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Reply to George Will (and a note on Justice Roberts)

I am pleased that George Will acknowledges that the Supreme Court’s decision Thursday on corporate campaign money is “radical” -- even if he pulls back from the full implications of that bracing word by later adding that it is “radical” only in light of four decades of campaign reform efforts. It is radical, period.

But George mischaracterizes those of us who believe in limitations on the ability of corporations to spend money on political action. He writes that the Court’s decision is a blow to “people alarmed by the prospect of more political money funding more political speech.” He adds: “The First Amendment does not permit government to decide the ‘proper’ quantity of political speech.”

Reformers who don't think that corporations should be treated the same as individuals (and who also favor limitations on the size of campaign contributions) are not trying to determine the “quantity” of political speech. We don’t believe the First Amendment says anything about the “quantity” of political speech.

Personally, I would like to see more money financing more political speech, which is why I favor strong incentives to encourage small donations from many more citizens than give now. Measures to encourage giving by small donors would include tax credits for those who make smaller donations and multiple matching of small contributions. (These and other ideas for what reform looks like in an age of “networked campaigns” are outlined in a recent report by Anthony Corrado, Michael Malbin, Tom Mann, my Brookings Institution colleague, and Norm Ornstein.)

I find it extremely hard to believe that politics or democratic participation will be improved by allowing corporations to flood the system with money. This gives them potential influence over the system that no individual citizen (other than, perhaps, Bill Gates or Mike Bloomberg) can possibly match. Maybe senators can become like stadiums and sell naming rights. We could have “The QualCom Senator from the State of …..” By the way, will individual shareholders be able to do much about how a corporation spends its political money? Why should those of us who buy a company’s products be forced involuntarily to finance its political spending, just because we need a tube of toothpaste or a tire for our car? And as Justice John Paul Stevens noted in his dissent, of all the problems that exist in American politics, does anyone believe that the absence of corporate money is one of them?

On Chief Justice John Roberts: Boy was he defensive about his judicial activism here. He wrote an entire concurring opinion (joined by Justice Samuel Alito) to explain that this was not judicial activism, that he really, really doesn’t like overturning precedent, but that he had no choice in this case. In his dissent, Stevens shredded the idea that the Court was justified in overturning precedent here. I agree with my friend Tom Mann who wrote of this decision in The Hill:

It makes a mockery of Chief Justice Roberts’ pious statements during his confirmation hearing before Congress about his embrace of judicial modesty and constitutional avoidance. His concurring decision fashioned to answer this expected criticism strikes this reader as defensive and lame. This decision constitutes a dramatic change in law yet nothing has changed to produce it other than the composition of the Court. Sadly, deliberation on the Court is becoming as ideologically driven as that in Congress.

Yes, this is a piece of ideological legislation, not a judicial opinion. The country will greatly regret it.

By E.J. Dionne  | January 22, 2010; 7:52 AM ET
Categories:  Dionne  | Tags:  E.J. Dionne  
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Comments

After two "posts" on this subject, it's still not clear what the actual basis for EJ's critique, at least from a legal perspective. His entire argument appears to be that "corporations are not individuals" and that because they are "created by law, ... they should not be treated the same as we treat live human beings." (Dead human beings?) But as Rodriguez posted, "one can only wonder how much money corporations will be willing to spend and how far they will be willing to go to ensure their candidates get elected." She sure makes corporations start to sound like individuals. And, at least with regard to lawsuits, corporations "stand equal" to all other persons, and they presumably "stand equal" with regard to the statutes under which they could be held liable. And what is the difference between Bill Gates, individual, and Bill Gates, corporate head. All in all, EJ's critique appears to be nothing more than a free-floating dislike for corporations. He's certainly entitled to that, but perhaps he owes everyone a little honesty as well.

Posted by: willdd | January 22, 2010 9:13 AM | Report abuse

SCOTUS - Supreme Court- 5-4 decision- defines a corporation as an individual Human Being!

SCOTUS says CORPORATIONS are PEOPLE! Not a legal business term!

“We are moving to an age where we won’t have the senator from Arkansas or the congressman from North Carolina, but the senator from Wal-Mart and the congressman from Bank of America,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of the left-leaning watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Corporatocracy or corpocracy is a form of government where corporations, conglomerates or government entities with private components, control the direction and governance of a country. This is sometimes considered to be a form of fascism.

Where are all the TEA BAGGERS?

Where is SHELL OIL?

Shell is in IRAQ- TEABAGGERS need to get their tax dollars from the profits of SHELL OIL- a DUTCH company!

All you tea baggers - DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR TAX DOLLARS are?

Oh no - that is correct- Murdoch does not inform you- they tell you what to think

Told all of you that we will pay for BUSH - DECADES!

DECADES we will pay for BUSH/GOP!

And they want OBAMA to fix it all overnight!

Only in America

SCOTUS defines a financial/legal term CORPORATION as HUMAN- - Now can we all file CHAP 11?

Mr., Mrs. or Ms.? Does it matter?

Just like US SENATE defines majority of 100= 60 not 51!

Only in America!

No wonder AMERICA sucks at SCIENCE and MATH!

Posted by: sasha2008 | January 22, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

The idea that the First Amendment guarantees on free speech also apply to a corporation's ability to spend vast sums of company money--stockholder's money--to advocate for particular candidates is one of the most offensive notions I have ever heard. It means that the First Amendment is now grounded in the unequal ability of citizens to participate in our democracy--the less money one has the less freedom you enjoy to participate.

