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

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Full Disclosure: A Bipartisan Idea

When Republicans were attacking limits on soft-money political donations that finally passed Congress in 2002, they insisted that there was no reason to restrict how much individuals or corporations could give. Only one thing was necessary: full disclosure.

Let the public know who was giving all that cash and who was getting it, and the corrupting influence would be washed away. A decade ago, there was overwhelming bipartisan support for full disclosure of campaign donations.

Editorial: Big-money campaign donations should not be kept secret | http://www.palmbeachpost.comhttp://goo.gl/BL1V4

Free speech drowns in a sea of money

EDITORIAL FROM SOUTHCOST TODAY

One town at a time, citizens are uniting against Citizens United.

Voters at Westport’s annual Town Meeting earlier this month passed Article 49 (see below), authorizing the town to petition Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution to affirm that the rights “protected by this Constitution to be the rights of natural persons.”

In other words, the Supreme Court decision of 2010 on Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission striking down part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act — and affirming that corporations and unions are people — would be unconstitutional.

The central issue for both the reform act and Citizens United is political speech and how it’s financed and disseminated.

Continue reading

Jeff Clements: We the People v. Citizens United

Citizens United is catastrophic in itself but the problem runs deeper.

Citizens United is the most extreme extension of a concerted, well-funded campaign for “corporate rights” that has been building for decades.

With increasing aggressiveness, corporations have persuaded activist courts to rewrite the First Amendment to include “corporate speech,” not just human speech. Corporations now use this twisted theory to demolish public laws that stand in the path of corporate profit.

–Jeff Clements Continue reading

Constitutional Amendment: An Overwhelmingly Popular Idea

American as Apple PieWhen an overwhelming majority of Americans–regardless of their political leanings–in poll after poll show that they are sick of the campaign funding system we have, suspicious of the government it creates, critical of the ‘Citizens United’ ruling, and supportive of a Constitutional Amendment to start to fix all of this… 

Town Meeting’s upcoming vote on Article 23 is about the most un-controversial action we can take!

Though the policies and the legalese can become complex, at the end of the day, the issue is simple: corporations–economic entities with a legalistic ‘personhood’ structure–are not people, and are not protected by the Bill of Rights.

When the highest bidder can buy our elections, your single vote counts less and less. Our ability to decide what we want for our town–our local control of our priorities and values–is undermined at the very foundation.

Our forefathers left England to escape a system where the aristocracy controlled everyone’s fates. But we have allowed that same scenario to be recreated in our campaign financing system, and Citizens United just made it worse.

The politicians who are now enslaved to the corrupting system cannot be relied on to advance the changes we need. It has to start with the People.

Let’s do this!

See you Monday.