Justice Alito and Citizens United

The Citizens United majority never explained why any corporation without a press function warrants the same free speech rights as a person. Neither did Justice Alito. Meanwhile, the false equivalence of money and speech put forward by Citizens United and the money it unleashed is wreaking havoc in our politics.

From New York Times editorial — Last week, Justice Samuel Alito Jr. speciously defended the Supreme Court’s disastrous ruling in the 2010 Citizens United case by arguing that the ruling, which allowed unlimited independent campaign spending by corporations and unions, was not really groundbreaking at all. In fact, he said, all it did was reaffirm that corporations have free speech rights and that, without such rights, newspapers would have lost the major press freedom rulings that allowed the publication of the Pentagon Papers and made it easier for newspapers to defend themselves against libel suits in New York Times v. Sullivan.

“The question is whether speech that goes to the very heart of government should be limited to certain preferred corporations; namely, media corporations,” he said in a speech to the Federalist Society, a conservative group. “Surely the idea that the First Amendment protects only certain privileged voices should be disturbing to anybody who believes in free speech.”

But Justice Alito’s argument wrongly confuses the matter. It is not the corporate structure of media companies that makes them deserving of constitutional protection. It is their function — the vital role that the press plays in American democracy — that sets them apart. In Citizens United, by a 5-to-4 vote, the court ruled that the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, in limiting the amount that organizations could spend, severely restricted First Amendment rights. The law’s purpose and effect, according to the court, was to keep unions and most corporations from conveying facts and opinions to the public, though it exempted media corporations.

But the majority got that backward. The point of the law was to protect the news media’s freedom of speech and not the legal form that they happened to be organized under. While corporations make enormous contributions to society, they “are not actually members of it,” Justice John Paul Stevens said in his dissent. When the framers “constitutionalized the right to free speech in the First Amendment, it was the free speech of individual Americans that they had in mind,” he noted, not that of corporations.

In New York Times v. Sullivan, in which the First Amendment was used to rein in the law of libel, the Supreme Court focused on the “profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.” It made almost no mention of the fact that The Times was a corporation. Nor were the free speech rights of a corporation any part of the ruling in the Pentagon Papers case.

The Citizens United majority never explained why any corporation that does not have a press function warrants the same free speech rights as a person. Neither did Justice Alito. Meanwhile, the false equivalence of money and speech put forward by Citizens United and the money it unleashed is wreaking havoc in our politics.

FROM: Justice Alito, Citizens United and the Press – NYTimes.com (11/19/2012) – http://nyti.ms/Se3DOp

The Democracy Amendment Wins in a Landslide

Needham results are tricky to parse, because the Amendment appeared as 3 different questions  across Needham.

What is clear is that in the Norfolk-Bristol-Middlesex Senate District (of which half of Needham is part), the Democracy Amendment had an overwhelming victory. look at these numbers:

 

NORFOLK, BRISTOL & MIDDLESEX STATE SENATE
City or town Precincts
reporting
No Yes
Attleboro 0 of 5 0 0
Franklin 5 of 5 2,079 6,524
Millis 3 of 3 950 2,915
Natick 4 of 4 1,343 5,215
Needham 5 of 5 1,399 5,340
Norfolk 3 of 3 1,061 3,504
North Attleborough 9 of 9 3,036 8,710
Plainville 3 of 3 914 2,697
Sherborn 1 of 1 520 1,689
Wayland 4 of 4 1,338 5,392
Wellesley 3 of 3 793 2,929
Wrentham 3 of 3 1,247 3,987
Total 43 of 48 14,680 48,902

Needham Patch: Democracy Amendment on the Needham Ballot, November 6

From the Needham Patch – [On election day, Nov. 6,] Needham residents will  join more than 150 communities across Massachusetts in voting on a nonbinding question that, if approved, would direct legislators to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision through an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“It’s saying that we the people, who are voting on this, want Congress to pass a constitutional amendment that says that corporations do not have the same rights as human people and that the legislature should be able to pass laws regulating political spending and campaign contributions,” said Harmony Wu, a Needham activist and supporter of the issue.

Many Needham residents saw a similar question at the 2012 Annual Town Meeting, when a majority of members approved the measure following about an hour of debate. The Town Meeting article urged the town’s state representatives to support a constitutional amendment.

In June, the Massachusetts legislature did pass a resolution that called upon Congress to enact a constitutional amendment.

Proponents are hoping the response to this new question—which represents the voices of thousands of voters across the commonwealth—will further underline the importance of a constitutional amendment.

“It’s nonbinding, and some might say, what’s the point?” Wu said. “The bigger rationale is that this is an avenue by which people have to organize and mobilize, and when we do this, it becomes part of a large voice calling for change. We’re just trying to make it so that the powers that be can’t ignore this movement.”