This is not an America I wish to live in anymore. I am prevailing on my spouse to consider moving to British Columbia. She is resistant because she still gullibly believes that this is essentially a good country. As for me, I remind myself of De Toqueville's warning: "When America ceases to be good, she will cease to be great."

Posted by: jaxas70 | January 22, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Dionne,
where do get off, coming across like it is only the right side that will profit from this ruling. You have many left leaning companies and people that will now be able to buy your represnatives also. this affects both sides/aisles of congress. we the people lose but you think it is only the right that will gain from this when many of your kind are already in office from smug contributors

Posted by: robertbeaver | January 22, 2010 10:37 AM | Report abuse

George Will was not always such a free speech purist. Like most good conservatives he did not look the other way when it came time to balance abstract rights against their likely consequences, even one so vital to our democracy as free speech.

More than 30 years ago, Will admonished the ACLU for taking the side of a local Nazi group that intended to mark the anniversary of Hitler's birthday with a promiscuous parade down the main streets of a small town in Will's home state of Illinois, Skokie, which was heavily populated with Jewish survivors of the Holocaust.

Will thought the ACLU's knee-jerk support for the "rights" of these brownshirts was outrageous because it slighted the larger context in which he said all legal and Constitutional rights exist.

As Will wrote at the time: "Liberalism is a philosophy that yields the essential task of philosophy -- distinguishing truth from error -- to the market, which measures preferences (popularity) not truth. Liberals say all ideas have equal right to compete in the market. But the right to compete implies the right to win. So the logic of liberalism is that it is better to be ruled by Nazis than to restrict them."

So, the logic of conservatism, then, is what exactly? That it is better to be ruled by America's corporate interests than to restrict them in any way? And if Will refuses to apply the same test to the implications of the Court's ruling on corporate influence in American politics as he defined and defended so well when it came to the sideshow demonstration of a comically inept American Nazi Party, does that then mean George Will is fully on board with the idea that it is better to be "ruled" by an American corporate oligarchy than to restrict it?

This point is important for me personaly. It was this old column of Will's, which I read as a political philosophy major in college, that was not only my first introduction to George Will but to conservatism generally. It got me thinking seriously about a belief system that, even on something as basic as freedom of speech, was ready to say: "Not so fast, think again, there may be more here than meets the eye."

I've long since abandoned my interest in conservatism, now believing it to be shamelessly unprincipled, without the courage of a conviction to be consistent, and as nothing more than the pretty and highminded rationalization for the pursuit and acquisition of power by the right wing.

Will's defense of unlimited corporate influence-peddling in the sacred name of our First Amendment is just the final nail in that coffin.

Posted by: TedFrier | January 22, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Do you really think corporations spend money on politics because they are 'right' or 'left'? They spend money because if they don't, they get run over by government the same as you and me. Bill
Gates (Microsoft) learned that lesson the hard way. If the government kept out of the private sector except to regulate harmful and or dangerous practices or products, companies wouldn't need to cover their backsides via lobbyists and contributions. It's attempts by government to allocate resources and pick winners and losers that distort the political process. If you don't see that, then you need to keep looking.

Posted by: MikeMcLamara | January 22, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Justice Stevens' dissenting opinion raises an interesting question for anyone who supports the majority's decision. If corporations are equal to individuals for purposes of political speech under the First Amendment, then don't corporations have the right to vote (which is in part a form of political speech)?

Posted by: clacina | January 22, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

It is time for a Constitutional Amendment that clearly defines 'corporations' and their corporate rights as regards political speech.

A business is not a human being. It does not have inalienable rights because all its rights are prescribed by the laws that bring it into existence. Corporations are man-made. Human beings are not. They are natural. Corporations are not. They are artificial legal entities.

The very existence of the Bill of Rights was to establish the rights of the individual separate and apart from corporate rights--those afforded the society that they make up--and the rights of the government as an entity.

Posted by: old_sarge | January 22, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

At the very least, Senators and serving Congress members should be required to wear jackets with the logos and icons of those who sponsor them much like the Indy or NASCAR racing teams. This should include staff.

The bigger the corporate multinational contribution the bigger the patch.

Posted by: Gracefulboomer | January 22, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

A landmark Supreme Court decision -- and you can take that to the bank.

Of course, now you'll have to ....

See:

http://notionscapital.wordpress.com/2010/01/21/freedom-of-speech-2010/

Posted by: MikeLicht | January 22, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Not being able to sell or buy an elected seat is NOT an infringment on free speech rights. This is a horrible decision. The big corporations already have undue influence in DC and the rest of the country. Any chance the little guy, the average guy has at a fair shake in this nation is just about out the window. I am going to single out Anthony Kennedy to focus my disappointment on. We all know that Scalia and Thomas and to a lesser degree Roberts and Alito don't really give a rat's a** about fairness, but Kennedy has pretty much been the voice of reason with his decisions. He sure went off the rails on this one.

Posted by: creatia52 | January 22, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

I agree the majority of justices went too far in their decision. However, the hypocrisy of Dionne and most liberals is all too apparent. They object to the decision not so much on constitutional as political partisan grounds. They fear the decision may help Republicans win more elections.

