Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
United States Politics Your Rights Online

Supreme Court Rolls Back Corporate Campaign Spending Limits 1070

Posted by timothy
from the hearken-to-the-nelson-laugh dept.
lorenlal writes "The Supreme Court of the United States must have figured that restrictions on corporate support of candidates was a violation of free speech, or something like that." From the AP story linked above: "By a 5-4 vote, the court on Thursday overturned a 20-year-old ruling that said corporations can be prohibited from using money from their general treasuries to pay for campaign ads. The decision, which almost certainly will also allow labor unions to participate more freely in campaigns, threatens similar limits imposed by 24 states."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Supreme Court Rolls Back Corporate Campaign Spending Limits

Comments Filter:
  • Constitution? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:35PM (#30850692)

    If the U.S. Constitution ensures the free speech rights of corporations, as the SCOTUS has judged, then clearly the Constitution is defective.

  • Bad, bad news (Score:4, Insightful)

    by truthsearch (249536) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:36PM (#30850698) Homepage Journal

    We need to replace the "conservatives" on the supreme court who don't understand that corporations should not have the constitutional rights of citizens.

  • by dazedNconfuzed (154242) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:38PM (#30850756)

    Right of free speech + right of association = right of groups, as corporations, to speak freely.

  • Re:I for one... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by polar red (215081) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:39PM (#30850768)

    Your system already looks like 2 conglomerate's of wealthy men dividing the dough and the sweat of 99% of US' citizens.

  • by bkr1_2k (237627) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:39PM (#30850770)

    Now your vote really doesn't count... if it ever did after creation of the electoral college. With unlimited spending the sheep who listen without thinking will just keep electing who they're told and never consider the consequences. Yay...

  • Re:Constitution? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:39PM (#30850782)

    Why?

    Do you believe individuals should have the right to spend money on campaigns? (I do; your money, do with it as you wish.) If you do, then why shouldn't groups of individuals have the right to decide as a group what to do with money owned by the group, using whatever governance structure the group has previously agreed to?

  • Re:Bad, bad news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:40PM (#30850784) Journal

    They already have the only vote that matters. If you can choose who the candidates are, you never have to worry about which one wins.

  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:41PM (#30850810) Journal

    [Chief Justice] Roberts said he was not prepared to "embrace a theory of the 1st Amendment that would allow censorship not only of television and radio broadcasts, but of pamphlets, posters, the Internet and virtually any other medium that corporations and unions might find useful in expressing their views on matters of public concern."

    But [Justice] Stevens and the dissenters said the majority was ignoring the long-understood rule that the government could limit election money from corporations, unions and others, such as foreign governments. "Under today's decision, multinational corporations controlled by foreign governments" would have the same rights as Americans to spend money to tilt U.S. elections. "Corporations are not human beings. They can't vote and can't run for office," Stevens said, and should be subject to restrictions under the election laws.

    Maybe China now has something useful to do with the trillion+ dollars they have burning a hole in their pocket.

  • by AlexLibman (785653) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:41PM (#30850812)

    Corporations are voluntary contracts between individuals, and those individuals have rights, period. If some of you Slashdot commies fail to comprehend that, that is your problem and yours alone.

    (More here.) [google.com]

  • Re:Bad, bad news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FooAtWFU (699187) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:42PM (#30850828) Homepage
    When they ratified an amendment protecting the free press, next to Speech, you don't think that any corporation had ever spent any money to publish a newspaper to push a political opinion?
  • Fair enough... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Seakip18 (1106315) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:42PM (#30850836) Journal

    Since corporations are able to possess the 1st amendment as a whole body, are they not entitled the remaining amendments?

    Ok, that IS crazy. But what isn't is that, come election time, I wouldn't be surprised if pink slips get issued in order to free up some money to run messages for/against our tastycrats and fingerlick'ans.

    "It's going to be the Wild Wild West," said Ben Ginsberg, a Republican attorney who has represented several GOP presidential campaigns. "If corporations and unions can give unlimited amounts ... it means that the public debate is significantly changed with a lot more voices and it means that the loudest voices are going to be corporations and unions."

    I have to agree.

    Corporations and unions have been given the right to buy who ever they want without any back alley deals...as long as the money doesn't go directly to or is coordinated by candidate.

  • Re:Bad, bad news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ScentCone (795499) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:43PM (#30850854)
    We need to replace the "conservatives" on the supreme court who don't understand that corporations should not have the constitutional rights of citizens.

    The constitution doesn't give you, or a business formed by you and a friend, any rights. The constitution is there to limit the government's ability to take those rights away. Being able to buy a newspaper advertisement or broadcast an advertisement isn't something that the goverment should be able to prevent you (or the company you've formed) from doing. Likewise for labor unions, advocacy groups, churches, scouting troops, bowling leagues, open source code projects, or anyone else.

    I'm always amazed at how many misguided people think their rights come from the government. That explains a lot about why statists like Pelosi and Reid think they have so much more traction than they really do. Don't give it to them, now matter how much you want the government to be your Nanny.
  • Welcome! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Profane MuthaFucka (574406) <busheatskok@gmail.com> on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:44PM (#30850866) Homepage Journal

    I, for one, welcome our new psychopathic, immortal, politically empowered, corporate-person overlords!

  • Re:Bad, bad news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:44PM (#30850868)

    We need to replace the "conservatives" on the supreme court who don't understand that corporations should not have the constitutional rights of citizens.

    I think we face this issue: What do we do when those who have studied a subject extensively (the USPTO members in this case) come to conclusions that seem absurd (relative to our plain reading of the Constitution, in this case). Because most of us who are supposedly bound the the Constitution don't have the time and means to study it extensively while still meeting our other responsibilities.

    One the one hand, we might conclude that if we too had studied the Constitution extensively, we would reach the same conclusions as the SCOTUS. And then we can choose to either accept their judgment, or try to muster the balls to get the Constitution changed.

    Or on the other hand, we might reason that regardless of the sophistication of their reasoning, it must have some (perhaps hidden) flaw, because of the conclusions they've reached. (I.e., that corporations have free-speech rights that are so sacrosanct that they can legally de facto buy legislation). I'm not exactly sure what options this leaves us, shy of revolution. Which despite the bravado we often exhibit on this site, would have tragic consequences in terms of lost or ruined lives of innocent persons.

  • by whatajoke (1625715) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:45PM (#30850880)

    And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn't there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression. And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. How did this happen? Who's to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you're looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror. I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn't be? War, terror, disease. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense. Fear got the best of you, and in your panic you turned to the now high chancellor, Adam Sutler. He promised you order, he promised you peace, and all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent.
    - V

  • Re:Constitution? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by killmenow (184444) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:45PM (#30850882)

    It's not the Constitution that's defective. It's the Supreme Court ruling in 1886 [wikipedia.org] that effectively gave corporations personhood. THAT is what needs to be overturned.

  • by ScentCone (795499) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:46PM (#30850894)
    The U(F)SA is now a de facto fascist state.

    (citation needed)

    Or, perhaps just a functioning definition of the word "fascist," which you clearly don't have. Idiot.
  • by DaHat (247651) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:46PM (#30850896) Homepage

    Well said... also interesting that the focus of most of this has been on corporations and not other groups (be it PACs, unions, etc).

    I wonder at times if what they really want is to effectively limit free speech to those persons who are sufficiently eloquent or well spoken... because if there is a cause I really believe in, but am not really good at speaking on, they seem to want to prohibit me from getting together with a group of like minded people and throwing our support behind a person or two who can do the best job of making a case for what we believe.

  • by maxume (22995) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:47PM (#30850900)

    That's still government by the people.

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:47PM (#30850904) Journal
    A corp has no real responsibility, no sense of morals, and rarely ever is punished for many of its crimes. ANd yet, we equate it to man. That single warped logic is killing us.
  • by tjstork (137384) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (ykswordnab.ddot)> on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:47PM (#30850918) Homepage Journal

    At issue is that under the Constitution, the Federal Government has no explicit power to regulate even political campaign donations.

