated business to influence or control the media inorder to advance its overall business interest. At the sametime, some other corporation, with an identical businessinterest but no media outlet in its ownership structure,
Page 44
37Cite as: 558 U. S. ____ (2010)Opinion of the Court would be forbidden to speak or inform the public about thesame issue. This differential treatment cannot be squaredwith the First Amendment" This logic cannot be refuted. This decision is correct. Obama says it is not Democracy. He has turned Democracy on its head.

Posted by: mharwick | January 25, 2010 12:11 AM | Report abuse

What was radical was the McCain-Feingold bill restricting political expression.

Posted by: scvaughan | January 25, 2010 6:56 AM | Report abuse

There's no point in excoriating this decision. It's very well taken. In historical context, the foregoing precedent for campaign finance "reform" constitutes a failed experiment.

These campaign financing regulations are fondly regarded, especially by liberals, but also by many independents. They are very traditional, and something of a political sacred cow. However, they're generally ineffectual. Money finds a way to get the job done. So long as the propaganda gets labeled as such, and the financial support, and large campaign contributions, are publicly attributed, it seems to me you've done about as much good as you're going to do.

Britain has tight controls on corporate contributions, while Australia has virtually no such controls. Both approaches seem to have similar political outcomes. Given that experience, what is the compelling public interest that trumps the First Amendment rights of organizations? We have nothing to lose here but a lot of bad law, government intrusion into the electoral process, and politically tainted litigation.

So was the majority "activist?" Traitorous to "stare decisis?" Well, let's just say I wouldn't want to let this crew get their teeth around Roe v. Wade. But in this case, arguably the activists did us all a favor.

Posted by: fzdybel | January 25, 2010 7:13 AM | Report abuse

Powell's opinion in the Bellotti case argued under the 14th amendments equal protection clause, corporations have a right to free speech. I'm a Bill Gates monied individual that wants to destroy someone/something. I start a corporation as the only stockholder, appoint foreign nationals as officers and slander/libel someone/something. Only the assets of the corp. are attachable and good luck bringing the officers to the U.S. to be prosecuted for malfeasance. That to me looks like unequal protection vs. an individual doing the same.

Posted by: jameschirico | January 25, 2010 8:58 AM | Report abuse

What you don’t understand is that finally corporations will have a voice that has been enjoyed exclusively by the media CORPORATIONS!

Those corporations could splash a unfavorable rumor on a candidate 3 days before an election with the intent to influence elections—and did several times!

Now the playing field is level.

Posted by: edmondsonpr1 | January 25, 2010 9:02 AM | Report abuse

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