Somehow I doubt if Dionne and other liberals would object if corporations gave most of their money to Democrats or if unions were able to raise more money than corporations. Then you would probably be reading from him and others what a great decision this was.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | January 22, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Just more Dionne rubbish. You can have whatever view you like concerning this case. In the end it is no big deal one way or the other. You have hundreds of corporations putting out their political views now. It is called the media. Why should they be treated any differently? The simple fact is that it is not the givers of money that are the problem. I doubt any of them actually want to give money. It is the scumbag politicans you send to Washington that are the real problem. They are only too happy to take money, and in many cases to extort money, from business. It is not supprising that business gives money to politicans. It is a life or death question for them. The politicans can effectively put them out of business any time they want. You need to focus your anger where it belongs, at the scumbag Washington politicans and all of their friends and associates in Washington.

Posted by: jdonner2 | January 22, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, it's not just executive and legislative races that will be influenced by corporate money. There are 39 states that elect at least some of their judges. We've already seen legal judgments challenged by corporations alleging that competitors have bribed the judge with campaign contributions--how bad will it get? and how much sway will individual litigants have versus companies with bigger pockets? Even worse, this is happening at a time when local papers are closing, or don't have the resources to do the investigations needed to bring this stuff to light. This ruling is insane.

Posted by: lahke | January 22, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Did the majority have to appeal to umbras or penumbras emanating from the Constitution to validate their decision?

There is a fundamental problem when the FEC board (who knows who they are?) get to pick and choose which political speech is allowed based on rules about funding. It seems in direct contradiction to the simple words of the First.

That said, I'm not really happy with the prospect of direct corporate control over "issue" adverts. However, the law should clearly state at the end of any advocacy advertisement who gave the money and phoney baloney "paid for by the Committee Standing for Truth and Justice" should be allowed.

Posted by: edbyronadams | January 22, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

I don't see why we need to limit campaign contributions. Last I checked corporations can't vote.

I suppose what Dionne is implying is that the American people can't be trusted to think for themselves and will vote based on whatever they happen to hear on the TV and radio.

Posted by: BradG | January 22, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

E.J., I don't recall your being upset about massive labor union financial influence on elections (yes, unions are corporations, too). Seems to me that the Supreme Court just leveled the playing field. By the way, it would take a constitutional amendment to successfully restrict corporate free speech. What liberals really fear is it's now pay back time. Obama, Pelosi and Reid have been kicking corporate America in the groin for a year now.

Posted by: EricS1 | January 22, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

I wanted to respond to some of the posts above. (Corporate right to vote? Corporations just trying to prevent the government from running roughshod over them? Mr., Mrs. or Ms. and whether it matters?)

But then I decided the situation was hopeless and I was just too depressed about the handbasket the country seems to have gone to h*ll in even to care about any of this any more.

Perhaps I should just find some St. John's Wort and go back to bed.

Posted by: Itzajob | January 22, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

The Conservative Public (teabaggers, et al.)is strangely quiet on this recent development. Could this be another Harriet Miers or Dubai ports moment where even they can't agree with their corporate leaders? But this decision, which clearly defines these 5 as "activist judges", is perfectly in line with all other conservative philosophy and action: let the people be damned.

Posted by: gsross | January 22, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

While I'm sympathetic to the argument that this judgment was incorrect, I also can't help but notice that almost by definition, everyone I read complaining about it is someone who already has a corporate funded venue for political speech right up to election day.

Posted by: msully25 | January 22, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

If corporations are individuals then they should be limited to a lifespan that is the average of the world's population. I would guess it would be around 60-70 years or so. Maybe less. Take into account that most people can't earn money until they hit 12 or 13, and you have the earning lifespan of about 45-55 years.

There is nothing more human than the thought and process of facing death. Imagine the effect on stock prices in the waning years of these individuals.(corporations) Or how about the ability to hire employees in the final three years of the individual's lifespan.

These are things that people face every day. Selling stock at a certain age or holding and hoping for more gains, trying to get a desperately needed job in their later years.

Give the corporations individual status if you must, but make sure there are laws in place to insure their mortality as one, otherwise they loom above us as super individuals, with lifespans based on how they take care of themselves,instead of the nature of aging and mortality in our fragile frames.

Posted by: ripper368 | January 22, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

"Justice Stevens' dissenting opinion raises an interesting question for anyone who supports the majority's decision. If corporations are equal to individuals for purposes of political speech under the First Amendment, then don't corporations have the right to vote (which is in part a form of political speech)?"

I'd suggest this:

A corporation is a manifestation of the freedom of assembly. Since it's members have a (nearly) unlimited right to free speech, the corporation also has free speech.

Citizens don't have an unlimited right to vote, however, they only get one vote - so there are no spare votes to delegate to the corporation.

Posted by: msully25 | January 22, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Hey E.J. (Extreme Jag-off), what are you afraid of, you insipid homo? Are you afraid corporate donations may preclude the American electorate from electing another unqualified community organizer?

Posted by: uberrich | January 22, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

"Give the corporations individual status if you must, but make sure there are laws in place to insure their mortality as one, otherwise they loom above us as super individuals, with lifespans based on how they take care of themselves,instead of the nature of aging and mortality in our fragile frames."

It does seem unfair but this is precisely why corporations were created. Breaking up large successful enterprises periodically because death taxes must be paid is economic suicide for the whole.