  • Re:Constitution? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dyfet (154716) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:48PM (#30850932) Homepage

    The problem is that corporations are legal fictions which seem to have been given all of the rights of real people, but with NONE of the consequences or responsibilities. Freedom without responsibility is social destruction.

  • Re:Bad, bad news (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DaHat (247651) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:49PM (#30850942) Homepage

    Never mind that most press organizations (tv, radio & print) are all run by for-profit corporations.

  • Re:Bad, bad news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ArcherB (796902) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:49PM (#30850958) Journal

    The constitution doesn't give you, or a business formed by you and a friend, any rights. The constitution is there to limit the government's ability to take those rights away.

    Thank you for reminding us that many of the first X amendments state "Congress shall pass no law that...", not "Citizens may..."

  • by EnderWiggnz (39214) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:50PM (#30850982)

    Yes, I'm sure that the Union's will be able to match the corporations contributions.

    Actually, what will probably happen is that Unions will be made illegal after all of the government is bought and paid for.

    *This* is what the second amendment is for. We apparently don't have a working democracy anymore.

  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:51PM (#30851002)

    Right of free speech + right of association = right of groups, as corporations, to speak freely.

    I'm not arguing that SCOTUS's logic is unsound. I'm arguing that even if their logic is sound, the conclusions they've reached have badly damaged the U.S., because it essentially lets rich corporations decide our laws.

    And for that reason, the Constitution should perhaps be changed so that corporations cannot do this.

  • Re:Constitution? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rahvin112 (446269) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:52PM (#30851014)

    The problem isn't the constitution. The courts ruling is correct. The problem is that Congress declared Corporations "persons" under US law. Give them the legal recognition of a person and they have all the rights too. Congress can undo this by simply making Corporations a legal entity that isn't a "person" under US law. Unfortunately this will never happen because to many people in congress benefit from corporations being "persons". It gives corporations all the benefits of being a "person" without any of the risks (such as going to jail). Congress did this, not the courts.

  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:53PM (#30851018) Homepage
    I haven't read the decision and the dissent yet, but I'm fascinated by how immediately negative the comments prior to this one are, especially the comments that try to argue that corporations should have fewer free speech rights than people. Part of the nature of free speech is that there's always some category that one would often not want to apply it to. For the Slashdot crowd that seems to be corporations. But the whole point of robust free speech is that you give it to any who want to use it. Concern over what this will do to elections is understandable as a policy concern but that's a pragmatic consideration that shouldn't impact such basic philosophical decisions. Moreover, what this really does is level the playing field between corporations. As it is now, Fox or MSNBC or any major newspaper can effectively push for a candidate or policy they want simply by the bias in their coverage. But a corporation that isn't involved in "news" or the like has its hands tied. And as for the impact this might have on elections: It should be apparent from the election of Obama that if a lot of people actually care about a candidate they can give in both time and money a lot more than even many large corporations. Of course, that candidate might then turn around and sell people out, but that's a separate problem...
  • Free sppech? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mweather (1089505) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:53PM (#30851020)
    If corporations want to be individuals, it's time we start taxing them like individuals.
  • by twmcneil (942300) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:54PM (#30851060)
    Exactly! And those individuals do not require a corporation has a vehicle to exercise their constitutional rights. They can do that already as individuals. What's next? Giving corporations the right to vote?
  • by etymxris (121288) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:56PM (#30851092)

    Free speech for individuals is great. The problem is that corporations are not people and money is not speech.

  • Re:Bad, bad news (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Seakip18 (1106315) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:58PM (#30851142) Journal

    I think the main distinction is that, the individual or group of individuals that put these opinions out there cannot be restricted by the gov't. If a corporation assists in extracting and spreading these opinions, then it's all good, because the opinions are not that of the corporation(at least on the face), just that of the individuals.

    Granted, Fox news isn't going to want publish an editorial applauding Obama, but you get the point.

    A corporation, where there is NO individual in play, should not have any of these rights, because they are not a person, ergo, how can they have any fundamental rights?

    A corporation, instead, is a legal entity created and defined under the US law. It can simplify the ownership of holdings, properties and patents as well as managing finances(yeah. I greatly simplified it, but again, you get the idea.)

    Beyond that, it is as real as my perpetual motion machine. I have no problems placing legal restrictions on the financial "donations" of this legal entity to candidates. Their business practice alone should make me want to get behind whatever message/candidate they are pushing. I don't need them paying so much money that I can't turn on the TV without hearing "Obama this. Pelosi that!".

    PS. For unions, just add "membership restricted/compelled membership" to the definition of a corporation.

  • Re:Constitution? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SnapShot (171582) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:58PM (#30851146)

    Good point. Since corporations were granted their personhood in 1884 there has never been a corporation as President or even Governor. By now we should have seen a Senator Dow Chemical or a Representative Monstanto, but there's obviously a pervasive bias in the system that keeps corporations down.

    Sure, they have nearly infinite amounts of money, are essentially immortal, require no sleep, clean water, fresh air, or safe food, and have two political parties and 60% of the Supreme Court at their beck and call. But, could that have ever made up for the pain they must have felt knowing that they couldn't fully exercise their 1st Amendment Rights?

    Thank God the Roberts Court has righted this injustice and ended over a century of disenfranchisement of our most vulnerable pseudo-citizens.

  • by natehoy (1608657) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:00PM (#30851184) Journal

    You are correct, but the implications of this get really sticky.

    The right of association does not necessarily mean the will of the members of that association will be reflected. It means the will of the LEADERS of that association will be reflected. That may or may not reflect the membership, and the membership may or may not be voluntary unless you like quitting jobs because your boss or union steward does not agree with your political views.

    A very large company could basically outright buy an election, any election they wanted, and not just limited to one election at a time. Don't like the way the legislature is writing antitrust law? Find the candidates in each state Senate election that are the least likely to want to have antitrust legislation and spend a few billion dollars on massive ad blitzes attacking their opponents. I think you'd find a very large majority of very large companies that could support such an effort, and they could spend tens of millions of dollars on even local elections without flinching. It wouldn't even match their current spending on Superbowl ads, fercrissake. There would be no opportunity for anyone to hear an opposing credible view, because a sufficiently large coalition of companies can buy ALL of the available airtime for an election.

    On the other hand, drawing the line on what constitutes "free" versus "political" speech is difficult.

  • Re:Bad, bad news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FooAtWFU (699187) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:01PM (#30851204) Homepage

    That doesn't sound like a complaint against corporations, it sounds like a complaint against the Republican and Democrat political parties. Especially the incumbents.

    And there's a reason that the thing was nicknamed the McCain-Feingold Incumbent Protection Act.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:02PM (#30851240)

    Corporations are entities exclusively chartered by a state and granted the rights in its charter. They are not persons nor states, the only two groups the constitution concerns.

  • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:03PM (#30851268)

    The U(F)SA is now a de facto fascist state.

    Because remember, kids, "fascist" means "something I personally don't approve of."

  • by joebok (457904) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:04PM (#30851282) Homepage Journal

    Right of free speech + right of association means that people can speak freely no matter who they associate with - it does not confer anything to the association. At least that is my opinion. Too bad it doesn't count.

  • by rotide (1015173) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:04PM (#30851290)

    [A U.S.] Supreme Court ruling in 1886 ... arguably set the stage for the full-scale development of the culture of capitalism, by handing to corporations the right to use their economic power in a way they never had before. Relying on the Fourteenth Amendment, added to the Constitution in 1868 to protect the rights of freed slaves, the Court ruled that a private corporation is a natural person under the U.S. Constitution, and consequently has the same rights and protection extended to persons by the Bill of Rights, including the right to free speech. Thus corporations were given the same “rights” to influence the government in their own interests as were extended to individual citizens, paving the way for corporations to use their wealth to dominate public thought and discourse. The debates in the United States in the 1990s over campaign finance reform, in which corporate bodies can “donate” millions of dollars to political candidates stem from this ruling although rarely if ever is that mentioned. Thus, corporations, as “persons,” were free to lobby legislatures, use the mass media, establish educational institutions such as many business schools founded by corporate leaders in the early twentieth century, found charitable organizations to convince the public of their lofty intent, and in general construct an image that they believed would be in their best interests. All of this in the interest of “free speech.” — Richard Robbins, Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, (Allyn and Bacon, 1999), p.100

    Personally, in my opinion, that's where it went downhill. A corporation doesn't need rights as an individual. If a corporation needs to speak it has many members which can be enabled to speak for it.