Because the threshold for getting a question on the ballot for a senate district is higher than getting a question on the ballot for a legislative district, and the efforts to collect signatures by the deadline were divided, Needham residents in each of the town’s two districts will see different[ly numbered] questions on Nov. 6, [with slight variations in wording,] Wu said.

Voters in precincts A-C, I and J will see a question instructing both the senator [Richard Ross, R] and the representative [Denise Garlick, D] to support an amendment (Questions 4 and 5), while voters in precincts D-H will only see a question instructing the representative [Denise Garlick] to do so (Question 5).

The wording of all questions is as follows (substituting senator or representative depending on the [precinct]):

Shall the state senator [or state representative] from this district be instructed to vote in favor of a resolution calling upon Congress to propose an amendment to the U.S. constitution affirming that (1) corporations are not entitled to the constitutional rights of human beings, and (2) both Congress and the states may place limits on political contributions and political spending?

Placing the questions on the ballot at an election with a highly anticipated turnout will also help make voters more aware of the issue overall, Wu said.

“It’s a public education campaign as well. By seeing the question on the ballot, it increases awareness,” she said.

Read More: http://needham.patch.com/articles/needham-voters-to-see-citizens-united-questions

MORE INFORMATION, on this site, ABOUT THE DEMOCRACY AMENDMENT: Question 5 in Prec.D-H, Question 4 in Precincts A-C, I-J:

Dark Money In State and Local Elections

Buying a presidential race is incredibly difficult.

But you can significantly influence if not turn the tide in a congressional election with a lot less money.

More great work from Bill Moyers & Company

In the wake of Wisconsin’s $63.5 million recall election, we caught up with Mother Jonesreporter Andy Kroll to discuss the role of dark money in state and local elections.

Lauren Feeney: Big national organizations like American Crossroads and Club for Growth Action are pouring money not just into the presidential election, but also into state and local races. Why?

Andy Kroll: Three words: Return on investment.

You can turn an election a lot easier at the congressional level than you can at the presidential level.

Continue reading

HOW TO GET BIG MONEY OUT OF ELECTIONS & RECLAIM THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS OF ‘WE THE PEOPLE’

Please join David Cobb, nationally known spokesperson for Move to Amend, as he pulls back the curtain on the decades-old story of how corporations have gotten the Supreme Court to give them constitutional rights reserved for the people by the framers of the Constitution. Using these rights, corporations and the super-rich are now allowed to spend unlimited sums to influence our elections!

David’s talk couldn’t be better timed.  On November 6, nearly a third of Massachusetts voters will have the chance to vote on the “Democracy Amendment” question, a nonbinding ballot question calling for a constitutional amendment to end corporate constitutional rights and allow us to establish spending limits in political campaigns.

Meet other concerned citizens who want to reclaim our democracy! Get involved in the growing national movement for an amendment to the US Constitution!

Date:    Thursday, September 20th, from 7p.m. to 9 p.m.

Location:   Natick Senior Center,  90 Oak Street, Natick MA

David Cobb is National Projects Director of Democracy Unlimited. He is a lawyer and political activist. David has sued corporate polluters, lobbied elected officials, run for political office himself, and has been arrested for non-violent civil disobedience.  He truly believes we must use ALL the tools in the toolbox to effect the systemic social change we so desperately need. 

Co-Sponsored by Common Cause, Democracy Amendment Coalition of MA, Occupy Natick
Progressive Democrats of America – Greater Boston (PDA)

Major Updates: Need Help!

Not only did Needham pass our town meeting resolution and the state pass its anti-CitizensUnited resolution– democracy-fans got a “Citizens United” question (nicknamed “The Democracy Amendment”, read more here) onto the Needham ballot for November 6, 2012! (yeah, we have to update parts of this website that are still talking about the town meeting vote as “coming up”!)

That means, in addition to voting on President and US Senate, voters will have a chance to say whether they want corporate interests to be able to spend unlimited resources on our campaigns.

It’s not a binding question. But it is yet another means by which WE THE PEOPLE can voice our demand that lawmakers take action! They hadn’t been listening very carefully…. But the broad grassroots movement–which we in Needham are a part of– have stirred politicians at the highest levels to take notice.

With the question on the ballot– we need to get the word out to voters!

We need some help on THURSDAY, ELECTION DAY, September 6, in Needham:

Can you help for even just an hour (or even less if that’s all you got) at the polls on Thursday? We will be handing out INFORMATION/LITERATURE about the ballot question–to get the word out about the anti-Citizens United vote on November 6!

This is not so hard stuff–please email wethepeopleneedham@gmail.com with your availability on Thursday, Sept. 6.  In particular, we would like to have commute times covered, when there’s the highest foot traffic.