Posted by: edbyronadams | January 22, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse

So if corporations don't have rights under the first amendment's protetions, then the Washington Post Company has no claim to the right a free press and Congress can simply set by decree what they can and cannot print?

Posted by: KHorn | January 22, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Actually, I'd have to amend my comment about why corporations can't vote - freedom of speech is not limited by the Constitution to the citizenry. Voting is.

Posted by: msully25 | January 22, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

You people are allowing esoterics to cloud what is a very simple reality: A Corporation is not recognized anywhere in the Constitution as a 'person' - that is to say, one of "We the People..."

How hard is that to grasp?

The hard-right is always trying to tell us that this is a Christian Nation, that it was founded on Christian principles and so on. Yet these same people would declare a soulless eating machine, existing for no earthly purpose other than to inhale as much cash as possible, this court and the like minded would have us believe that such a beast is equivalent to one of the 'People'.

Please be serious. Please own your s#!t. Anyone who supports this decision wants to enable a rightward swing and nothing more.

I am tired of living in a country created by idealists of the enlightenment (look it up), and run by callow moneygrubbers willing to sell anything and everything in order to get a vote or make a buck.

THIS America wouldn't have stood a chance in WWII.

-Cerebus

Posted by: cerebus-72 | January 22, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

John Roberts = best chief justice money can buy.

Posted by: HardyW | January 22, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Auggh! KHorn, you're an idiot! The Post and other news organizations don't have the right to lobby congress and spend profligately on campaign advertising (well - NOW they do). But they DO and always HAVE had the right to PRINT (Press) what they will.

There IS more than one part to the first amendment - or don't you read more than one clause a day?

Posted by: cerebus-72 | January 22, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse

And the whining begins again after only one year. I will say this, the Democrats including Mr. Dionne are certainly expert whiners. We can expect an awful lot of whining especially after the November elections.

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

a lot of companies are going to spend money to get back at the dems for trying to ruin them...
it going to be great...
I can't wait...

Posted by: DwightCollins | January 22, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Republicans seem to only oppose "legislating from the bench" when judges overturn laws that Republicans like. When judges overturn laws that Republicans don't like, it's just fine. What hypocrites.

I would agree with principled Republicans who dislike judges overturning laws in a haphazard manner, unless there is an awfully good reason for doing so. Clearly, the laws enacted by states which legalized racial discrimination were one such instance where legislating from the bench was both necessary and reasonable. But what is equally disturbing to me is when the Court will turn around and support laws which are clearly goofy, like the other New Haven case in which the city condemned land in order to give it to a private developer, rather than using the land for a strictly public purpose like roads, schools, etc. So, there can be harm done both ways in legislating from the bench- supporting laws and striking laws down.

Posted by: ripvanwinkleincollege | January 22, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

And, at least with regard to lawsuits, corporations "stand equal" to all other persons, and they presumably "stand equal" with regard to the statutes under which they could be held liable. And what is the difference between Bill Gates, individual, and Bill Gates, corporate head. All in all, EJ's critique appears to be nothing more than a free-floating dislike for corporations. He's certainly entitled to that, but perhaps he owes everyone a little honesty as well.

Posted by: willdd

---------------------------------------------

Bill Gates the person isn't dipping into Microsoft's dividends to buy off politicians. Duh

-------------------------------------------------

a lot of companies are going to spend money to get back at the dems for trying to ruin them...
it going to be great...
I can't wait...

Posted by: DwightCollins

If you think this is only going to go one way you're dumber than a box of hammers.

Posted by: theobserver4 | January 22, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

"Reformers who don't think that corporations should be treated the same as individuals..."

Exactly, Freedom of the Press only applies to individuals, not corporations.

Your company can be shut down tomorrow, legally, with no constitutional issues, you're a corporation who can't have first amendment protections. Silence your newspaper, force it to print or not print things, perfectly legal.

An individual with a blog (or handpress if you like) has true freedom, but corporations don't get or deserve those rights.

Wait.. let me guess. That right is totally and entirely different... amazing how many differences there are in our rights isn't it?

Posted by: gekkobear1 | January 22, 2010 12:46 PM | Report abuse

the internet will help mitigate this assault on democracy perpetrated by scalia and his white lapdog clarence thomas but only if congress can make damn sure the corporate logo is firmly attached to all print and electronic media propaganda. the corporation has to understand there will be consequences at the check out counter for extreme political demagoguery.they hold elections every two years, i use the dollar every single day. congress must act without delay.

Posted by: trjohnson8890122 | January 22, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Dionne, to ban or certain books, movies, messages and money to support ideas and their standard bearers is Unamerican. I agree with Justice Roberts on this. With simple full disclosure laws you can easily allow Americans to see where the money is going and who is contributing to what cause. We, Americans, are much smarter than you think and its not all about money. Besides, our economy could use the boost!

Posted by: sarno | January 22, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

"Republicans seem to only oppose "legislating from the bench" when judges overturn laws that Republicans like. When judges overturn laws that Republicans don't like, it's just fine. What hypocrites."

It must come as a shock to those who thought that branch of government could only swing one way. This decision is considerably more straightforward than Roe. Limiting who has access to a soapbox is easily interpreted as limiting political speech.