    The problem is that the voice of a business has no bearing on the amount of individuals it represents but merely by the amount of money it can throw. If a business representing 100,000 employees only has $100,000 to contribute it won't even be registered against a tiny company of 5 people that can contribute $1,000,000,000.

    If there were reasonable caps to contributions, say, $1,000 per person (people) and _no_ corporations were allowed to contribute, then the people get the power back. If a large corporation wants to push an issue, they can lobby their own employees to contribute to their cause, but the choice would again be with the individual people.

    I mean honestly, if I have $300 to contribute to a politician I support, how in the world is that going to compare to a $10,000,000 contribution from Big Media when they are leaning in the opposite direction on an issue?

    I'm not saying "the people" have had any real power for a long time (when compared to big business), but this just skews it even farther away from us.

    Sad day to be an American...

  • Free Speech (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gd2shoe (747932) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:06PM (#30851320) Journal
    Why do you draw a distinction between "free speech" and "political speech"? Surely our founding fathers wanted to talk freely about politics. That's the whole point. (I'm sure there's a reason you said that, I just don't see it.)
  • Liberty what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by metrometro (1092237) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:06PM (#30851322)

    Just to be clear: we're giving one set of institutions which do not have a mandate to respond to individuals (corporations) control over another set of institutions (government) which, uh, used to. And we're doing this in the name of... more liberty for people? Let me know how that works out for you...

  • by nomadic (141991) <[nomadicworld] [at] [gmail.com]> on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:07PM (#30851348) Homepage
    Have you ever heard of the AFL CIO? In 2000 they spent 4.1 million on federal campaigns.

    In other words, an organization representing FIFTY SIX different unions and 11 million workers, donated about the same as a single large corporation would? I think you just proved the point you were trying to disprove.
  • by joebok (457904) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:09PM (#30851368) Homepage Journal

    If you voluntarily join a group with the intent of having your opinions heard through the voice of others in that group, that is one thing. It seems entirely another thing to have the political leanings off my boss amplified through corporate profits which I help earn, whether I like it or not.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:12PM (#30851444)

    Exactly. That's why it's a violation of my liberty that I can't bribe my way out of traffic tickets. That I can't buy my way into a medical license. That I can't pay a judge to kick you off your home. I've got strip malls to build people. Liberty coming through, peasants!

  • by MindlessAutomata (1282944) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:14PM (#30851470)

    I'm not arguing that SCOTUS's logic is unsound. I'm arguing that even if their logic is sound, the conclusions they've reached have badly damaged the U.S., because it essentially lets rich corporations decide our laws.

    So you mean voters are easily influenced by propaganda and are unable to consider the source? I'm not sure democracy is a good idea if merely allowing corporations to speak freely or donate money to politicians, when it's the individuals that ultimately do the election.

    Anyway, the real problem here isn't corporations having freedom of speech (which I agree with, even though I'm no fan of corporations and of "individual profit without individual responsibility"), it's the entire election system itself. It's all a complete fraud. And a naive and stupid populace really has only itself to blame, not "the upper class," not "the corporations," nor anyone else subjected to the usual five minutes hate.

  • by Delwin (599872) * on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:14PM (#30851476)
    No Corporations and Unions are different from Political Parties and Individuals in a specific way. The first two are not organized with a single set of political ideals in mind. Thus you will end up with people who's money or work go towards causes they do not believe in.

    That's the problem with allowing this. You're allowing people to multiply their voice from the work of people who do not believe in the ideal espoused.
  • Re:Constitution? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Spazmania (174582) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:15PM (#30851500) Homepage

    I believe that individuals (i.e. real persons with citizenship) should have the right to spend any or all of their money on campaigns.

    I believe they and I should have the right to band together and do so as a group.

    I do not believe that my or your rights are in any way trampled merely by forcing structural separation between the groups banded together for the purpose of political persuasion and the groups banded together for for the purpose of buying, selling and producing products.

    Nor should you have any difficulty understanding why groups organized primarily for buying and selling have such a corruptive influence on the process of political persuasion.

  • Re:Bad, bad news (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ScentCone (795499) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:16PM (#30851526)
    And the general welfare is not served by allowing the rights of one group of people to trample over another, simply because the one group has more money or influence.

    How is a campaign donation a trampling of someone's rights? What is a person being blocked from doing because someone else has made a publicly viewable campaign donation? Be specific.
  • by AdamThor (995520) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:17PM (#30851540)

    And for that reason, the Constitution should perhaps be changed so that corporations cannot do this.

    Really, can't we just revoke corporate personhood? I'm not sure why a corporation should have a right to anything. They should have protection under law against injustice, but that isn't the same thing.

    I know, it's a pipe dream.

  • by EzInKy (115248) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:19PM (#30851574)


    Corporations are voluntary contracts between individuals, and those individuals have rights, period. If some of you Slashdot commies fail to comprehend that, that is your problem and yours alone.

    "Under today's decision, multinational corporations controlled by foreign governments" would have the same rights as Americans to spend money to tilt U.S. elections."

    -Justice Stevens, dissenting.

  • by rbrander (73222) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:19PM (#30851576) Homepage

    If I get together with a thousand like-minded individuals, we all retain our rights to free speech, and indeed, we can coordinate our speech into a single consensus message, repeated a thousand times over, significantly multiplying its effect. That was the intent of the two constitutional rights.

    The new "corporation is a legal person" doctrine, which the Union got along very well without for nearly 200 years, creates a thousand-and-first "person" and claims it has yet another set of the same civil rights - and a gigantic budget to push them with, a budget that only needs the approval of some fraction of the thousand people associating.

    The fraction doesn't have to be 50%, much less 100%. Most corporations are in fact governed by the opinions of a few dozen people that have bonuses dependent on a variation in the corporate income a few percent per year. The million people who have invested in it (900,000 of them involuntarily, they don't control where "their" pension fund puts its money) may not even be aware that "they" have decided to lobby for exporting jobs to Mexico, ripping the tops off mountains in Virginia, or the US purchasing useless, extravagant weapons systems.

    Given proper information and some real control over the corporation they "own" 0.00001% of, they would say "Hell, no, I'd rather have my pension be $1050 per month instead of $1100 if it comes at the price of sweatshops, public debt, and my favourite trout stream vanishing". But that can't possibly happen with most modern corporate governance.

    Corporations are not people. People have consciences and value other things besides money. Corporations are EXACTLY like machines running a program to maximize profit margins. They only don't run wild and consume all resources because of limiting rules, The Law. (i.e. "No sweatshops or child labour") Otherwise, people would be used up like any other available resource, worked to death.

    Giving corporations access to the law-making process is like giving a program supervisory access to the operating system, it introduces positive feedback loops guaranteed to run out of control.

    For those of a religious bent, I'd draw your attention to the source of those constitutional rights you just quoted: "They are endowed by their creator..." So, if God created your corporation, I'm OK with it having civil rights of its own. Otherwise, all the members of it still have their freedom of speech, so let them exercise it as citizens, not go inventing a new "citizen" that was not of woman born.

  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:20PM (#30851596)
    ...as in "end of the Republic" horrible. We just greased the slide to a complete fall into Fascism.
  • Re:Bad, bad news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:20PM (#30851598) Journal

    I'm sure many corporations would gladly give up free speech if they were not taxed like individuals.

    Corporations are taxed like individuals? That's a good one!
    Can an individual deduct all of his/her operating costs from income before tax? If so, expenditure on food, accommodation, and utilities would be deductible just like corporate office rentals and utilities. You'd be declaring only the $20k you can save/invest as taxable instead of most of your $100k gross income. A 40% rate on that "surplus" income would not hurt so much...

