Saturday, January 23, 2010

And May the !Rich! Man Win... (re: the Supreme Court)

It's hard for me to imagine what people are thinking who would give corporations the same rights as individuals (the point being to allow corporations to influence elections.) People who think that for-profit corporations are working for our interests - or that for-profit corporations know what is good for us - but we, the people don't. (Well some of people certainly don't know what's good for them - the ones who support this decision don't.)

This is a good decision for the wealthiest of companies (the people who profit the most from them) - bad for the rest of us - bad for the planet (and ultimately bad for everyone whether everyone knows it or not).


[January 21, 2010]
in part and dissenting in part.
The real issue in this case concerns how, not if, the appellant may finance its electioneering. Citizens United is a wealthy nonprofit corporation that runs a political action committee (PAC) with millions of dollars in assets. Under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), it could have used those assets to televise and promote Hillary: The Movie wherever and whenever it wanted to. It also could have spent unrestricted sums to broadcast Hillary at any time other than the 30 daysbefore the last primary election. Neither Citizens United’s nor any other corporation’s speech has been “banned,” ante, at 1. All that the parties dispute is whether CitizensUnited had a right to use the funds in its general treasury to pay for broadcasts during the 30-day period. The notion that the First Amendment dictates an affirmative answer to that question is, in my judgment, profoundly misguided. Even more misguided is the notion that the Court must rewrite the law relating to campaign expenditures by for-profit corporations and unions to decide this case.

The basic premise underlying the Court’s ruling is itsiteration, and constant reiteration, of the proposition that the First Amendment bars regulatory distinctions based on a speaker’s identity, including its “identity” as a corporation.
While that glittering generality has rhetoricalappeal, it is not a correct statement of the law. Nor does it tell us when a corporation may engage in electioneering that some of its shareholders oppose. It does not even resolve the specific question whether Citizens United maybe required to finance some of its messages with the money in its PAC. The conceit that corporations must be treated identically to natural persons in the politicalsphere is not only inaccurate but also inadequate to justify the Court’s disposition of this case.

In the context of election to public office, the distinctionbetween corporate and human speakers is significant.Although they make enormous contributions to our society, corporations are not actually members of it. They cannot vote or run for office. Because they may be managed and controlled by nonresidents, their interests mayconflict in fundamental respects with the interests ofeligible voters. The financial resources, legal structure,and instrumental orientation of corporations raise legitimate
concerns about their role in the electoral process. Our lawmakers have a compelling constitutional basis, if not also a democratic duty, to take measures designed to guard against the potentially deleterious effects of corporate
spending in local and national races.

The majority’s approach to corporate electioneeringmarks a dramatic break from our past. Congress hasplaced special limitations on campaign spending by corporations ever since the passage of the Tillman Act in 1907, ch. 420, 34 Stat. 864. We have unanimously concluded that this “reflects a permissible assessment of the dangers posed by those entities to the electoral process,” FEC v. National Right to Work Comm., 459 U. S. 197, 209 (1982) (NRWC), and have accepted the “legislative judgment that the special characteristics of the corporate structure require particularly careful regulation,” id., at 209–210. The Cite as: 558 U. S. ____ (2010) 3

Court today rejects a century of history when it treats thedistinction between corporate and individual campaignspending as an invidious novelty born of Austin v. Michi-gan Chamber of Commerce, 494 U. S. 652 (1990). Relyinglargely on individual dissenting opinions, the majority blazes through our precedents, overruling or disavowing a body of case law including FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc., 551 U. S. 449 (2007) (WRTL), McConnell v. FEC, 540
U. S. 93 (2003), FEC v. Beaumont, 539 U. S. 146 (2003), FEC v. Massachusetts Citizens for Life, Inc., 479 U. S. 238 (1986) (MCFL), NRWC, 459 U. S. 197, and California Medical Assn. v. FEC, 453 U. S. 182 (1981).
In his landmark concurrence in Ashwander v. TVA, 297
U. S. 288, 346 (1936), Justice Brandeis stressed the importance of adhering to rules the Court has “developed . . . for its own governance” when deciding constitutional questions....

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