Posted by: edbyronadams | January 22, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: DwightCollins
"a lot of companies are going to spend money to get back at the dems for trying to ruin them...it going to be great...I can't wait..."

Typical self-serving conservative willing to throw the people under the bus for a one time gain driven purely by ego.

Not one iota of rational thought given by this group.

Posted by: tazmodious | January 22, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

I think that people are missing the most important part of this decision. The larger Corporations are usually multi-national conglomerates that are solely interested in the profits and long term profitability of the corporation. They are not concerned with the long term stability of OUR Country. Many corporations in the United States are owned in part or sometimes outright by foreign governments or private entities tied to foreign governments. This ruling allows these corporations to pour unlimited contributions into OUR political process. For example, we can now have instances of the Chinese government legally funneling money to political candidates in order to weaken trade laws that will ultimately hurt the U.S. economy and take away more jobs in this country. We can also have corporations with ties to terrorist organizations pouring unlimited contributions into politics to weaken our national security laws. You can have the Venezuelan state run oil company with its subsidiaries in the U.S. funneling unlimited money to sympathetic candidates. This decision puts OUR Country at risk period. It overturns over 103 years of judicial precedent that has been continuously upheld by the Supreme Court in the past which gives our government the right to regulate corporate donations in order to prevent these very scenarios from occurring.

As an FYI the Constitution does not equate speech with money.

Posted by: 221123 | January 22, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Here's something radical: the President by Executive Order countermands, for reasons of national security, that which the Supreme Court permits in its recent decision. Let the games begin....

Posted by: NJJACK | January 22, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

This legal ruling has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with free speech it is about legalizing blackmail so that CEO's of corporations can manipulate politicians to do their bidding by threatening to run attack ads against them when they seek election and re-election. For further expansion of this see:-

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/22/us/politics/22donate.html?ref=global-home

Failure to void this ruling will have all sorts of implications for the people of the United States. Only the politicians the CEO's want will tend to get elected which means it will be impossible to stop the dismantling of price competition legislation, the driving down of wages and the outsourcing of many more jobs to low wage countries.

Posted by: GerrySmith | January 22, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

I had no idea that free speech was so brutally expensive. It's going to take the hoard of Goldman-Sachs to be able to open one's mouth.

Posted by: aromanfranco | January 22, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

My favorite comment thus far advocated the required wearing of racing jackets with corporate logos. To expand on this idea, hats would be good, with required hat-switching every 5 - 10 minutes if said congressmen are shown on any television network (if it doesn't conflict with the networks' corporate sponsoring, of course), including C-span (its only fair).

To expand on this idea, I'm really liking the prospect of mandatory charm bracelets; they represent a certain pleasant nostalgia; ; they're fun to collect; they're discrete, and really, its the public's responsibility to know who has the latest gear - finding corporate money can be fun, like a treasure hunt.

I'll be the first to admit, I was really quite surprised to learn that "E.J." stands for "Extreme Jag-off," as another commentator posting here noted. Its almost embarassing to say it, but the thought genuinely never crossed my mind.

Its funny, I always just assumed it was an abbreviated name like "Edward Joseph" or "Eli Jansen"--you know, a set of normal names. It never crossed my mind it could be more like a nickname, but now that I know, (don't laugh, I know this sounds a little cheesy...) it feels like the sky has somehow opened up and my perspective has been drastically changed--but in a good way.

It really is true: a day without learning is like a day without sunshine! Keep smiling everyone!


Posted by: amw304 | January 22, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

I agree the majority of justices went too far in their decision. However, the hypocrisy of Dionne and most liberals is all too apparent. They object to the decision not so much on constitutional as political partisan grounds. They fear the decision may help Republicans win more elections.

Somehow I doubt if Dionne and other liberals would object if corporations gave most of their money to Democrats or if unions were able to raise more money than corporations. Then you would probably be reading from him and others what a great decision this was.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent
===========================================
This is why this country is going to end up in the toilet bowl. This attitude of seeing everything thru political lenses instead of what's right for the country.

So you agree that this isn't good for the country BUT since Democrats are opposed to this ruling you would rather argue about a hypothetical situation, not the situation we face now. Ever hear of 'divide and conquer'?

Posted by: priceisright | January 22, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

a lot of companies are going to spend money to get back at the dems for trying to ruin them...
it going to be great...
I can't wait...

Posted by: DwightCollins
===========================================
Put your glasses on chief, that's a very nearsighted way of looking at this.....

Posted by: priceisright | January 22, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

I'm wondering that, if the 1st Amendment gives corporations the right to "free speech", does the 2nd Amendment give them the right to create their own army?

Posted by: lacklenj | January 22, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

If you can't cast a vote, then you shouldn't be allowed to donate to a political party or election!!! Corporations are not given the right to vote in elections and contrary to several other posts- they are not held accountable (since a corp cannot be sent to prison)-

Posted by: BeTrueplease | January 22, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

The Conservatives on the Court have been far more guility of Judical Actism for several years now. This case is an extreme version, when you overturn a 100 year old princple, which has been before the court 20+ times in some form, and then claim you are not committing activism. Last comparison I saw, had the Right Wing of the SC 2x as likely to rule against the will of the People as expressed through their elected representatives. Since the definition of judical activism is making a ruling against precedent which overturns an act of the Legislative Branch, this proves where the Judical Activism is coming from doesn't it.