  • by rotide (1015173) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:22PM (#30851642)

    Exactly, each individual in that group can write a personal check and the leader can put them all in the same envelope with a signed letter. We don't need a faceless organization _claiming_ to hold the support of its employees contributing millions of dollars on their "behalf".

    If you want to assemble with like minded people, go for it!

    If you want to all make a large contribution supporting your ideals, go for it!

    Just make sure those contributions are from individuals and not a large organization with self serving interests and a huge coffer.

    The power needs to lie with the people, not the organization.

  • Re:Bad, bad news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jollyreaper (513215) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:23PM (#30851650)

    The constitution doesn't give you, or a business formed by you and a friend, any rights. The constitution is there to limit the government's ability to take those rights away. Being able to buy a newspaper advertisement or broadcast an advertisement isn't something that the goverment should be able to prevent you (or the company you've formed) from doing. Likewise for labor unions, advocacy groups, churches, scouting troops, bowling leagues, open source code projects, or anyone else.

    If money = speech, that means I'm at the back of the hall shouting to be heard while the guy with the bucks is up on stage with the sound system from Disaster Area drowning me out.

    Saying that a mutli-billion dollar corporation should have full access to those resources in shaping public opinion and that I'm perfectly free to shout back and that this is all fair, that's like saying 30-something me has the right to put my fence five feet into my 70-something neighbor's yard and if he has a problem with that he can challenge me to a fight. That's completely inequitable. This is just formalizing the inequality we already have in the legal system where a corporation may be completely in the wrong on a given topic but it will take me five years of lawsuits to prove it out in court and I'll go broke in the process. That may be legal but it's not fucking right!

  • by JeanPaulBob (585149) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:23PM (#30851658)
    "The SCOTUS abused the Constitution" is a different argument from "This is a bad idea--if the Constitution does protect it, we should change the Constitution."
  • Re:Constitution? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SETIGuy (33768) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:28PM (#30851758) Homepage
    Re-posting. Didn't mean to post anonymously.

    If the U.S. Constitution ensures the free speech rights of corporations, as the SCOTUS has judged, then clearly the Constitution is defective.

    No, the SCOTUS is defective. Talk about legislating from the bench... Talk about deciding issues that weren't before the court...

    If you'll remember the court decided to take this case even though it hadn't been appealed to the Supreme Court, and even though the Court wasn't in session at the time. The question before the court was "Do the makers of an hour long politically motivated attack ad need to disclose who funded of the ad as is required by law?" The court's answer to that question was "congress cannot limit the ability of the people who run corporations to spend assets they don't own on political campaigns." In other words, campaign financing restrictions only apply to individuals.

    It's pretty apparent now that Roberts and Alito committed perjury during their confirmation hearings. Somehow, I doubt that they will be impeached.

    Of course, this is the court that decided that a television news organization was just exercising free speech when it decided to air a falsified story in order to benefit a sponsor. This just extends that decision so that now it's legal for a sponsor to directly pay for a falsified news story attacking a political opponent.

    Democracy wasn't working out here anyway. How much worse can this make it?

  • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@bea u . org> on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:31PM (#30851818)

    > If you voluntarily join a group with the intent of having your opinions heard through the voice of others in that group, that is one thing.

    Curiously enough, this case was about exactly that. A group of people put together a corporation called "Citizens United" and produced a film critical of Her Majesty, Hillary Clinton. It produced the film with the intent of airing it near the election so as to influence it, that is what caused them to run afoul of McCain/Feingold. Though far too late to save this group's efforts at Free Speech the SCOTUS has finally ruled that "Congress shall make no law...." means what it says. This is considered a radical decision in our dark times.

  • by Dorkmaster Flek (1013045) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:32PM (#30851830)

    So you mean voters are easily influenced by propaganda and are unable to consider the source?

    I think that's exactly what he's saying, and I agree with him 100%.

  • by AlexLibman (785653) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:33PM (#30851848)

    I am (gradualist) Anarcho-Capitalist [wikipedia.org] - I don't believe anyone should have the "right" to vote away other people's Natural Rights [isil.org]. You have been brainwashed to believe in quasi-religious rituals that you are told somehow distinguish "taxation" from "theft", and so forth. I do not share this delusion.

    That said, people do have a right to delegate their rights to others, as long as it is done on a voluntary basis - as is the case with corporations, but is not the case with the criminal enterprise that you'd call "government". Statist tyrants have a long history of empowering their collectivist institutions through government force, while denying rights to voluntary institutions that form in the free market: corporations, non-profit organizations, churches, homeowners associations, and so forth. "Divide and conquer" is what this is all about!

    To conclude with a quote from a very different kind of anarchist, Leo Tolstoy: "I want only to say that it is always the simplest ideas which lead to the greatest consequences. My idea, in its entirety, is that if vile people unite and constitute a force, then decent people are obliged to do likewise; just that."

  • by commodoresloat (172735) * on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:33PM (#30851854)

    Exactly. There's no need to change the Constitution; only to change the ridiculous torture of the English language that allowed corporations to be defined as "persons" in the first place.

  • Right of free speech + right of association = right of groups, as corporations, to speak freely.

    Yes, they do have a right to free speech. They have a right to gather. But corporations are an international entity who have no obligation to anyone except their stock holders. We are not arguing their right to free speech anyways, we are just proposing that they should have no right to place advertisements on television or radio which are governed by the FCC. They can place ads on the internet, they can release a DVD and have their movies heard in movie theaters. [msn.com] But they should not be able to directly sponsor advertisements on television.

    The SCOTUS' delusional thinking continues:

    Roberts, in a separate opinion, said that upholding the limits would have restrained "the vibrant public discourse that is at the foundation of our democracy."

    Luckily: It leaves in place a ban prohibiting corporations and unions from directly contributing funds to candidates for any use.

  • by MindlessAutomata (1282944) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:34PM (#30851874)

    Money IS speech, or more accurately, money is used to buy the means of speech. Last election we saw Ron Paul (however you feel about him) have supporters pay for a blimp, newspaper advertisements, and donated a record amount of money to try to promote him. You can no more expect a grassroots politicians to rise up without money than you can expect a business to do well without advertising.

    If you take money out of speech, then it's media interest and bias alone that controls the elections, because they are the gatekeepers to what most people see and hear.

    If your argument is that only individuals have freedom of speech, then you cannot argue that any group of people has freedom of speech, and that includes lobbying groups of any kind (including those that are truly political and want change in civil liberties, such as, say, a group like NORML or the EFF). You can't pick and choose what type.

  • Re:I for one... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by polar red (215081) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:35PM (#30851918)

    And at the moment, a number in a bank account sure is wealth.

    It's just that people have forgotten that money can't replace the goods it buys. Take away all the goods and your money is useless; it was more a philosophical question than critique ...

  • Re:Constitution? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SETIGuy (33768) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:39PM (#30852006) Homepage
    Actually, it was the Supreme Court that decided that corporations are persons. (In truth a clerk inserted a statement to that effect into a Supreme Court decision without the Court deciding that.) But it's precedent now, and with the Roberts court precedent means everything, unless a majority of the court decides to discard 200 years of precedent, as it did in this case.
  • by oneTheory (1194569) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:42PM (#30852054)
    I like what you had to say. Corporations are not people and should not have the rights as such. I think someone once said a closer approximation to corporations would be foreign governments operating within our borders, and they should be treated diplomatically as foreign entities, nurtured by our laws, but without access to our political system that citizens have.

    If you want to organize citizens for the purpose of influencing government fine, but this is not that. I like your programming analogy.
  • by hey! (33014) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:43PM (#30852068) Homepage Journal

    You are close to the mark, but this is potentially worse than fascism as we have known it. It opens the possibility of an entirely new form of tyranny that the human race has not yet experienced.

    If you study the history of fascism, the various ideas that "fascists" have become confusing, until you realize that fascism isn't an ideology. Fascism isn't about ideas, but achieving a specific effect: maximizing the power of an individual or group of people who have control of the government. Where it serves that purpose, fascism will embrace extremes of spiritualism or materialism, or even mix the two. Consistency doesn't matter. Authority does.