Bonus Question: How far back in time do we have to go before Conservatives would admit that the SC of that day was far to the Right of Modern Day America?

Posted by: Muddy_Buddy_2000 | January 22, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

So, all you so-called conservatives, and worshipers at the altar of Rush Limbaugh and Sister Sarah, how's that "legislating from the bench" working out for you?

Posted by: seattle_wa | January 22, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Some lawmakers are already in the pockets of corporate America. This will just make it easier to see who they are.

Posted by: EnemyOfTheState | January 22, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

"This decision constitutes a dramatic change in law yet nothing has changed to produce it other than the composition of the Court."
*********

couldnt the same be said of loving v. virgina?

clearly, court X cant say the sky is red and then fall back on "judicial activism" when the court Y comes along and says "ah....no".

you have to give the conservative majority credit for grouding the decision in a single amendment. roe v. wade's 2nd + 4th + little bit of the 5th = right to terminate a fetus was laughable on its face.


Posted by: dummypants | January 22, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

I understand why Mr. Will would believe this is a free speech issue. However, I don't understand his interest in term limits based on his free speech argument. Wouldn't limiting my right to vote for an individual limit my non-monetary right to free speech?

Posted by: mitlen | January 22, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

The amount of crying from the left only serves to convince me that this was the correct decision from SCOTUS.....

Posted by: TBsportsguy | January 22, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

The narrow majority of the Court again has shown that the Court as presently constituted is political and not judicial.

It is beholden to the Republican Party and the wealthy.

Posted by: WESHS49 | January 22, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Boy, Roberts and company couldn't wait to plant that big, sloppy kiss right on the behind of corporate America. And corporate America will return the favor to the rest to us - but it won't be a kiss.

Posted by: EnemyOfTheState | January 22, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Here's another "Radical" idea:

Let's limit the size, scope and influence of our government. If throwing huge sums of money at politicians had no benefit, because they had limited power to dispense, it would dry up in a hurry.

Those evil corporations, labor unions, PACs, bankers, would still have to spend their money influencing the people that had the ability to affect their well-being, but that would consist of individuals who earned and spent their own money as they saw fit.

I don't see a distinction between "free" and "paid" speech when I consider how much control I want to give the government (Republican, Democrat or Independent) to control it.

Conversely, much of the posting here devolves to: Give the government more power and limit the ability of those I disagree with to influence it.

Posted by: Resolute1 | January 22, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Liberals need to understand that their crusade for reform has to be constitutional. You can't bend the rules for a good cause.

Posted by: jboogie1 | January 22, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

You folks on the left just can't get over the fact the Bush got to appoint the CJ of the SCOTUS, can you?

If there is a single activist in SCOTUS, its Ginsberg or Scalia.

Its commentary like this that makes me thankful we protect judges FROM political activism. The left doesn't seem to have any respect for this principle.

Posted by: jboogie1 | January 22, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Any company that is multinational or does not pay taxes on all its profits, should not be allowed to contribute one cent for any political ad.

Foreign nationals can't contribute why should companies with foreign interests be allow to?

And when do corporations get to exercise their Second Amendment rights? Oh, right Blackwater (AKA Xe) already does.

Posted by: rcasero | January 22, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse


Two major activist court rulings this week basically created legislation.

The one allowing unlimited corporate spending on elections certainly tips the balance toward the corporations and away from ordinary people. If in fact the corporations can basically buy an election, as opposed to throwing one, the middle class will get squeezed even more under a return to Republic Party rule. Voting essentially will be worthless as a protection against big business and big government. Who needs Diebold to tip elections anymore?


A second decision, by the San Francisco court of appeals, essentially wipes out Fourth Amendment privacy protections against government snooping on ordinary, law-abiding Americans.

In the ruling, issued late Thursday, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker, a Bush Sr. appointee, held that the privacy harm to millions of Americans from the illegal spying dragnet was not a "particularized injury" but instead a "generalized grievance" because almost everyone in the United States has a phone and Internet service.

However, an individual can only sue for damages if he can prove he was directly damaged by the spying. The problem is, the NSA and FBI etc. spying is a state secret. And if you do find out, under the Patriot Act, you can be jailed if you tell anyone about the government spying on you.

So, in effect, class action privacy suits against the government spying are impossible now. Second, individuals have no protection against ATT, which collects the private info, and the government, which stores it. No judicial oversight, as in warrants, is needed anymore, despite specific clear language on that subject in the Fourth Amendment. This judge just made up his own law, just as John Yoo did. So the government can seize your private communications without warrants, without telling you, and use that info any way the spies want to, even against you.


These two rulings basically have taken power of free individuals and handed it to corporations and the government.

Posted by: mongolovesheriff | January 22, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

"No wonder AMERICA sucks at SCIENCE and MATH!"

Posted by: sasha2008 | January 22, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

How much Science and Math learning have you done yourself sasha?

I bet you studied political science or politics in school, if you even went at all. I'm sick of hypocrites complaining about the Mathematical and Scientific talents of our country when they never challenged themselves to improve their M&S skills.

Posted by: jboogie1 | January 22, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

When in Rome do as the Romans do..I guess the Supreme Court being in Washington D.C decided to be a joke too.

Posted by: lucygirl1 | January 22, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

"Our" Supreme Court would be comfortable in Franco's Spain.