    What is different about this is that we aren't talking about putting the power of the State in the hands of an individual or group of individuals. We are talking about putting it at the disposal of artificial entities; immortal profit making machines with a capacity for accumulating wealth beyond that of any individual. This is like *Colossus: The Forbin Project*, only with machines we've already built and operated.

    It's not that making a profit is evil. It's that the very definition of evil (see Saint Augustine, or even Kant) is making one sided decisions. Human concerns like ethics are not part of the design of the institution of the corporation. Ethics are forced on corporations by two things: the individuals working for the corporations, and by law.

    But the ethics of the individual are always under pressure in a corporation. We've all seen that. There's always the question of whether we can push the limit just a bit, and if we try it and get away with it, we suddenly have a new conception of what "normal behavior" is. We know that "everybody does it" doesn't excuse something, but we don't act that way. The law is what makes it possible for people to remain ethical. They can always say, "we will go to jail if we try that," or "we'll be fined," or even "we'll get bad publicity," which of course depends on individuals having rights that are respected under the law.

    Corporations have inappropriate influence now on government, but that doesn't make a dystopia. Life is still good for most of us. But we can't extrapolate that to giving them unchecked power to make laws for their own benefit. If we do that, the safety net provided by individual ethics won't matter. Once corporations are above the law, any corporation that fails to take the profit maximizing step regardless of the other consequences won't survive.

    Allow the power of corporations to grow without any check, and for the first time in human history human affairs will be governed with absolutely no regard to human welfare.

  • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@bea u . org> on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:43PM (#30852074)

    > We limit individuals to a maximum $5000 donation. We limit corporations to a maximum $1000 donation.

    > Contrast this with quotes I remember of saying that the 2008 presidential election in the states ran in excess of a billion dollars.

    I'd like to object to the entire premise behind your inane argument. We need MORE money in politics, not less. Think about it. Yes President Obama set a record haul of a billion dollars in the '08 campaign but so freaking what. Just means my team is going to have to up its fundraising game next time if we want to compete. Nike spent 1.7 billion in marketing for shows and otherwise ordinary apparel except for a swoosh logo. The argument over who leads the free world is at least as important as the question of which shoes to wear.

    Money == speech. Any restriction of one implies a restriction on the other. With unlimited contributions, paired with solid disclosure (an idea which the SCOTUS upheld today) laws, perhaps candidates would need to spend less time whoring at endless fundraisers and more time campaigning and/or reading the bills they are voting on.

  • by Sheepmage (1310569) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:44PM (#30852084)

    I'm glad you said this. I'm also shocked by how many misconceptions are apparent throughout these comments.

    People seem to go on and on about 1886. Corporations are certainly not people strictly speaking, they are just groups of people. Those people have individual rights, and by extension, a group of people also has the same set of rights. And by rights, I simply mean things that the government is restricted from doing to those people.

    Why shouldn't corporations be entitled to free speech, just as any person who is a part of that corporation is entitled to it? If I speak as part of a company, do I suddenly lose my right whereas if I take off my "Exxon" cap I get it back? Doesn't really make sense to me.

    I think overall this ruling is excellent for many reasons. One, it upholds the Constitution as opposed to reinterpreting it...that's really great. We need more rulings like this. Second, it forces people to rethink their approach to this problem. Yes, it is a problem that corporations and other groups of people can essentially "buy" elections. As opposed to restricting their ability to spend money on speech though, what we should instead be focusing on is the motivation behind why these groups of people find it in their best interest to spend millions of dollars on campaigns. The real problem is that the government makes decisions that redirect billions of dollars from one group of people to another. These groups have incredible monetary incentive to spend billions to ensure that the pot goes to them and not to the others vying for it.

    The reality is that the only way to end this constant conflict between groups of men is to end the government's ability to determine who gets the pot by taking away that pot from the government to begin with. Let private citizens individually make decisions on how their money gets spent....not voters. The government's job and how it should go about it should be clearly defined and restricted by the constitution. It's ability to raise money shouldn't be arbitrarily determined by majority rules voting, but rather, by people voluntarily investing in it because of the results it produces. Only by sufficiently limiting the government's role in the economy and it's overall power will you be able to eliminate the corporations incentive to buy elections and profit from a process that is inherently and essentially unfair.

  • Re:Free sppech? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by j79zlr (930600) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:48PM (#30852146) Homepage
    You cannot tax a corporation. Increased tax burdens just trickle down to reduced wages for low level employees and increased prices. I'm not sure why that is so hard for people to get.
  • by GooberToo (74388) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:48PM (#30852148)

    They should just put a hard limit in place that applies to everyone. 1000 dollars per individual or group with the group representing any multitude of individuals. Would apply to any business, PAC, Union etc.

    And no group can contribute which represents an individual who has already contributed. Otherwise, as is, these groups are allowed to contribute twice. They need to be forced to contribute as one or the other, but not both.

  • by cmiller173 (641510) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:48PM (#30852158)

    If you voluntarily join a group with the intent of having your opinions heard through the voice of others in that group, that is one thing. It seems entirely another thing to have the political leanings off my boss amplified through corporate profits which I help earn, whether I like it or not.

    Actually your having helped earn the profits is irrelevant, the profits are not yours... The profits belong to the stockholders(or owners in a non-public company) and the corporation represents their interests NOT your interests. Your an employee not a stockholder or at least your not thinking like a stockholder. If you are a stockholder and the corporation is behaving in a manner that violates their fiduciary duty to the stockholders then you have a right to make that claim at the annual meeting (or a court of law) and try to convince others that the board needs to be ousted and a better board elected. You do not have that right as an employee.

  • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:56PM (#30852300)

    If there were reasonable caps to contributions, say, $1,000 per person (people) and _no_ corporations were allowed to contribute, then the people get the power back. .

    So, if I want to spend $2,000 (of my money) to rent an auditorium to stand up and tell everyone who shows up how terrible a particular political candidate is, "Sorry, that's more than $1,000, you can't say that"?

  • by corbettw (214229) <corbettw.yahoo@com> on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:56PM (#30852316) Journal

    Those corporate profits belong to the owners (shareholders) of the corporation, not the employees (except, obviously, in cases where the groups overlap). Don't like it? Go get a different job or start your own business. In either case, stop whining because your boss' political views don't mesh with your own.

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:59PM (#30852374) Homepage Journal

    Thanks, rbrander. You said that better than I could.

    Unlike the internet and computers and telephones and automobiles, there were big corporations in 1776 and they were already working overtime to influence governments all over the world. And rich people were already buying government power when the founders sat down to right our Constitution and later the Bill of Rights.

    It was not by accident that you don't see any reference to money in the First Amendment. Which, in its entirety reads:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    You see religion and the free exercise thereof, and speech, and the press, and assembly, and petition for redress of grievances.

    You see not a word about "giving money to..." or "buying..." or "political contributions" in that famous amendment.

    The notion that money=speech and that corporation=person or even that organizations have the same civil rights as individuals does not appear until after money and corporate power in the US had already deeply corrupted our government.

    I'm hopeful, though, that a significant number of legislators, some from both political parties, said today that they intend to codify into law limitations on corporate money in our electoral process. The belief that a solid wall between corporate power and government needs to exist is one that crosses partisan lines.

  • Re:Bad, bad news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dgatwood (11270) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @06:00PM (#30852412) Journal

    This isn't about campaign contributions. Companies are still banned from doing that; the court upheld that provision. The Supreme Court overturned the part of the law that made it illegal for companies to spend money for their own political ads similar to what PACs do.

    So basically, the court said that corporations run by a handful of individuals can spend arbitrary amounts of money on advertisements. The problem with this is that it is almost impossible for any legitimate political organization to achieve the same level of political influence as a result. Groups like PACs are nonprofit organizations. Therefore, they cannot feasibly raise money on the same scale as a public corporation can. Thus, this decision gives the people in charge of corporations the power to spend money on a scale that completely overwhelms the spending that any group of people dedicated to any cause can possibly hope to achieve no matter how well organized, no matter how many people join the group, etc. And because it is almost impossible to pierce the corporate veil, no matter how sleazy, unethical, etc. the ads become, the corporate leaders who put them together cannot be held personally accountable, unlike actual groups of individuals working together for a common cause.

    In effect, this change puts control of the government firmly in the hands of the wealthiest individuals with no oversight whatsoever. It's sobering to realize that after years of Congress and the White House wiping their backsides with the Constitution, we now have a judicial branch that is willing to do the same.

  • Re:Bad, bad news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SETIGuy (33768) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @06:05PM (#30852498) Homepage

    How does free (non-libelous, non-fraudulant) speech threaten democracy?

    You didn't apparently see the hour long "documentary" that was the subject of this case. It was both libelous and fraudulent.

    Unfortunately the courts have decided that speech for political purposes can be both libelous and fraudulent without limit or recourse.

    If that weren't the case, wouldn't people claiming Obama falsified his birth certificate (definitely libelous and fraudulent) be held responsible for their lies? Wouldn't people that claimed Hillary Clinton either had Vince Foster killed, or pulled the trigger herself be in hot water. Wouldn't Rush Limbaugh be in trouble for claiming that Obama was siphoning off Haiti donations into his campaign funds? No, in this country you can lie about anything as long as it's political.

  • by absurdist (758409) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @06:09PM (#30852586)
    ...when do we see the death penalty applied to them? The Ford Pinto's exploding gas tank and Union Carbide's Bhopal clusterfuck are merely the first examples that come to mind of corporations exhibiting depraved indifference to human life. Had an individual done these things he/she would be facing the death penalty; why should corporations be exempt?
  • by OnlineAlias (828288) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @06:12PM (#30852618)

    And your inane argument contends that the current way is the best way. They are out whoring themselves because they need money to win. If they didn't have to compete against others who had massive war chests then they wouldn't need the money. Then they would need to go out and whore themselves to get VOTES, which is exactly what I want them to do.

    Your argument is that if you flood them with money, well, then they won't have to go out and get it. Well yes, but now who are they whores to? Who opened the flood gates? Yes, the corporations, not the people.

  • Re:Bad, bad news (Score:3, Insightful)

    by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @06:16PM (#30852680)

    Really?

    "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

    Of course, that isn't really followed, but just because it isn't followed doesn't mean that what the government is doing is right either.

  • Re:Bad, bad news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@bea u . org> on Thursday January 21, 2010 @06:17PM (#30852700)

    > And by explicitly circumscribing what governments may not do, they implicitly give the government the right to do everything else.

    Not quite. After painstakingly spelling out a carefully enumerated list of what the federal government could do, they for good measure spelling out a list of things it could not do they went one final step farther and added the 9th and 10th Amendments saying that everything not explicitly permitted was forbidden. Three layers of clearly spelled out rules intended to protect against the crap we have now and the Progressives wiped their asses on the lot of it and replaced the rule of law with the rule of great (in their minds) men. The Founding Fathers, who were truly great men, knew enough to know that NO man could be entrusted with the sort of power every member of Congress now wields (illegally) and forbade it to themselves and to the current generation.

  • by TiggertheMad (556308) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @06:25PM (#30852870) Homepage Journal
    We need MORE money in politics, not less.

    The flaw in your argument lies with the fact that a single very wealth person could 'buy' more speech for a candidate that they favored, than a candidate that had broad grass roots support and more modest funding. This causes the candidate to give you much more influence over their agenda than a candidate that has broad grassroots support. Sure, your idea requires candidates to spend less time fund raising. They would all be solidly in the pockets of the rich, though.
  • by Hasai (131313) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @06:25PM (#30852876)

    ....And how is this different from having the political leanings of my UNION boss amplified through UNION DUES which I have to pay, whether I like it or not?

  • by BlueStraggler (765543) * on Thursday January 21, 2010 @07:18PM (#30853728)

    Actually your having helped earn the profits is irrelevant, the profits are not yours...

    It is actually hugely relevant. Corporations are anti-democratic, semi-feudal domains that assign all ultimate rights to an ownership class. Everyone else is a serf, who either works silently or is evicted from the estate. SCOTUS has decided that this sort of entity is a first-class participant in a modern democracy, which is disgusting, but then again, I'm not an American, so I'm a bit behind the times. In my own admittedly backwards country, the only legitimate participants in a democracy are citizens who can vote.

    Corporations, shareholders, and boards of directors do not have democratic interests. The corporation itself is merely a legal proxy for the purposes of sharing property and liability. To the shareholders, the corporation is a money-making investment, like real estate or gold. It doesn't make sense to give your condominium the right to interfere in political debate, so why would you do such a thing for any other piece of investment-grade property? The directors do not share the interests of their corporations; they are duty-bound to ensure that shareholders get proper value from their investments, that is all. They are perfectly capable (in fact, are probably more capable) of ensuring that shareholders don't get defrauded if they treat their corporation like an untrustworthy, slightly dangerous animal, not like their liege lord.

    Corporations do, however, have some inherent interests of their own that cannot be projected by proxy onto any of their human servants. For example, they are immortal. They can also reside in many cities and countries simultaneously. They are invulnerable to both conventional and nuclear weapons. They use these attributes to skirt and abuse laws that were designed for humans who have none of these characteristics. You know that these same corporations that are claiming the rights of people in the USA, will also be claiming that they are not governed by US law when it comes time to pay taxes or clean up their environmental messes.

  • by Kohath (38547) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @07:19PM (#30853738)

    You are right. Anything done without any human involvement whatsoever should not be given the same protections as something done by people. When corporations act with no human intent or human involvement, their freedom is without conscience or merit.

    When humans act, they have freedom. That freedom deserves protection. When they do it as part of a corporation, they maintain their humanity and the actions deserve to maintain their protection.

  • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@bea u . org> on Thursday January 21, 2010 @07:25PM (#30853836)

    > Why not have it this way...by constitutional amendment. The funding for the political candidates
    > (parties and all) are strictly from a fixed public funding scheme. That keeps them equal in
    > everything but planning how best to use the funds and what they have to say.

    Are you insane or just really stupid? Sorry to flame but really. So only the candidates can speak during election season? And only with a very fixed budget.

    So the press must cease all coverage of political races during election season, instead airing only paid advertising? Debates would be paid advertising from the candidates budgets. All politically themed Internet sites, bloggers, mailing lists, etc. not paid for by a candidate would be go silent during campaign season. No book, movie, documentary, etc. that can possibly be contrued as having a political theme that could impact on a race could be published or aired during campaign season. Is that really what you are arguing for? Because if you aren't your scheme becomes an Epic Fail and if you are you have zero clue what being an American is about.

  • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @07:27PM (#30853866)

    Politicians die. Corporations don't have to. Politicians still have to count the votes of others. Corporations just count money. There's the difference that makes it flabbergasting that people still try to equate people and corporations.

  • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @07:33PM (#30853950)

    It really isn't. Sadly, unions have become little more than corporations within corporations. This is why I love right-to-work states, where no one can make me join a union.

  • by Terwin (412356) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @07:33PM (#30853954)

    There might be a little less of that 'anti-intellect bias' if the self-proclaimed intellectuals did not spend so much time looking down their noses at those who prefer learning practical skills as opposed to esoteric ones, and stop considering everyone who chooses physical labor as ignorant. Painting them as racists does not help much either.

    For example, I know one lady who has a part-time job taking care of plants at home depot. She also works in the Anthropology department of the State University and is pursuing a graduate degree in forensic anthropology. But many of people who see her taking care of the plants at home Depot probably think she is just some ignorant farmer...

    My sister has a degree in Mechanical Engineering, Spent a tour of duty in the Air force working on the next generation cruise missile, and now is a farrier and farmer.

    If you look past those labels you have pasted on them, you might find you have much more in common that you ever thought...

  • by joebok (457904) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @07:58PM (#30854260) Homepage Journal

    I am not whining because my boss and I have different political views. In fact, I applaud that - that is what it means to live in a free country.

    Just because I associate with somebody for the purposes of earning wages does not mean I should be compelled to give them a proxy to my right of free speech.

  • by aaandre (526056) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @08:07PM (#30854346)

    I've got strip malls to build people.