Posted by: rusty3 | January 22, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Just wait till a corp. builds power lines near your home or air pollution causes your child to develop asthma. If your local judge or rep is 'supported' by this corp., do you think they will intervene?
You dummies don't get that they can fund democrats too. They might approve of these policies b/c they are being funded by a corporation. How about if the corporations pay democrats to hike taxes on the middle class and lower taxes for the corporations? Or a corporation wants to squash the small businesses that compete with it and 'finances' a candidate that will help approve legislation to do it?

Posted by: priceisright | January 22, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Aprogressiveindependent seems to forget that the nations wealthy voted for Obama the past election in greater numbers than they did for a Republican. The first time in 50 years that has happened.

If you wing batted, tin foil hatted "maroons" would step back from your "liberal hate" for two seconds, you would see that this is horrible for EVERYONE, regardless of political affiliations, which is why you have Senior Republicans, Senior Democrats, Greenies and Independants and some of the nations oldest and most respected political scholars from all sides of the aisle lambasting this decision.

K street lobbying firms went on a hiring binge this morning. All this decision did was prove forever, and for all time that Conservative Republicans are slaves to their corporate masters. Obama has been getting friction for "being in the back pocket of banks" (despite all the ridiculous new rules and regulations his administration has burdened them with in the past year). But we've seen a complete ideological decision handed down by the highest court in the land, reversing nearly 100 years of precedent. These laws were written for a reason.

People like yourself who can't see more than 2 inches in front of your face may like this for the time being, but as soon as some Democrat wins an office soley because some company decided to bankroll them with a 20 million dollar donation, you will be crying foul. I can't wait until that happens. I am sure we will see lots of it later this year.

And for those of you worried about foreign influence peddling, how many of the fortune 500 companies are headquarted elsewhere. You will see clear indications of million dollar donations from foreign run corporations.

Posted by: Nosh1 | January 22, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Corporation gives money to a Democrat candidate, I dump their stock.

it's just that simple.

Posted by: ProfessorWrightBSU | January 22, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Dozens of current and former corporate executives have a message for Congress: Quit hitting us up for campaign cash. Roughly 40 executives say they are tired of getting fundraising calls from lawmakers - and fear it will only get worse after Thursday's Supreme Court ruling.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch: The Obama administration and congressional Democrats scramble today to close the gaping holes the ruling carved into campaign finance rules.

Posted by: jahoby | January 22, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Just as those who say an overturning of Roe v. Wade would actually help the "left" because people would be forced to see that their right to privacy is being taken away from them, this deicision will ultimately help the "left" Democrats in the short term and long term.

One of the main reasons Brown won in Massachuestts is because people feel governemnt is too interested in helping out Wall Street rather than Main Street. (For those who think the vote was all Anti-Obama, Obama is still very popular in Massachuestts). The fact that both Republcian leaders in Congress came out in praise of this decision is going to come back to haunt them. People DO NOT WANT corporate money in politics (whether they have a legal right to, which I don't feel they do, doesn't matter). Money will pour in from corporations into politics and people will see who gets this money and will remember these people come election time. This deicison, so soon after Massachusetts, will only revive the Democratic base.

Posted by: smith6 | January 22, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

It's great to see all the comments about politicians in corporate pockets. Of course the fact that the pres was in the pocket of Fannie and the unions is just fine.

Seems to me that we should either limit all contributions that can't be tracked back to a single human or we let them contribute. If you are afraid of the resulting regimes you can always vote them out. After all we are safe from the dictates of a Nazi regime. And looks like we got a little safer this week...

Posted by: LaughRiot | January 22, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Dionne: My wife and I are "corporation". You cannot, will not dare not take away our right to speak and to spend our money as we see fit. This class envy, class warfare scam you communists have been propagating for forty years in America is wearing a little thin.

Posted by: chatard | January 22, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

So much for the doctrine of "original intent." But we all knew they were lying about that anyhow. Or should have known.

The concept of corporations as persons goes back to the 1880's when an activist Supreme Court applied (more appropriately, "misapplied") the 14th Amendment to corporations. Never mind that the slavery amendments were meant to free people, not limited-liability organizations. People can go to jail, can even be executed, but corporations cannot. So their status is somewhat elevated above that of an ordinary human.

I wish Congress would give stockholders real rights to hold corporate management accountable for their actions. Of course, this activist Supreme Court would probably claim the original intent of the Constitution was to allow the managerial class free will.

"We the people and we the limited-liability organizations of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union..."

Posted by: BuddyK | January 22, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Yes, it was clearly radical; it upheld free speech for corporations and unions. But, the unions didn't need to be singled out because they were already covered as seen by the elections in 2008.

Posted by: BeanerECMO | January 22, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Congress should just close its doors and spare us all the sham of campaigning and elections. Give the keys to GE, Pfizer, Exon, Citi and some of our other corporate lords. They are just going to buy the politicians anyway. What a sad day.

Posted by: truthdog | January 22, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

I think the cart is getting put ahead of the horse here. Who has the power and who is being controlled?

My experience is that the government has the power. Representatives know how to shake down corporations and do. The only time a corporation goes against an elected official is when that official is trying to affect revenues so radically that the company is better off fighting. The corporate officer's fiduciary responsibility usually restricts this behavior. Typically its pretty standard "protection" money that organized crime (aka your National Gov't) extracts.