    And we love you for that. We are total whores for the lower priced lower quality crap your minimum wage employees will sell to us! And by buying it, we vote for you!

  • by TheSync (5291) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @08:21PM (#30854506) Journal

    Corporations do not have first amendment rights. They cannot vote. They are not individuals. They have no rights at all.

    Amendment 1 does not require a human being, nor does it grant anyone or anything a "right".

    It states: "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press". It is a limitation on the power of Congress.

    In this case, Congress made a law abridging the freedom of the press. Bad Congress.

    Why the heck would we want corporations to be able to do this?

    Because we believe that limiting free speech is bad.

  • by dgatwood (11270) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @08:32PM (#30854612) Journal

    Voting with your wallets only works if you actually have a choice in who you do business with and if you are fully aware of those companies' supply chains. In practice, outside of very narrow situations, neither of these is ever really true.

    Let's say you want to buy a computer. Whether you buy it from Apple, Dell, HP, or some fly-by-night computer builder working out of his parents' basement, your processor comes from AMD or Intel... maybe VIA. It doesn't take much imagination to think of positions that two or three companies in a similar industry would support. For that matter, it's safe to assume that in any given industry, odds are good that most companies (if not all) will generally have similar political positions on any issue that impacts them. Therefore, more often than not, your only real option when a company supports a position you don't like is to not only refuse to buy from that company, but to also refuse to buy from any other company in that entire industry. This quickly becomes impractical.

    And you're also forgetting about collateral damage. Let's say that UPS supports somebody you don't like. Any product you buy assembled outside the U.S. has a good chance of having been shipped by UPS or a subsidiary thereof at some point. Any product you buy that was assembled in the U.S. has about a 100% chance of having some component in it that was shipped by UPS or a subsidiary at some point. So it does no good to say "I'll only ship FedEx from now on" because you're supporting UPS anyway.

    Finally, I'll go one step further. I buy a carrot from my grocery store. If the farmer worked for a corporation that supported someone I don't like, I can probably tell by the label. If my grocery supported someone I don't like, I can tell by the grocery store sign. But what about:

    • the seed company that provided the seeds for the carrots
    • the herbicide/pesticide company that the farmer bought products from (I know, I know, buy organic)
    • the local store through which the farmer bought the herbicide/pesticide/seeds
    • the regional distributors that provided the herbicide/pesticide/seeds to the farmer's local store
    • the manufacturer of the farmer's tractor, truck, harvester, etc.
    • the manufacturers of parts that went into that equipment
    • the tire manufacturer for the farmer's tractor, truck, etc.
    • the company that made the air compressor that the farmer used to top up those tires
    • the trucking company that the farmer used to deliver the finished goods to a distributor
    • the distributor itself
    • the company that manufactured the labels that the farmer stuck on the produce
    • the gasoline companies who sold fuel for the farmer's tractor, the trucking companies, etc.
    • the power companies that sold power to the equipment manufacturers, the distributors, the trucking companies, the gasoline companies, the seed company, the herbicide/pesticide companies, etc.

    The number of companies involved basically increases exponentially the farther out you look. Each company gets support from multiple other companies, which get support from multiple other companies, and so on.

    And that's just a couple of hops away from the original "manufacturer" for something as simple as a carrot. When you consider how many dozens or even hundreds of companies are directly involved in the manufacture and distribution of a more complex product like a computer or a cell phone, you should easily understand why avoiding doing business with a company who supports people you don't like is completely and totally infeasible unless you quite literally dedicate every minute of your life to the task, and probably not even then.

    Quite simply, there is only one way to not support a company you don't like, and that is to refuse to give any money to any corporation. Short of living an entirely self-sufficient agrarian lifestyle without the use of modern tools or equipment (we're talking about using an ox an

  • by arminw (717974) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @08:33PM (#30854636)

    ...The power needs to lie with the people, not the organization....

    So when people organize themselves together, should they not be allowed to pool their resources and speak with one voice? There's an old saying: United we stand, divided we fall.

    What are corporations anyway? Are they not simply groups of people that organize themselves together to do business? Should people, as soon as they organize themselves together as a group not be allowed to speak freely, just as they would if they were individual? Do you know of any corporation, that is not run by flesh and blood people?

  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @08:44PM (#30854754) Homepage

    Ooh but governments are evil because they impose their will on individuals with force, which they have a monopoly on!

    So instead, we will get rid of government, and all interactions then will be completely voluntary, and no one will have a monopoly on force!

    Hmm, but wait, what if someone decides voluntary interactions aren't to their benefit? Then we will have to impose our will on them with force...

    But wait, all such force is private now, and they have more money than us...

    Hmm...

    LOL. You can't expect someone to understand your point who thinks they are an Anarcho-anything, like you get to choose the kind of society that will exist after you've created Anarchy. How would that work, when you have no enforcement mechanism? Anarcho-Capitalism, Anarcho-Socialism. LOL. There's just Anarchy, followed by whatever those strong enough to reign in the Anarchy decide upon.

  • by lgw (121541) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @08:45PM (#30854768) Journal

    So to you, Frredom of the Press mean "Freedom to print what SETIGuy thinks is the truth"? Freedom to print what the Party in Power agrees is the truth? There's a Soviet Russia joke in there somewhere ...

    Eveything in politics is lies. There is no truth to be found - it's all advocacy. Freedom of the press means that anyone who owns a press can tell any lies they want to, short of actual libel (and the bar for libel in political speech is rightfully extremely high).

  • by arminw (717974) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @08:48PM (#30854792)

    ....What SCOTUS got wrong is the idea that spending money = free speech...

    Now, that was not the issue. Besides they got that exactly right. Money does equal speech, because without money a real flesh and blood person or a group of such persons cannot speak in the media. It costs money to distribute information, just like it costs money to distribute physical goods. It costs money to distribute political information. So yes, speech definitely equals money. It always has and always will. Therefore, somebody with money will always be able to speak to more people than somebody without. It's really very simple isn't it?

  • by arminw (717974) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @08:57PM (#30854890)

    ...Corporations, shareholders, and boards of directors do not have democratic interests....

    That is plainly an utterly false. All corporations that I have ever heard of are run by people. Corporations do not vote, only people, including their employees vote. Corporations can only persuade people to vote. The very word corporation comes from corpus which means body. A corporation is a body of real-life voting people, who have some sort of common bond. The right of people to form a common bond group is just as fundamental as the right to speak.

  • by virg_mattes (230616) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @09:16PM (#30855018)

    That is plainly an utterly false. All corporations that I have ever heard of are run by people. Corporations do not vote, only people, including their employees vote. Corporations can only persuade people to vote. The very word corporation comes from corpus which means body. A corporation is a body of real-life voting people, who have some sort of common bond. The right of people to form a common bond group is just as fundamental as the right to speak.

    The breakdown here is that the right to form a common bond only relates to allowing corporations to spend on campaigns if the corporation's employees are all owners. The problem is that allowing a corporation to finance campaign stuff allows the owners of the corporations to "double-dip" the laws. The owners can donate personal funds to the maximum allowed, and then dump more of the corporation's money into the pot as well while the non-owner workers can't direct any portion of the corporation's money to their own choices. This circumvents the idea that rich people shouldn't have more chance to influence elections than poor people. By limiting corporations from contributing separately from the corporation's owners, the balance of incoming funds is better preserved.

    Virg

  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @09:36PM (#30855164) Homepage

    Everything you said is correct, and yet it's all wrong. I realize you could be speaking from the standpoint of the "Corporate Person" pun that got in this whole mess to begin with, but let's be clear that this is a fiction. A corporation is not a sentient entity. It does not have desires or interests of its own because "it" is not an entity capable of having them. The corporation can take no actions because it has no will. It is not immortal because it is not alive.

    The desires of a corporation are the desires of its executives. The actions of a corporation are the actions of its executives and their subordinates taken in the corporation's name. They aren't separate, they are one and the same. The only way for a corporation to take an action that the executives do not desire is for one of the subordinates to disobey their executive, for which they can be fired.