Posted by: scott3 | January 22, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

The government doesn't create corporations and businesses, people do. The government creates nothing. Therefore businesses should have the same right to lobby as individuals. This is not judicial activism, this is overturning judicial activism and upholding the constitution. pretty simple.

Posted by: DaMan2 | January 22, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

I think maybe I should change my WP user ID to anti-hypocrisy. Dionne advocates a tax deduction for individuals making small campaign contributions. This would be outrageous, there are enough loopholes already in the tax codes. People should not be able to save a little on their taxes by giving money to partisan candidates.

I wonder if Dionne objects to workers being forced in some areas to contribute union dues, some of money going to political campaigns and candidates, through political action committees.

Some people are becoming hysterical about this decision. Corporate interests and unions already have thoroughly corrupted the political process in this country. They had excessive influence over politicians before this decision. The Reagan and Bush II administrations were nearly slaves on behalf of business interests.

Most Democrats want to restrict contributions by corporations, while allowing unions to give freely. If corporations gave most of their money to Democrats, unions to Republicans, Dionne and other Democrats would be strongly applauding the Supreme court's decision.

When it comes to partisan politics, most Democrats and Republicans are card-carrying hypocrites.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | January 22, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Every once in a while, one comes across a comment that makes wading through the inane, ignorant, idiotic comments that dominate here at WaPo worth the effort. Thanks, TedFrier, for your worthy comment.

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

This whole argument is silly. If coroprations decide to give massive amounts of money to one candidate over another or one party over another then two things will happen. 1) if the shareholders of said company down agree with the decision there will be hell to pay for the executives that made those decisions. and 2) the PEOPLE will be able to see all of these contributions and decide where to spend their money.

For example, I do not buy anything from GE anymore if I can avoid it because of their naked partisanship in their news division and deal making with this administration over "green" technology. Additionally, since I learned that Progressive Insurance and Costco are incredibly large donors to liberal causes I choose not to do business with them.

If people feel strongly (as most in this forum do) they can use the power of their wallets to send the messages they want to send. Believe me, if people here hate the GOP and a company gives disproportionately to the GOP-- those who are angered by that will not spend their money there and this will cause big problems for the corporations.

Corporations will continue to do what they do today-- which is to fund BOTH sides of the aisle for political expedience. The net ruling here by the SCOTUS doesn't change a thing.

Posted by: jlarranaga | January 22, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Individuals contribute to candidates and causes because they believe in them. Corporations do it for just one reason: it benefits their business interests.

We need to assure there is transparency (which there really wasn't under McCain-Feingold and the 527s). As long as I know that, for instance, Proctor & Gamble supports a candidate or issue I'm for or against, I can decide whether to support them by buying Crest and tide. But that only works for consumer products corporations, not, for instance, Lockheed.

Posted by: mxyzptlk1 | January 22, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Consider:
1) the question before the Court was whether the video produced by Citizens United was or was not political speech.
2) by contrast, the Court ordered a second round of oral arguments on an issue that was not posed by the appellants -- whether Congress could regulate corporate political speech.

By itself, this is shockingly activist. A court's role is to decide the question before it, not to sew new questions that were never raised by those seeking judicial review.

Furthermore, consider that overturning precedent requires a change in circumstance since the last decision; no such change in circumstance occurred here.

Finally, consider that corporations were never barred from political speech. What was required of them was that they fund their speech through PACs and that the PACs had to report all donations in order to provide transparency. We knew who gave to the PACs and how much they gave.

As a result of this decision a corporation can be created for the sole purpose of funding political campaigns with no reporting as to where the money comes from. Corporations could be funded by foreign nationals (the Chinese, Iran, Al Qaeda shadow groups?), and we will never know it. Their identities can be shielded by the corporate entity.

I fear for my country.

Posted by: truly1 | January 23, 2010 5:30 PM | Report abuse

"Why should those of us who buy a company’s products be forced involuntarily to finance its political spending, just because we need a tube of toothpaste or a tire for our car?"

Interesting statement E.J. because a lot of people in this country who see their union dues, some of which are paid involuntarily if they don't work in right to work states, to hard left Democratic canidates year after year probably feel the same way. I'm sure if I look I will find an article by you advocating that union members be able to opt out of having their union dues go to liberal canidates. The thing about your blathering on about those filthy corporations having the terimity to donate money to political canidates who support their views is moronic. Is the large amount of money that corporations could donate what bothers you? If it is then I guess you weren't in favor of mega billionare George Soros' efforts to elect liberal Democrats. My campaign contributions pale in comparison to his so that means his money is more corrupting than mine right? Or it just the fact that it's businesses giving to canidates that you dislike? As a liberal I'm sure you'd like it if everyone were employed by the goverment and all private enterprise disappeared under 100% taxation. If large amounts of money donated to canidates is corrupting then your good buddy Barak Obama has to be the most corrupt individual on the planet considering that he raised more money during his campaign than anyone ever has and he personally destroyed the public financing of campaigns. Personally I don't care how much is spent on campaigns. We spend more money on toothpast in a typical year than we do on all political races. I think everyone and anyone should be able to donate as much as they want as long as that donation is made public immediately so the voters can see where a canidates money comes from and can judge for themselves if that person is too beholden to special interests.

Posted by: RobT1 | January 25, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

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