    You're absolutely right that corporations are anti-democratic semi-feudal organizations. But an organization is nothing but the people comprising it. So when you say that the directors should view the corporation like an untrustworthy animal, it is buying into the fictional personification of the corporation that says it has a will outside of the directors themselves. Do not allow the directors to abdicate responsibility for their own actions in this way. It may be a legal reality, but it is not a literal reality.

    Nobody would speak of, say, the 1st U.S. Army have a will or interests outside of the General commanding it, excepting that the General has lost control of the people under their command. You can't nuke "the concept of the 1st Army" though you can nuke the people in it. It is "immortal" only in the sense that the concept will still exist, but that concept is nothing and does nothing and desires nothing until a new General takes up the head, and then the 1st Army's desires are the General's desires.

    Or for another example, you would never say "the people of feudal Britain were oppressed by Britain", you'd say they were oppressed by the King, the executive. The idea that "Britain" could oppress the people despite the wishes of the King is ludicrous.

    So, getting back to the point. This problem with this decision is not that it gives political power to corporations. The problem is that it gives political power to CEOs and directors (usually CEOs of other companies if not the same company), to use the resources of the corporation -- meaning the product of the labor of everyone working for it -- for the CEO's own political benefit.

  • Re:Bad, bad news (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 21, 2010 @10:26PM (#30855518)

    If money = speech, why is bribery illegal?

    "I'm not giving that guy money so he'll change his vote, I'm talking to him."

  • by Darinbob (1142669) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @10:47PM (#30855676)
    Much of the time the corporations aren't claiming they speak for the employees, they just want to grease the skids for business purposes. Ie, influence legislation about regulations, etc. There are cases though where the head of a corporation wants to give to more obviously political causes; such as on abortion issues, but I wonder what percentage of corporate donations fall into that category.

    The rationale may be that "free-speech + freedom-of-association" implies corporate citizenship, but very often it's just a tiny minority of people in the corporation making these decisions, and sometimes it's just a single person with control of a lot of money created by other people. That can be a real problem if a single person is the one who is saying "FrobozzCo is in favor of euthanasia so we're donating $12m to the Kevorkian campaign", or just a board of directors, etc. In other words there's not always an association of people making these contributions.

    If I went around with several people collecting money for the orphans, and then gave it all to a political candidate, we'd get in serious legal trouble! That's because the people giving the money expected a certain service in exchange for that money. Similarly why shouldn't a corporation that takes the money given by customers and made by their employees and gives to a political candidate without inform or consent also be in hot water?

    When it comes to business-oriented campaign donations, theoretically this can be balanced by competing groups of interests. The snag is that corporations have immensely more power than these other groups, and far deeper pockets. It used to be trade unions were occasionally seen as a balance, but these have been significantly weakened over time. Union members are also much more likely to be able to restrict union leadership from supporting political causes than company employees are able to influence their own management. Other groups, such as consumer advocacy, charities, etc, have very little power in relation to corporations. So this is the reason corporate limits on campaign donations came about in the first place.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 22, 2010 @12:23AM (#30856276)

    I can't imagine why SCOTUS is taking this approach. True, since 1866 it has been swept along in the idea that corporations should have the rights of citizens, but they don't have to rule this way if they don't want to. And they didn't always. Below is a cut from 1905 I've probably sent you before. Even after 1866 The Court knew the difference between individual and corporation. I have no theory why it keeps screwing America by ruling this way. And we also suffer from the reverse; individuals being treated as corporations with no rights. For example the IRS says you have no "cost basis" in your own labor so when you sell it, it's all "profit or gain" and therefore "income". They wouldn't talk to an individual like that, IRS thinks everyone is a corporation, under its jurisdiction, the bastards.

    Come the revolution they'll be the first ones up against the wall :)

    Hale vs Henkel
    201US74
    Year 1905.
    a 5th amendment case

    "Conceding that the witness was an officer of the corporation under investigation, and that he was entitled to assert the rights of the corporation with respect to the production of its books and papers, we are of the opinion that there is a clear distinction in this particular between an individual and a corporation, and that the latter has no right to refuse to submit its books and papers for an examination at the suit of the State.

    The individual may stand upon his constitutional rights as a citizen. He is entitled to carry on his private business in his own way. His power to contract is unlimited. He owes no duty to the State or to his neighbors to divulge his business, or to open his doors to an investigation, so far as it may tend to criminate him. He owes no such duty to the State, since he receives nothing therefrom beyond the protection of his life and property. His rights are such as existed by the law of the land long antecedent to the organization of the State, and can only be taken from him by due process of law, and in accordance with the Constitution. Among his rights are a refusal to incriminate himself and the immunity of himself and his property from arrest or seizure except under a warrant of the law. He owes nothing to the public so long as he does not trespass upon their rights.

    Upon the other hand, the corporation is a creature of the State. It is presumed to be incorporated for the benefit of the public. It receives certain special privileges and franchises, and holds them subject to the laws of the State and the limitations of its charter. Its powers are limited by law. It can make no contract not authorized by its charter. Its rights to act as a corporation are only preserved to it so long as it obeys the laws of its creation. There is a reserved right in the legislature to investigate its contracts and find out whether it has exceeded its powers. It would be a strange anomaly to hold that a State, having chartered a corporation to make use of certain franchises, could not in the exercise of its sovereignty inquire how these franchises had been employed, and whether they had been abused, and demand the production of the corporate books and papers for that purpose."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 22, 2010 @02:52AM (#30856982)

    That's because the subsequent credit waves haven't hit yet.

    The one I'm really not looking forward to is when the principle comes due on the companies purchased in the last few years by private equity. They used to be called junk bond kings. The last time they went on a spending spree fully half of the companies they bought at the peak went bankrupt, triggering the S&L crisis. They went on a much, much bigger spree this time. If half those companies go bankrupt, and half of the employees at those bankrupt companies lose their jobs in restructuring, we start with losing as many jobs as the current recession, plus we get a credit crunch the same size as the current recession. Said credit crunch will hurt jobs even more. This is on top of our other problems, during a period where government has less room than it did in the last round for forceful action.

    This wave of bankruptcies starts in 2011, and will really gather steam in 2012. It isn't Obama's fault, but it will happen on Obama's watch, and therefore I'm betting on a Republican sweep in that election.

    You can rest easy with your confidence in the government. Me, I've been around and know enough people on Wall St to know that the people in charge have no real idea how they are going to handle this disaster.

  • by pugugly (152978) on Friday January 22, 2010 @07:50AM (#30858204)

    Oh, *obviously*. Objections to the concept of Billions Dollars in corporate assets that are putatively owned by the stockholders being thrown towards any political objective the CEO chooses (Including of course fighting against the legal rights of the stockholders to control the messages their money is backing) is, of course, *exactly* like my, rather than simply debating someone I disagree with in a public stadium, using the government to suppress their free speech completely.

    other than the fact that the Corporation can afford to buy every seat in the stadium, and owns the newspaper, television station, and the mortgage on your house.

    Yeah. Obviously identical.

    Pug

  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday January 22, 2010 @10:18AM (#30858998) Homepage Journal

    You can quit at any time.

    Yeah, if you don't mind being hungry and homeless. You're either still in high school, or independantly wealthy. In any case, your comment is trollish flamebait, which I'm sure is why you posted anonymously.

    You win the award for the most ignorant comment of the day, congrats.

  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday January 22, 2010 @10:34AM (#30859144) Homepage Journal

    Sadly, unions have become little more than corporations within corporations.

    The difference is, the corpration represents the stockholders, my union represents ME and is there to protect my interests, and collectively bargain in my and my co-workers' behalf. Its leaders are elected by the me and my fellow union members, and if they use my dues for purposes that I do not approve of, I can vote them out of office, or even run for that office myself.

    Were it not for unions I'd have no paid vacation, no weekends off, no sick leave, far lower pay (notice that RTW states have lower wages than non-RTW states), and if I had a boss who treated me unfairly I would have no recourse except to find a new job.

    "Right to work" is relly "right to exploit".

No amount of careful planning will ever replace dumb luck.

Working...